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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

September 24, 2014 at 3:13 PM

It’s lights out for Sawant’s plan to change City Light rates

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s proposal to consider radically changing how City Light charges for electricity went dark Wednesday due to a lack of support from her colleagues.

Sawant, who chairs the council’s energy committee, asked the committee to vote on her resolution, which said the council would review City Light’s rate structure next year with the aim of lowering electricity rates for residential customers at the expense of business customers, starting in 2016.

But neither Councilmember Mike O’Brien nor Councilmember Sally Clark — the other members of the committee — would second Sawant’s motion, so the bill failed without a vote.

There was an awkward silence while Sawant waited for the second she needed. It never came.

“Do I get a second to vote on it?… I don’t get a second to vote on it, so the resolution will not be voted on,” she said.

Sawant says it’s not fair that Seattle residents pay a higher average electricity rate than businesses. She says businesses should pay more or there should be a single rate class.

City Light customers are grouped into a number of rate classes, with all residential customers in one class and businesses separated into different classes according to their size and location.

O’Brien and Clark said they couldn’t support Sawant’s bill because it promised that the council would consider implementing a single rate class for all City Light customers.

O’Brien described that option as “not a credible path” and not worth studying. Businesses buying electricity in bulk pay lower rates than residents because they are cheaper to serve per kilowatt hour, he said.

“For large businesses using an equal amount of electricity that 1,000 residential customers are going to use … there are very different costs to the utility,” O’Brien said.

Rather than vote through Sawant’s resolution, the committee approved an ordinance allowing City Light to raise its electricity rates 4.2 percent in 2015 and 4.9 percent in 2016.

Sawant said Seattle residents are strapped for cash and deserve relief.

Comments | More in Local government, Metropolitan King County Council, Politics Northwest | Topics: City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, City Councilmember Mike O'Brien, City Councilmember Sally Clark

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