July 01, 2013
Inslee vetoes renewable energy costs study. Doesn't he want good data?
With the angst and turmoil of budget negotiations over in Olympia, Gov. Jay Inslee affixed his signature to a new state budget yesterday, averting the much ballyhooed possibility of a government shutdown.
While the focus yesterday was on the signing of the budget with hours to spare, today Olympia's attention turned to what Inslee chose to veto. Washington governors wield the power of the line-item veto, allowing them to nix provisions in spending bills that they don't like. Inslee sent a letter to legislative leaders outlining his vetoes and the reasoning behind them.
Included in the budget was a provision for the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) to study the extra costs to customers of the state's renewable energy mandates. JLARC was to report back on "the electricity cost impacts for each qualifying utility to meet the 2016 and 2020 renewable resource and conservation targets," which was to include "an analysis of the impacts on each utility's commercial, industrial, and residential customers, including an additional analysis of the impacts on low-income residential customers."
Which sounds like it would be right up Gov. Inslee's alley. After all, Inslee says he embraces environmental effectiveness standards to get the most value for the dollar on environmental projects. It is only logical to think that, if Inslee embraces that approach, he would want to study the costs of renewables such as wind power to see if they are the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions. Making good decisions requires good data.
Instead, Inslee vetoed the study, telling the Legislature that the study would "assess the cost impacts of the state's renewable electricity standards without also evaluating the environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy. The study is unnecessary, as there are cost controls built into the standards. In addition, improvements to the Energy Independence Act will also be considered through the ongoing efforts of Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup," of which Inslee is a member.
That's some specious reasoning. If Inslee wants not just a study on costs but a full cost-benefit analysis, what is to stop him from doing so? Besides, "cost" is one half of "cost-benefit." Perhaps what he didn't want was a JLARC study on costs because the study would not be under his control.
Inslee said a study isn't needed because "there are cost controls build into the standards," but the existence of legal mechanisms that cap costs for utilities isn't a reason not to study the law's impacts on them and on consumers. The kicker is that he concludes by essentially saying: we might make changes to the law later, so let's not study the impacts of the law today.
Asked why he thought Inslee would veto a study on renewable energy costs, Rep. Matt Manweller, a freshman Republican from Ellensburg who also teaches political science at Central Washington University, chuckled a little. "I think that's pretty clear. If you do a study, [Inslee's] not going to like the numbers. There are already out there a lot of credible studies that show that a lot of these renewable energies do not get the bang for the buck that's promised, and in fact do very little to help the environment," he said. "I don't think he would want a study confirming that."
The Spokesman-Review agreed in an editorial that Inslee's veto was the wrong move: "Inslee's vetoes of studies unfortunate"
Posted by Adam Faber at July 01, 2013
04:20 PM | Email This
The Tri-City Herald also weighed in on the topic: "Gov. Inslee disappoints with his veto of I-937 effectiveness study"
1. If Inslee wants not just a study on costs but a full cost-benefit analysis, what is to stop him from doing so?
Oh, I don't know. Maybe it's the lack of an appropriation or instruction to conduct a cost/benefit analysis. The legislation specifically asks the JLARC to study the costs; there is no authorization or appropriation to consider benefits. Why would you only want to study half of the equation unless you were trying to rig the result?
Inslee was right to veto this. If Republicans were really interested in a scientific result, they would have appropriated for a full study. Instead, they want to appropriate public funds for a useless study to push their political agenda.
2. Bird blenders don't need to be "studied." If they were cost effective the private sector would build them.
3. scottd, the point is that Inslee doesn't have to wait for the Legislature to authorize such a study, he could do it on his own if he wanted. He is in charge of the whole executive branch, after all. And you're talking about JLARC like it's some shill. Both parties take part in JLARC equally and its studies are really good.
shard: The executive branch can only spend money as authorized and funded by the legislature. What legislation would authorize Inslee to spend hundreds of thousands, or even millions on a cost/benefit analysis?
Regarding JLARC, I made no claim about the quality of their work. But they, too, can only study what has been authorized and funded. The vetoed legislation only funds a cost study, not cost/benefit (which would be more expensive). By definition, it's a one-sided study designed to demonstrate a foregone conclusion. What good is that?
If the legislature was genuinely interested in answering the question of whether renewable energy directives are worth it, they would have called for a cost/benefit analysis. They didn't. Maybe they will next time and then Adam may have a point. Instead, he's just repeating GOP talking points because that's what he does for a living.
scottd, it is simply untrue that the only way for state government to fund anything is for there to be a specific provision made for it in the budget. That is not how Washington state budgets are constructed. Go to the link to the budget bill and look at the Department of Ecology, to name an agency that would be a natural one to choose if Inslee wanted such a study done. They are budgeted large appropriations for the two years in the biennium, and there are some restrictions on how the money is spent, but it's a long way off from each penny being directed to certain things. Each agency has lots of latitude in how those funds are spent. If Inslee wanted to do such a study, there are literally many millions of dollars of flexible money in many different agencies where this work could be done. If they don't want to do it, they don't have to, but there's nothing stopping them from doing it.
And I just don't see what's so wrong with doing a study on how much it costs the average power customer to pay for wind power. What are they so afraid of? Do they worry that the public will look at the cost and question whether it's worth it? If that's the case, that alone tells you something about wind power.
6. The Left hates facts and truth. They are sure they are right and do not need any studies to cloud their certainty.
7. And I just don't see what's so wrong with doing a study on how much it costs the average power customer to pay for wind power.
The simple answer is that it's wrong because it's dishonest. The goal of a study should be to see if an expense is worth the cost. You can't do that without analyzing costs and benefits. A study that only analyzes costs is inherently biased to make it seem that the cost has no value -- so it has no policy value. It's a politically motivated study and I'm glad to see my tax dollars won't be funding it.
We'll just have to agree to disagree about the discretionary ability of Inslee to fund his own study. It doesn't matter because that's not the point of Adam's post. Adam didn't call on the governor to study the costs and benefits of renewable energy directives -- and he would no doubt howl in outrage if Inslee actually spent money on this.
Adam is complaining because the legislature will not be allowed to spend money on a useless one-sided study. He's complaining because that study might have helped in pushing a political agenda that he favors -- not because he's interested in an objective evaluation.
I mean, I can understand disagreeing about this veto, or whether the study or not is a good idea. But when it comes to how state agencies are budgeted and whether or not Inslee could do this study without the Legislature specifically authorizing it, I think the answer is pretty obvious. It doesn't really seem like an "agree to disagree" situation. Either it's true or it isn't. Did you look at the passed budget? Clearly it's not written in such a way that every expenditure is authorized by the Legislature.
The Policy Center has a nice write up on this and other vetoes today, you can click on it here
, loved this part: "Ironically, Inslee complains that analysis of I-937 focuses only on costs while ignoring the benefits and then wants to focus only on supposed economic benefits of 'aspirational' building codes without looking at the costs."
10. Why would he want independent data when he is an expert.
After all he wrote a book on renewable energy.
Actually if provided with independent data he may not get the answer he is seeking which is spend more money on renewable resources at higher costs before looking to ways to reduce waste through energy efficiency. As for independent data, some might find this link interesting:
This is the type of independent data he and the other chicken little's of the socialist democrats are not interested in hearing.
11. If all this wind energy crap was really so good, wouldn't there be a quoted price per KWH, and would it need legislation to force it upon us?
And don't ask the State why the solar array on the Capitol building hasn't produced a milliwatt in over three years.
Some engineering genius put the inverters outside.