For the past few months I’ve read about the proposed Whidbey Island Electric Public Utility District and how it would save electric users money over the current rates of Puget Sound Energy. Most available information has orbited around the question of purchase cost with proponent estimate of $57 million and a PSE estimate of over $200 million. The proposal has been superficially compared to successful PUDs in the state, but there is no logical comparison with the infrastructure of PUDs formed in the 1930s with assistance from the Rural Electrification Administration and able to produce their own power.
We have been assured by the proponents that $57 million or a few million dollars more is a good figure. However, citizens who might vote for the proposed PUD expecting a price of $57 million plus, have no guarantee of what amount the commissioners will actually approve. Good intentions and high hopes do not, as of themselves, determine success, or in our case guarantee reliable or low cost power.
The procedure for determining the actual buyout amount is:
1. If voters approve the PUD proposal their control over future matters ceases. The concurrently elected three commissioners are then authorized to consider the planning, legal and appraisal expenditures necessary for the condemnation process with you and I assessed for these cost while PSE prepares its case. This will not be simple, and likely may take years.
2. The court approves the condemnation and decrees the dollar amount to be paid by Puget Sound Energy. The PUD commissioners alone will vote to pay the adjudicated purchase amount or dissolve the PUD.
Residents will be assessed for that purchase price and charged for bonding expense, future energy purchase, transmission, distribution and other operating expenses. The promoters even advanced a sales pitch for future Island “green” solar and wind energy sources. Imagine Whidbey’s bluffs, hills and ridges sporting big windmills or the deforestation necessary to create space for banks of solar panels?
I see the creation of another taxing authority, assumption of unknown costs with no further opportunity for termination by citizens after the Nov. 4 vote. The proposed Whidbey Electric PUD appears to be a one-way trip toward a financially dangerous black pit, and I will vote no.