Submitted by OPALCO.
At the December board meeting in Friday Harbor, 18 Orcas Power and Light Cooperative members participated in an emotionally charged discussion about Resolution 2-2019 regarding the lower Snake River dams and ocean health. The board listened as members shared their opinions and concerns about ocean health, species survival and the role of the Co-op in representing their positions. The board agreed to put the brakes on Resolution 2-2019 until they can revisit the issues with greater collaboration from the membership. The issue will be on the agenda for the Feb. 20 board meeting in Friday Harbor.
Members of the Orcas Womens’ Coalition have been especially engaged in this issue. After participating in the Nov. 20 co-op open house on Orcas, a committee of the OWC met with OPALCO General Manager Foster Hildreth and staff to discuss their concerns and share sources of information. Members also wrote letters to the board asking them to reconsider the resolution.
“Everyone in this room cares deeply about the health of our environment and a sustainable way forward,” said Board President Vince Dauciunas as he thanked the members in attendance for their engagement in the Co-op. “We welcome your input on this issue and look forward to working with you on these critical issues— as a co-op, we depend on member participation to achieve our mission.”
OPALCO’s primary concerns are for the availability of clean (non-carbon) sources of electricity and the co-op’s ability to fulfill its promise to provide reliable power to the 20 islands it serves. The board must have confidence that there are adequate alternate resources for clean and reliable power in the region — including the realities of coal plants shutting down by 2025 and the mandate for all utilities to be carbon-free by 2040 — which requires confirming sources of power when the wind doesn’t blow and sun doesn’t shine.
“There is no one solution,” said Hildreth. “These are the most complex and critical issues of our time; it’s going to take the whole community to find the land to site renewables and make the behavior changes necessary to leave fossil fuels behind. Just like when OPALCO undergrounded its system for reliability, we all need to pull together now for local resilience.”
Following the open discussion at the board meeting, a motion was passed “For the Chair and General Manager to arrange for a meeting of the Board to revisit the resolution to determine what actions are to be taken and to include the greatest member participation.”
The board will revisit the resolution and have a new resolution on the agenda at its February board meeting. Members are always welcome to attend.