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With a week to qualify, backers of WA energy choice initiative feeling confident

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(The Center Square) – The final push is on for supporters of Initiative 2066 to gather enough signatures and turn in petitions to the Secretary of State’s Office by July 5 to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

I-2066 would repeal the provisions of a new state law, House Bill 1589, meant to speed up Puget Sound Energy’s transition away from natural gas. It would also bar cities and counties from prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging “the use of gas for any form of heating, or for uses related to any appliance or equipment, in any building.”

Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-White Center, who chairs the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee, said HB 1589 doesn’t ban natural gas, as opponents contend.

“Functionally, 1589 is a plan for a plan,” Nguyen said. “PSE is the only one included, so the idea that it ignores [that] there’s a world outside of PSE is kind of interesting to me.”

On a news release regarding HB 1589 on its website, PSE states, “It will help PSE, under the supervision of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), thoughtfully plan for the electric and natural gas choices of our customers consistent with our state’s aggressive climate goals.”

PSE serves approximately 1.1 million electric customers and more than 900,000 natural gas customers in 10 counties across 6,000 square miles, primarily in the Puget Sound region of western Washington.

With the July 5 deadline fast approaching, I-2066 backers are urging signature gatherers to turn in their petition as soon as possible, and not wait until the last minute.

To get on the ballot, supporters must submit signatures of at least 324,516 registered voters to the Secretary of State’s Office. It’s recommended that at least 405,000 signatures be turned in to account for invalid signatures.

Janelle Guthrie, communications director of the Building Industry Association of Washington – the organization sponsoring I-2066 – is confident that signature gathering efforts will be successful.

“I’m pretty optimistic that we’re going to meet and exceed that goal of 405,000 by next Friday,” she told The Center Square.

Guthrie went on to say, “As of Wednesday morning, we were at 328,000, but Greg Lane [BIAW Vice President] is delivering 95 more petitions today and each of them has anywhere from five to 25 signatures on them,” Guthrie said. “I would venture to guess there are still a lot of petitions out there.”

Washington State Republican Chair Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, was also confident.

“You can’t count your chickens until they hatch,” he said. “And you can’t know until you know, but I think 2066 is going to qualify.”

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