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Thurston public power initiative handily defeated

ROLF BOONE; Staff writer • Published November 06, 2012

Proposition 1, Thurston County’s public power initiative, was soundly defeated Tuesday night the “no” vote capturing 61 percent of the vote, compared with 38 percent for those who supported the initiative.

“It’s pretty clear the voters understood the risks and costs associated with Proposition 1 and we are pleased they made a reasoned decision here,” said Doug Mah, who co-chaired the Alliance to Protect Thurston Power, a group that was opposed to Proposition 1.

John Pearce, chair of the
Thurston public power initiative, the group that successfully collected enough signatures to get the issue on November’s ballot, said he was proud of the volunteers and what they accomplished and he feels they changed the conversation for the future.

“It will come,” Pearce said about public power in Thurston County, “it’s just a matter of time.”

He said that “unfortunately, corporations win,” and that Puget Sound Energy “bought the election.”

If the initiative had passed, it would have given the Thurston Public Utility District, a water utility, the authority to pursue public electrical power.

PSE, which currently provides power to the county, took that effort so seriously that it contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Alliance, which spent most of the money on a significant direct-mail “no vote” campaign.

The Alliance raised more than $600,000, according to updated state Public Disclosure Commission data, more than $400,000 of that total coming from PSE.

The Thurston Public Power Initiative raised about $37,000.

From the beginning, the public power initiative argued for public power, saying it represented local, public control of a utility that could offer electrical power at a cheaper rate.

Puget Sound Energy countered with a study showing the potential costs the PUD might face, while the PUD countered with its own study, offering three proposals for providing power to certain parts of the county but not countywide. Both sides disputed the respective studies.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403