It’s time for PSE to clean up its own mess

The company is committing to only modest reductions of emissions from natural gas.

Washington State law requires that we collectively “reduce overall emissions of greenhouse gases in the state to … 95 percent below 1990 levels” by 2050.

But one of the state’s largest emitters, Puget Sound Energy, doesn’t appear to be on board. In PSE’s recently released Draft 2023 Gas Utility Integrated Resource Plan, the company commits to only modest reductions of emissions from natural gas.

In response, the Washington Clean Energy Coalition is gathering signatures for a letter to the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission, asking regulators to reject PSE’s inadequate plan. You can add your name to the letter here.

PSE’s latest plan would reduce emissions from natural gas by only 12% in 27 years. That’s less than 1% per year. PSE’s forecast shows consumption of gas would emit approximately 130 million metric tons of CO2 over that period. That volume of climate pollution threatens to further destabilize the climate and impose severe impacts on humans, plants and animals around the world.

To avoid these extreme impacts, PSE relies primarily on “carbon allowances” purchased from other companies. The intent of carbon allowances is to offset PSE’s carbon pollution through programs that seek to remove carbon from the atmosphere — while PSE continues polluting.

Unfortunately, carbon allowances excuse enormous emissions of CO2, introduce new companies which may or may not deliver the promised carbon reduction, and delay reducing PSE’s carbon emissions by allowing them to kick the can down the road.

That is a dubious plan, both economically and ethically. PSE customers must pay for these carbon allowances until PSE transitions its gas customers to electricity. PSE customers will also pay for that transition, at some unknown time in the future. It would be better to invest in clean energy infrastructure now and reap the rewards for decades rather than emitting millions of tons of CO2 every year with no end in sight.

In short, PSE would rather pay other companies to clean up its mess and pass the cost on to us. How can that be a reasonable plan?

Our state is well-positioned to lead the country with a cost-effective clean energy plan. says that “Washington State’s Clean Energy Transformation Act has been heralded as one of the strongest 100 percent clean electricity bills in the country.”

Our electric grid, already one of the cleanest and most affordable in the nation, allows our state to lead the transition away from fossil fuels. Let’s make sure our state’s largest utility, Puget Sound Energy, gets on board and achieves real reductions for the gas side of its business, not just accounting tricks. Please go here to add your name to our call for the Utilities Commission, the Governor, and the Legislature to compel PSE to create an energy plan that is worthy of our state, our planet, and those who will follow in our footsteps.

Kevin Jones and Virginia Lohr are founding members of the Washington Clean Energy Coalition, a coalition of environmental and civic organizations which have participated in the development of PSE’s energy plans for many years. Lohr, a Vashon Climate Action Group member, has been actively engaged with PSE’s planning process for five years. Jones is leading an effort to develop the Vashon-Maury Environment and Climate Agenda.

Learn how you can support the “Agenda” in next week’s Beachcomber.