To the Editors:
The Oct. 19 City Council work session [on] Oberlin’s Renewable Energy Credits was a clear demonstration of the differences in vision among Oberlin’s City Council. The issue at hand is what to do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in green energy credits earned by the city. This was a policy started in earnest in 2007 with City Council’s decision to sell RECs. This initiative is designed to generate revenue to contribute to the expansion of Oberlin’s sustainable energy initiative as members of the Clinton Climate Initiative. Before the Council is a proposal presented by the staff of Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System for a “rebate” back to the average citizen of, at this counting, $89 per year for 3–5 years. This rebate will eventually end, causing a spike in energy rates. The competing proposal from the Public Utility Commission recommends using the majority of the revenue from RECs to buttress the underused Sustainable Reserve Fund and applying the balance for “community benefit.” This proposal reflects the original intent of the initiative. The proposal set forth by OMLPS is the equivalent of political corn syrup. It is a tasty short-term treat but in the long run only undermines our efforts to create a healthy, sustainable future. Yet more questionable are the solutions to this quandary proposed by some Council members of “giving people choices” between this tasty treat and long term investment in a sustainable future. Also suggested by a Council member was an “opt in or opt out” program that would let individual citizens decide if they want this rebate or if they want to invest in Oberlin’s common good.
The responsibility of City Council as elected representatives is to set policy and manage the city’s appointees. Oberlin-elected officials are elected to lead and sometimes that means making difficult decisions. Employing noncommittal “solutions” that do not reflect the original intent of selling RECs or support a commitment to a sustainable future does not do justice to Oberlin or its citizens. I encourage those voters who take seriously the issue of expanding our sustainable infrastructure, creating programs that aid all citizens in making their homes more energy efficient and support consistent energy policy, to vote for City Council candidates Bryan Burgess, Sharon Pearson, Linda Slocum, David Ashenhurst and David Sokoll.
– Charles Peterson