Mayor David Condon vetoed a renewable electricity law just one day before he and members of the City Council took off for an international conference on sustainable infrastructure and the green economy.
The City Council passed the ordinance by a 6-to-1 vote last month that pushes for Spokane to move to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030. That includes all electricity users: private homes, business and government. The law also requires the creation of an 11-member "Sustainability Action Committee," made of financial, climate and public health experts to set a plan to attain that goal.
The ordinance is backed by a local environmental activism group, 350 Spokane, and has been opposed by local business interests. The region's private utility company, Avista, is supportive of the law's aspirational goal.
In a letter dated Sept. 6, Condon lays out his concerns over potential legal challenges and costs to the city and citizens — an argument he made in refusing to sign another law passed last year that established a list of goals to combat climate change.
In the veto letter, Condon also raised concerns that the new committee will have more directive, rather than advisory, authority. Councilman Breean Beggs, the ordinance's primary sponsor, has previously said the 2030 goal is aspirational.
Condon writes that the law "threatens our ability to deliver on our environmental priorities at a cost our citizens can afford." He adds that an initial analysis indicates utility rates will increase by several hundred dollars per month — a claim City Council President Ben Stuckart calls into question.
As for the international trip, Condon, along with Beggs, Stuckart and other local leaders inside and outside of government, are traveling to Denmark and Sweden this week. The purpose is to exchange ideas on sustainable and green infrastructure and initiatives.
Stuckart says via email that he hopes to override the mayor's veto at City Council's Sept. 17 meeting.