The Fox is in the Hen House …

Puget Sound Energy is in the house.

Puget Sound Energy is in the house.

… and, being offered tea.

Fox: [in a velvety baritone voice] “I’m just here to help you keep the eggs warm. You know if the eggs aren’t warm they might DIE.

Hens: [clucking to each other] “You know that nice fox is right, if the eggs aren’t warm they’ll DIE.” [Completely forgetting that they can keep the eggs warm.]

Fox: “Move over and let my big, warm, comforting, bushy tail keep those eggs warm for you.”

Hens: [cluck approval] “We do have a lot of other things we want to do.” [Hens move off of eggs and run out to get tea.]

This is what I’m witnessing firsthand at the City of Bainbridge Island. Only instead of a fox we have Puget Sound Energy (PSE) representatives and instead of hens we have council members who are slowly getting lulled into giving up their power and taking comfort in the big, cozy, comforting, corporation. They’ll take care of us. They’re just here to help. Lie back, close your eyes….

Ever since we started our initiative, Island Power, in January of 2015, PSE has been completely enmeshed in our political process. PSE reps are a constant presence at:

  • council,
  • planning commission
  • utility advisory committee, and, even,
  • comp plan meetings, to name a few.

Their presence is subtly intimidating – it’s hard to speak freely with PSE reps actually sitting at the table as they were during the last planning commission meeting I attended. They represent a large corporation and corporate interests. Why are they in meetings as if they were islanders? Because they are protecting their interests – not ours.

Their GOAL is to prevent our measure from EVER getting on the ballot. [They tell the council to forgo putting it on the ballot so they won't have to suffer from a no vote. Wow! This logic is crazy good. "We're just trying to save you from your own mistakes." And, the council is starting to listen.]

We need to ask ourselves – who has our best interests at heart? Fellow Bainbridge Islanders who have NOTHING to gain from this going forward other than almost 100% carbon-free electricity coursing through our grid and using our leverage as ratepayers to stop buying coal-generated electricity or a large corporation that stands to lose more than $20 million dollars annually, and which will continue to use coal-generated electricity?

It is some magic trick that they are diverting everyone’s attention to the one-time cost of buying out the current system instead of the millions of dollar$ PSE stands to lose every year if we run our own electric utility. That’s what really matters to them. In Jefferson County about $33 million dollars left the county every year to pay PSE for power, now almost a third of that stays in the county in new jobs. We have a lot to gain by running our own electric utility: greener power, local control of our energy sources and community incentives, new living-wage jobs, and reliable power.

Climate Change is Still Happening
Carbon emission from coal-generated electricity is one of the nation’s top contributors to climate change, which is acidifying the oceans, killing coral and its intricate ecosystems, and forage fish, a food chain foundation, warming waters and killing salmon (salmon fishing was just closed for the season in the NW), orcas depend on salmon – it’s called a life cycle for a reason. Climate change is impacting all life cycles. Plus, feedback loops on land and in the water are speeding up the process.

For all want-to-be activists out there: I have learned a lot. Before I take on any political campaign in the future, I’m going to build a financial and volunteer war chest. (PSE started advertising in local papers, and polling right after we had our first public meeting in May 2015.) Second, I’m going to hire a political consultant/company and poll people in the community to build my messaging based on the response to polling. Then meet with political officials with my polling information to convince them of my position as well as our initiative’s widespread support. [Note to my future self.]

Will the council be out-foxed by Puget Sound Energy? We’ll see.

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6 Responses to The Fox is in the Hen House …

  1. Dean Nichols says:

    Not a resident of Bainbridge but I like your fight and wish you success.

  2. Good on ya, Low-Carbon Girl!

    • Jane Lindley says:

      Thanks Randal! Not that I’m wearing my frustration on my sleeve or anything…! Council is doing a great job but now I have glimpsed firsthand how corporations run the world.

  3. Barbara Mistic says:

    Good thing they’ve got you watching the hen house Jane, you won’t be out-foxed!

    • Jane Lindley says:

      Thanks Barbara! We’ve definitely been outmaneuvered. And, out-gunned financially. If we do get our initiative on the ballot we’ll be able to write a book “How to make a million missteps and still succeed.” I’d like to write that book :-) Its been a wild, insightful ride so far.