SEL President speaks out against Cap-and-Trade tax
September 7, 2023
PULLMAN — Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories President Edmund O. Schweitzer III sent a statement to chambers of commerce, utilities, and elected officials across the state Wednesday, Aug. 30, stating that he opposes concealment of Cap-and-Trade tax for utility customers.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson recently made a directive preventing Puget Sound Energy (PSE) from disclosing the reason for new utility rate increases on customers’ bills, which Schweitzer states he opposes.
In his statement, Schweitzer said that the state’s Climate Commitment Act imposes cap-and-trade charges on utilities distributing natural gas.
The charges are a tax paid by utilities including PSE, Avista Corporation, Cascade Natural Gas Corporation, and Northwest Natural Gas Company, Schweitzer said in his statement.
“PSE applied to the Washington Utilities and Transporation Commission (WUTC) for a rate increase to cover the cap-and-trade taxes,” Schweitzer said, adding that WUTC approved the rate increase, which passes the cap-and-trade tax onto consumers.
The increase comes with a catch, though, Schweitzer said, “Utilities are forbidden from showing the cap-and-trade tax charge in our bills,” he added. “Evidently, the Attorney General’s office expects utilities to bury this new tax in your bill,” he said in his statement.
Schweitzer adds that Attorney General Ferguson is running for governor and may not want anyone to think he has anything to do with natural gas price increases.
“Public utility commissions in America date to the early days of Thomas Edison and Samuel Insull,” Schweitzer’s statement reads, noting that in exchange for regional franchises, utilities agreed to open their books to public utility commissioners acting on the public’s behalf.
“Their mission is to ensure utilities make a fair and reasonable profit for their shareholders and do not overcharge us for their services,” Schweitzer said, adding that PUCs are intended to protect ratepayers.
Schweitzer says the gag order has the opposite impact, forcing utilities to hide the tax. “The AG is interfering with the very purpose of a public utility commission,” Schweitzer said, noting that the commission should immediately push back on the gag clause and encourage utilities to disclose their costs.
“Our utilities should be permitted to prepare bills as they see fit,” he said, adding that this would be in a manner compatible with the open-book concept of regional franchises.
Schweitzer ends his statement by asking what else are they hiding from the public. “Let’s elect officials to Olympia who believe in our economic and political freedom, who are open and transparent with their political agendas, and who treat citizens, taxpayers, and utilities with respect,” Schweitzer said.