Columbia voters will decide on a petition initiative Nov. 2 that would require the city to obtain increasing amounts of its energy from renewable sources. The matter was referred to the ballot after it failed to win City Council approval Monday night.
Sixth Ward Councilman Brian Ash said he doesn’t disagree with the spirit of the law but voted against it because he thought it should be turned over to the voters.
“Everyone has to pay a utility bill,” Ash said. “Since everyone will be affected, everyone should have something to say.”
Council members Almeta Crayton, Chris Janku and Jim Loveless voted in favor of the measure, and Ash, John John and Bob Hutton stood in opposition. Mayor Darwin Hindman did not attend the meeting.
The petition was signed by 2,276 registered voters. Once an initiative petition gathers signatures equaling 20 percent of the votes cast in the last mayoral election, it is brought before the council. If it fails to pass, the decision is passed along to voters.
Chris Hayday, an organizer for Columbians for Clean Energy, the grass-roots group that assembled the petition, praised the council members who voted yes but voiced disappointment with the result.
“There’s no certainty in any of the city’s decisions,” Hayday said. “What is guaranteed is that continuing to use fossil fuels will give us a 9 percent rate increase.”
The ordinance specifies that Columbia generate or buy 2 percent of its energy from renewable sources by Dec. 31, 2007; 5 percent by 2012; 10 percent by 2017; and 15 percent by 2022. It also stipulates that acquisitions from renewable resources, such as wind- and solar-powered generators, cannot raise electricity rates more than 3 percent.
This sort of measure is long overdue, Hayday said, adding that he thinks voters are ready to pass the ordinance in November.
“It’s past time to talk,” he said. “We need to act.”