Public power is probably the single largest struggle I fight for my community. Why is this? There are many arguments, but the most important for me is local ownership. Puget Sound Energy was bought by a foreign bank in 2008 and was sold again in 2019 to foreign investment firms in Canada and the Netherlands. These new owners rake in a guaranteed rate of return set by the UTC. That means a percentage of your bill, close to 10%, is guaranteed profit and gets shipped through four corporate boards in a convoluted structure that leaves the country. Conservative estimates, that’s a leak of $20 million every year out of our county to owners who don’t even pay US taxes. A leak of resources permanently to owners foreign owners unless we do something to stop it.
A solution is taking back our sovereignty by public power. This is something the city can do with majority vote of the city council and something the Thurston Public Utility District can do with a majority vote on a countywide initiative and majority support of their elected commissioners. If I were elected to Olympia City Council I would vote in support of this.
This is not at all an easy thing to do. Puget Sound Energy has made contributions to over 600 politicians in this state to allow this obscene arrangement to go forward. Going toe to toe with investor owned utilities and international investment funds that control hundreds of billions in assets has the potential to be a death sentence. When Dennis Kucinich fought a power company and the banks in Cleveland to keep their city’s public electric utility from privatization his career was destroyed for a decade and he nearly was murdered by hitmen. This is written in his new book that just came out.
If you are unfamiliar with this issue, there is a long rabbit hole that you can dive down to familiarize yourself on the topic. Check out Power to the Public for articles that will answer your questions. I can talk to you about it all for a long time.
There are other reasons to support public power. Better maintenance of the lines and local power line workers means less and shorter outages and more local jobs. Local control means that the people get to decide the priorities, like renewable energy and conservation. Buying the power infrastructure would mean taking out a large municipal bond, but interest rates are low right now and in the long term local control will be the investment that gives back.
Back in 2012 a study was paid for that showed that Olympia could become public like Seattle, Tacoma and Mason County. It’s time our city council rolls up it’s sleeves and takes on this fight!