Coalition aims to keep energy bills down - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Coalition aims to keep energy bills down

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PASCO, Wash. - The Energy Independence Act was voted into law in 2006. Now, six year later the debate over Initiative 937 continues to simmer.

Promoting hydro electric power and protecting your power rates are two goals that the Citizens for Protecting Our Washington Energy Rates (or Citizens for P.O.W.E.R.) are working to achieve. The group kicked off their push for new legislation Thursday morning in Pasco.

"It's going to be up to us to give as many people as possible a voice," said member Steve Simmons. "So they can tell our legislators what the impact of these rate increases are going to be to them."

The Coalition's goal is not to change the original intent of I-937, which is to promote renewable energy resources and conservation. Instead, they want to protect consumers from paying for unneeded energy.

"Right now to reach mandates we're purchasing power that we don't need," said Karen Miller of Benton PUD. "Which means we're going to increase our rates because of that and we don't want that and want to protect our customers rates any way we can."

"My hope is to go back to the legislation that I helped sponsor last year which essentially says to utilities that you're not required to buy this mandates power unless your really need it or can use it," said State Representative Terry Nealey.

The Northwest Energy Coalition says 70% of Washington's electricity is produced by hydro-power. Their hope is to build and expand on other resources, like the wind farms.

"We've been willing to work with lots of different utilities across the state and other stakeholders in trying to develop a package of changes that kind of works for all the stakeholders," said Police Director Nancy Hirsh.

The Citizens for P.O.W.E.R. Coalition plans to have a bill introduced before legislators convene in Olympia for their next session.