Public Utilities—
A Northwest Tradition

Our Power to the Public grassroots campaign is fighting to give our Thurston Public Utility District (PUD) the option to provide electrical service to our community. They currently offer water service in some areas.

The for-profit energy company that runs our system now is an international conglomerate that pulls money out of our county, state, and country. We want better energy choices for our community and believe that empowering our locally elected PUD to provide our energy would be a step in the right direction.

Reliable, Accountable, Sustainable

We are surrounded by public power systems. Many counties near Thurston County, such as Mason, Grays Harbor, Lewis, Clark, Clallam, and Snohomish Counties—in fact, 55% of Washingtonians—already benefit from publicly owned electrical power.

Reliable, accountable, and sustainable energy choices are now within our community’s reach.

Fair, Affordable Rates

Public power is nonprofit, so your power-bill money is invested in maintaining a more reliable infrastructure, exploring alternative energy strategies, and keeping rates low. The current corporate contractor is a wholly owned subsidiary of a privately-held Australian investment firm, so much of what we pay heads overseas. In 2011, nearly $17 million left here for corporate profit.

Keep Money in the County,
Energy in the State

Our current provider sells Washington-generated wind power to California and sells us power that’s generated by burning coal in Montana. 

Public utilities can buy regional hydropower from the federal Bonneville Power Administration at subsidized rates.

Local control, local jobs

Public power means adding jobs in Thurston County. The corporate base of operations is in King County. The company’s executives, managers, administration, and line workers reside outside Thurston County. The service center on Pacific Avenue closed up years ago.

Public power employees will live and work in Thurston County.

Green Energy Choices

Other areas’ public utility districts enthusiastically embrace emerging energy technologies and strategies, such as smart grids and distributed generation, while the corporate utilities lag behind. Thurston County needs a responsive public utility to prepare us for a sustainable energy future.

Indeed, 32 percent of the energy our corporate power provider supplied in 2011 came from burning dirty coal. Their investments are chosen for their private profit, not with our shared future in mind.  

Accountable to Voters

Converting to a publicly controlled power system is a public process with public meetings with our locally elected PUD commissioners. 

It’s possible that they would conclude that public power is not our community’s best option, at this time. Then, our initiative would grant the PUD a window of ten years to decide, for timing and planning. Meanwhile, current power contracts will remain in place.

This initiative will not raise our taxes. Current Thurston PUD share of property taxes on a $200,000 property are $1.92. Any future tax raises could only happen at a level of one percent a year without further voter input. That would be a two-cent yearly increase on that $200,000 property, or one dime per million dollars of assessed value, at most.

If Not Taxes, How?

Thurston PUD would sell revenue bonds—backed by the revenue earned from selling electricity—to raise the capital needed to purchase or improve our energy grid. Public-utility revenue bonds are a highly sought-after commodity in the bond market.

Thurston County residents will not be taking on debt nor risk on the PUD’s investment in electricity.  The credit rating of Thurston PUD or Thurston County would not be affected.

Empowering ourselves

Authorizing the Thurston Public Utility District (PUD) to become our electrical provider allows our PUD to open scoping and full feasibility studies, in order to determine the best way forward.

We residents would have multiple opportunities throughout this process to weigh in on how we want our Thurston PUD Commissioners to proceed.

Washington state has many decades of experience with successful transitions from private to public electric utilities. Now, it’s our turn.

Support Thurston PUD’s transition to reliable, accountable, and sustainable public power. Sign to put the Power to the Public initiative on the ballot, and vote for public power in November.