Yes to East King County PUD! is a campaign to start a new PUD in Northeastern King County


Image: Courtesy of Yes to East King County PUD! - website.

Yes to East King County PUD! was formed approximately four years ago to change the currently foreign-owned energy provider, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) to a Public Utility District (PUD) that would provide a higher rate of renewable energy to residents of Northeastern King County.  The PUD would be run by locally elected commissioners that are answerable and transparent to customers. 

Frustrations with PSE include their "foot dragging on transitioning away from fossil fuels," continuing to expand natural gas in their fuel mix and paying dividends to foreign investors that are not locally accountable, according to Barbra Chevalier, Director of the Yes to East King County PUD! campaign.

Future sources of energy include voter-approved construction of hydropower using water pumped storage , as well as power from the Bonneville Power Administration at preferential rates, and electricity from the same sources as PSE in order to provide carbon neutrality faster than PSE.

"They're owned by Dutch and Canadian shareholders, so they have no skin in the game in terms of what happens here locally," Chevalier said. "If they take out trees, they don't miss them. If there's a pipeline explosion, they're not in harm's way." The problem is not confined to PSE, Chevalier said. "It's a problem with investor owned utilities as a for profit monopoly."

Starting small is logical from a geographic standpoint because it's simpler to break away from PSE because the northeastern King County grid is almost entirely separate from South King County. If they were to take all of King County outside of Seattle it would be a lot to handle at their first try. Northeastern King County is in the campaign leaders’ backyard and so would maintain their grassroots and local identity.

Chevalier said, "Northeastern King County and the proposed district is around 250,000 customers, which would make it the second largest PUD in the state and the third largest public utility in the state. If we were to take all the rest of King County outside of Seattle, that would make it the largest public utility in the country, which is a lot to bite off."

Getting this PUD in northeastern King County successfully would provide a blueprint for South King County if they and other PSE service territories chose to organize and pursue it.

Getting this measure on the November ballot entails filing the petition with the county on January 10th, then submitting signatures for review. Signature gathering is hoped to start January 15th. The campaign will have to collect 40,000 signatures by June from registered voters of the proposed area.

Chevalier said, "I think the biggest thing I want people to walk away from an encounter with the campaign is that this is about us taking control of such an essential part of our lives as our electrical utility"

With monopoly utilities owned by foreign investors, residents have little say in the choices that are made for them. Chevalier thinks that local control over utilities would mean that they would be run in a way that's transparent and responsive to the customers.. Chevalier said, "We care about climate. We care about trees, we care about safety, we care about each other".

EKC-PUD Flyer (.pdf download)

Please look for Part 2 of this interview with Barbra Chevalier, Director of the Yes to East King County PUD! next week.

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