FAQ

Public Power Facts

A Northwest Tradition

• We are surrounded by public power!  In 2012 a “Yes” vote on Thurston County Proposition 1 would have allowed Thurston County to join many other counties, including Mason, Grays Harbor, Lewis, Clark, Clallam, and Snohomish—to name a few of the 55% of Washingtonians who already benefit from public power.

• Washington State has many decades’ experience with successful transitions from private to public electric utilities. The experience of our public power neighbors clearly shows that a public utility is superior to a private, corporate entity.

Fair, Affordable Rates

• Public power is an investment in our energy future. Thurston Public Utility District (TPUD), like other public utilities, would have access to federal hydropower at lower rates than PSE and other corporations, and get financing at lower rates than corporate utilities.

• Puget Sound Energy (PSE) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the privately-held Australian Investment firm, Macquarie.  Every year, millions of dollars paid by Thurston County residents leave our county for Australia as corporate profits; ~$17 million in 2011 alone!

• Public power is non-profit, thus any gains are used to pay off debt, to maintain more reliable infrastructure, to explore alternative energy strategies, and to keep rates lower, thus keeping more money in our community.

Green Energy

• Public utilities are enthusiastically embracing emerging energy technologies and strategies, such as smart grids and distributed generation while the corporate utilities do what is legally required. Thurston County needs a responsive public utility to prepare us for a progressive energy future.

• PSE is only as green as I-937 demands.  By their own numbers, 32% of the power PSE provided in 2011 came from burning coal.  PSE’s 1/3 ownership of Montana’s Colstrip plant exposes them to massive future liabilities as regulations tighten on greenhouse gas production.  PSE will pay for these liabilities by increasing our rates again and again.

Responsive Democracy

• PSE sells Washington-generated wind power to California and sells us power that’s generated by burning coal in Montana.  A public utility will respond to Thurston County residents’ desire for more green power.

• Your “Yes” vote on Thurston County Proposition 1 authorizes our existing Thurston Public Utility District (TPUD) to become our electrical provider, but does not mandate it. TPUD will conduct a full feasibility study into the best way forward.  Should TPUD conclude that public power is not currently viable, TPUD would be able to wait—for up to ten years—until it is.  Meanwhile, PSE will continue to provide service as they do currently.

• Converting to Public Power is a public process with public meetings and elected officials.   The public will have multiple opportunities throughout this lengthy process to weigh in on whether they want to proceed or not. If the TPUD acts in ways counter to the public’s desire, Thurston County voters may choose to replace those Commissioners.  Ask the 2007 members of the Olympia City Council what happens when you cross the voters….

Local Control, Local Jobs

• Public power means adding jobs in Thurston County.  PSE’s base of operations is in King County, and their high-paid managers and executives reside outside Thurston County.  Under public power, employees will be stationed in Thurston County.  The workers responding to outages will be familiar with and live in the area; they will be much more familiar with the system than someone from outside the county could ever be.

Implementation

• Our Thurston County PUD commissioners have stated that they foresee a gradual rollout of public power throughout the County, as low-cost BPA power becomes available. The resulting competition will exert pressure on PSE to improve its service in the remainder of the County.

• Your “Yes” vote on Thurston County Proposition One will NOT raise your taxes.  Under current state law, TPUD may only raise its assessment 1% per year unless the voters approve otherwise.  Current TPUD taxes on a $200,000 property are $1.92.  Even if TPUD did raise its assessment by the maximum, that would mean a two-cent yearly increase on that $200,000 property… or one dime per million assessed value.

• TPUD would sell revenue bonds—backed by the revenue earned from selling electricity—to raise the capital needed to purchase or construct assets. There will be ZERO DEBT and ZERO RISK taken by the citizens of Thurston County.  Neither the credit rating of TPUD nor that of the county will be affected by TPUD investing in electricity.  Utility Revenue bonds are a highly sought after commodity, carry a lower interest rate than is available to PSE or other corporations, and are the vehicle by which most public utilities raise capital.

The 2012 Campaign

• In 2012 the Thurston Public Power Initiative was a grassroots group of over 100 volunteers who collected 15,413 signatures on petitions asking that Thurston County voters be allowed to vote on Public Power.  It was known as Thurston County Proposition 1, it was the first ever in Thurston County put on the ballot by petition signatures.

• “Alliance to Protect Thurston Power” was a group of fewer than 10 people, many of whom were paid.  The name should be “Alliance to Protect Puget Profits” because their only support is $656,158.84 to be used in sabotaging democracy in Thurston County. That figure comes from six power companies including PSE and one business lobby group. Not one living individual made a single donation to PSE’s disinformation campaign though a small unit of campaign mercenaries ran the campaign and paid themselves handsomely. By far the most ever spent on a campaign in Thurston County.  APTP is run by a Seattle lobby shop called ‘Sound Strategies’ and employs three former politicians as their “co-chairs.”