September 17, 2018
To: Spokane City Council
RE: Ordinance C35668 – Sustainability Action Committee
350 Spokane is a local, volunteer-run community organization working to support a just transition to 100 percent fossil-free energy and a low-carbon economy that works for everyone. 350 Spokane’s local supporters and volunteers include business owners and employees, college students and retired members of the military, health care providers and religious leaders, artists and research scientists. Over the last year we expressed our concerns about the impacts of climate change on the health, safety, economy and environment in Spokane. Thank you for hearing our concerns. We greatly appreciate the Council voting 6-1 in favor of Ordinance C-35668 to support the formation of a Sustainability Action Committee and the strategic goal of 100 percent renewably-generated electricity for the entire City by 2030.
This is an achievable goal, and with the support of engaged community members, Avista Utilities, and city government, it can be reached fairly and reasonably. Over the next 12 years these goals are neither unaffordable nor unattainable, as Mayor Condon believes. Six American cities have already reached their 100%-renewable goals, while 72 others (and two states) have pledged to follow soon. Spokane’s electricity is already 56% renewable. Additionally, 144 private companies across the globe, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, GM, Coca-Cola, Nike, and Ikea have committed to 100% renewable energy. We are very disappointed by Mayor’s Condon’s veto as it represents a poor understanding of both the serious dangers and the great opportunities before us.
The mayor singled-out a quote from a 350 Spokane email in his letter to Council
explaining the veto. He took issue with the phrase “mandated greenhouse gas emissions reductions” and extrapolated that the intent of a City Ordinance was to fix a binding and legally actionable mandate. To clarify, we were referring to the City greenhouse gas emission goals set last year in Ordinance C-35519, which our mayor refused to sign. The section entitled “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Goals” states, “it is the goal of the City of Spokane to reduce GHG emissions created by activities within the boundaries of the City of Spokane by at least thirty percent (30%) below the 2005 baseline level by the year 2030.” 350 Spokane’s objective has been to ensure that the City will continue to actively plan, with community participation, toward the goals it has already adopted, as well as the new aspirational goal of 100% renewable electricity. At no point have we or the Ordinance required the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits, as the Mayor incorrectly claims.
The fact is that the cost of renewable energy production is already falling fast while the
costs of fossil fuel-based production is rising. Fast-growing wind generation already provides the lowest-cost electricity, and ever-cheaper solar will undercut even that within five years. Currently, Avista owns 15% of Colstrip coal-powered generation Units 3 and 4. On June 28th of this year, both units were shut-down for exceeding federal mercury air toxin limits and have yet to resume operation. No electricity has been generated by Avista’s Colstrip assets for nearly a quarter of this year. Furthermore, the adjacent Rosebud mine which supplies Colstrip is owned by Westmoreland Coal. Westmoreland Coal has lost 99% of its value in the past year. It was delisted from NASDAQ last spring and in May took out a $110 million loan to stay in operation. An aging and broken coal-plant supplied by a near-bankrupt coal mine can not be the best we can do for Spokane’s families. When municipalities declare an interest in renewable power generation, utility providers can plan to meet future demand with the low-cost, clean energy their customers prefer.
We are also concerned that the Mayor chose to compare the costs of a transition to renewable energy only to other environmental projects. Climate change has impacts far beyond environmental concerns. It does not fit neatly under the “environment” column of a ledger book. Why? For one, the US military calls climate change a “threat multiplier.” Further, the American College of Physicians asserts “Climate change could have a devastating effect on human and environmental health,” and “We need to take action now to protect the health of our community’s most vulnerable members.” On the economic front, the reinsurance industry has expressed grave concern that if the global average temperature rises more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), it may no longer be able to insure the world. Finally, climate change is already driving human migration within the United States, from Louisiana to Alaska and right here on the Washington coast. We must have the courage to recognize the existential threat that climate change represents. As an organization, we are concerned with bringing about a just transition to a zero-carbon economy that works for all people.
We share the mayor’s concern for low-income households in Spokane. We are motivated by the fact the poor are and will continue to be impacted by climate change, first andworst. Ultimately, climate change is a human rights issue. The hope of this project is to bring representatives of all impacted communities and stakeholders into an on-going community process to develop strategies for preserving and managing our shared resources as we transition off of the fossil-fuel based economy. The intent is to systematize municipal efforts to address climate change in a process that is both equitable and responsive to community needs.
Please take the environmentally and financially responsible action and override Mayor Condon’s ill-advised veto.
Rebecca K. MacMullan
Co-Chair, 350 Spokane
Dr. Brian G. Henning
Co-Chair, 350 Spokane
Treasurer, 350 Spokane
Secretary, 350 Spokane