“Your plan is not based on fees,” said Tom Bangasser to Rita Schenck as the two debated the merits of a Public Utility District.
They were formally con and pro speakers invited to the Sept. 21 meeting of the League of Women Voters.
Schenck replied, “It is based only on fees. If we can conserve appropriately, we won’t need renewable energy.”
Schenck made that claim based on her assumption that there’s a difference between setting up a renewable energy system (which could involve solar energy, wind energy or biomass energy) and conserving energy (through home retrofits).
The plan offered by Citizens for Vashon Public Utilities (CVPU) as part of the proposed PUD concentrates on conservation, which would involve the voluntary participation of Island residences and businesses.
That effort would focus on building audits to discover what improvements could be made in the efficiency of their energy systems.
Those audits and the upgrades (if owners chose to go ahead with the upgrades) could, say PUD supporters, save enough money so that building owners could have a savings above the cost of the audit and retrofit, which would be paid for by fees.
Schenck’s comment that renewable energy would not be needed if the conservation program was successful did not get a response from Bangasser, although earlier in the debate he said that no-one was against conservation.
He added that the problem was to get people actually to conserve.
Cliff Goodman said, in a Sept. 20 commentary in The Beachcomber, that CVPU does not have a plan for what kind of renewable energy it would turn to, but that solar seemed to be a good idea.
Bangasser raised the issue of renewable energy by referring to the 10-year plan Schenck’s organization Institute for Environmental Education and Research (IERE) produced a few years ago. He suggested that the PUD was an attempt to actuate the energy agenda contained in that document, and he pointed particularly to the recommendation that Vashon consider using wind power among other renewable energy sources.
Schenck indicated that she regretted including the concept of wind energy and that she doubted that wind towers would be put up.
After the meeting, Schenck added that the technology for renewable energy is changing rapidly, that IERE studied what existed when the report was done and that solar is now better than wind turbines.
Bangasser’s concern that the PUD plan was based on more than fees came up because he also focused on the fact that the PUD would have the legal right to tax property values and that it could also issue bonds.
Goodman, in his commentary, stated that all four of the candidates for commissioner have agreed not to institute a property tax as part of the PUD, and Schenck added that there would be no need to go to the property tax since the plan would work based on the fees paid by the voluntary participants in the program.
Bangasser commented that if property taxes are not needed, then why set it up so that they could be instituted.
Also of concern to Bangasser was the business plan CVPU had recently issued. He described it as the most amateur business plan he had seen in his 40 years of making business plans. He said at the conclusion of the meeting, “This is nuts. This is how Enron got started.”
Schenck, who said after the meeting, “That is an outrageous assertion on the face of it,” said that, on the contrary, the business plan is in the form called a “simplified plan,” and that three banks had then agreed to evaluate it. “You have to have a business plan that is strong enough for banks to be looking at it,” she added, “and they couldn’t offer anything to us until we were on the ballot.” The last comment was her response to Bangasser’s assertion that the business plan had been slow in coming.
“I believe that we will have a favorable outcome,” Schenck concluded.
By Eric Horsting
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