Islanders would have a say in local power
To the editor:
Friends of Island Power are local volunteers working to put a measure on a ballot that would give the city of Bainbridge Island the authority to establish an electric utility.
A “yes” vote won’t establish an electric utility automatically. A “yes” vote would grant the city the right to move forward and would include opportunities for public input.
Public input is one big difference between public and private utilities. State laws regulate local municipal utilities through requirements for open public records, advance public notice, and public meetings. As a result, a public utility ends up being regulated by the local people it serves. And, meetings are held locally. (By contrast, the meetings of PSE’s regulator are held in Olympia.)
PSE’s regulator — the Washington Utility and Transportation Commission (UTC) — is a three-person commission that regulates approximately 8,000 utilities and carriers. The UTC was created to oversee unchallenged monopolies because they are not held in check by normal market forces.
By comparison, a public utility doesn’t need to be regulated by the UTC as the locally affected members of the public are involved and provide oversight and direction thanks to legally mandated transparency.
With local experts running our public electric utility, we’d have a say in any number of programs we wanted to pursue, where we get our power from, and more. We’d be able to go to meetings locally. It would operate for our benefit, not for the benefit of foreign stockholders (as is the case with foreign-owned PSE).