The problem isn’t rising gas prices — it’s climate change

The city of Enumclaw should be asking how to decrease its carbon footprint, not blame environmental legislation for high natural gas prices.

It is regrettable that the city of Enumclaw has chosen to inform customers of the city’s natural gas utility that the cause of a proposed rate hike is the Climate Commitment Act, without also explaining the reasons for the CCA. The CCA was adopted to incentivize utilities and large fossil fuel users to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Disregarding this, it appears that the city has chosen instead to “blame” the CCA and Ecology. This is the wrong choice.

Enumclaw has long operated its own natural gas utility, despite the lack of economies of scale, and the fact that this choice deprives city residents of the benefits of rebates offered by PSE for energy efficiency. The city does not offer its own rebates for energy efficiency, and to my knowledge it has not sought any grants to help it shift its customers to more efficient energy use.

Climate change driven by fossil fuel use threatens all of us in our community. It threatens agriculture, recreation, and wildlife—many species stand to go extinct as climate change modifies habitat. The CCA is a big change, and humans don’t react well to change. But change is imperative. Our children and grandchildren will have a very difficult time if we do not act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The point of the CCA is to start reducing these emissions. It is almost too late—this decade is our last chance to act in a meaningful way.

There is no question that rate increases hurt. But blaming the CCA or state regulators just diverts attention from the real issues. The city should be asking how it can help its businesses and residents transition to clean energy. Does it make sense to still operate a gas utility? Would it make sense to sell the utility to PSE, so that city customers can benefit from PSE’s investments in transitioning from fossil fuels, and PSE’s incentives for cleaner appliances? Should the city seek grants to help its customers become more energy efficient or to convert to electric appliances? Should the city investigate community solar? What grants are available to help the city and its utility customers transition?

The city is in a position to be an innovation leader, a more responsible path to take than the path the city is currently on. Rather than blame the CCA, it would be better leadership to say “Here are our options for navigating the transition to clean energy,” and then engage the community in discussion and action.

The CCA is not the enemy. The enemy is the climate shift that threatens all life on Earth. We are out of time for denial, diversion and the other excuses we humans use to not do what we need to do. The transition from fossil fuels is not going to be easy. But short-term focus on complaining about the pain is not going to help us. Instead, let’s be part of the long-term solution for the energy transition we need to undertake.

Linda Atkins