Clash over changes to renewable energy law

Mar 24, 2011

An effort in Olympia to broaden Washington’s renewable energy law is running into opposition.

Green energy groups say the proposed change would weaken the voter-approved Initiative 937.

Initiative 937 requires most electrical utilities to get 15 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2020. That includes solar, wind, geo-thermal; the kinds of green energy you’d expect.

Now, a new bill would allow the power that pulp mills create by burning liquid waste to count toward that renewable energy goal.

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Senator Brian Hatfield, says that would help the mills maintain family-wage jobs in Cowlitz, Mason and other economically-struggling counties nearby.

But environmental lobbyist Clifford Traisman says allowing that existing power to count as renewable under I-937 would defeat the point of the measure.

The purpose of Initiative 937 for the development of new renewable resources for the state of Washington, and to create the new green sector economy, and the jobs that would come with that. 

Traisman says the power expected to come from those mills would amount to a 10 percent roll-back of I-937’s renewable energy mandate.