Serving Franklin County, WA

'Gag order' issued on gas rates

For several months, drivers and businesses have had to endure the sharp increase in fuel prices since the state’s cap-and-trade program – or “cap-and-tax,” as I like to call it – went into effect Jan. 1.

But consumers, especially those who rely on natural-gas furnaces for heat, soon will feel pain in their wallets thanks to cap-and-tax.

The state Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission recently approved a request by Puget Sound Energy to increase its natural gas rates to cover the costs of the state’s cap-and-trade program under the Climate Commitment Act. But the commission approval included a stipulation that Puget Sound Energy could not show on customers’ bills the reason for the rate increase, a decision that was recommended by the state Attorney General’s Office.

It’s the equivalent of putting a gag order on the company.

The fact the Attorney General’s Office advised the Utilities and Transportation Commission to tell PSE to not tell customers why their natural-gas rates were rising is head-scratching and a sign that Attorney General Bob Ferguson and his office don’t believe in transparency.

If you were a PSE customer, wouldn’t you want to know why your natural-gas rates were going up? I certainly would.

Todd Myers, who covers environmental affairs for the Washington Policy Center, recently wrote that “this is not only dishonest, but violates the spirit of Washington’s laws and constitution. The position of the public counsel in the Attorney General’s Office is that they know what the public should know and what they shouldn’t. The claim that transparency is bad for the public is remarkable and revealing.”

My colleague, Senate Republican Leader John Braun, sent out an e-newsletter this week that focused on Ferguson wanting to cover up cap-and-trade’s effect on natural-gas prices. Part of John’s e-newsletter is especially noteworthy:

“This is lying by omission. By not being transparent about why your power bill is going up, the government dodges any accountability for it.

“Their excuse — that full disclosure makes the bill too complicated for you — treats you like you aren’t smart enough to understand it. In reality, they fear that you are too smart not to realize they are at fault for another increase to your cost of living.

“The sad irony is that the Department of Ecology claimed that the cap-and-tax program would decrease the cost of energy. And, in the regulatory proceeding with the UTC, left-wing environmental activist groups who previously released statements blaming oil companies for price increases told a different tale. They admitted the cap-and-tax program, which is part of the Climate Commitment Act, is the cause. Were they lying then? Or are they lying now?”

The bottom line is that the state’s Democrat leaders, including Gov. (Jay) Inslee and AG Ferguson, know that cap-and-trade is immensely unpopular with Washingtonians. Yet, they refuse to admit publicly that it is causing fuel and natural-gas prices to rise.

—Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, represents the 9th Legislative District, including eastern Franklin County. Email him at [email protected].


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