Critics of rebating most of $2.6 million in Renewable Energy Credit profits to electric utility customers haven’t given up.
They are seeking petition signatures for a November ballot initiative to overturn a June 20 city council decision to rebate $2.2 million through credits to customers beginning next year.
The remainder of the money goes to Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System’s sustainable reserve fund for energy conservation and efficiency efforts.
The petition calls for all of the money from the credits — pollution offsets traded to out-of-state utilities — to be spent on Oberlin’s clean energy initiatives. It also calls for establishment of a “sustainable community improvement fund” for conservation and efficiency efforts. Customers could donate money to the fund, which would be run by a nonprofit group approved by council.
Petition organizers need at least 266 signatures — 10 percent of the 2,656 votes cast in Oberlin in the 2014 general election — to get the issue on the ballot. The signature deadline is Aug. 10.
Notification of the petition drive was made to city officials in a July 5 letter. Law director Jon Clark said in a July 12 email that he was reviewing the petition language and was unsure whether passage could overturn council’s decision.
Petition drive co-organizer Heather Adelman said she’s confident enough signatures will be obtained because there is support for reinvestment rather than rebates.
While the vast majority of the dozens of people who spoke at packed public hearings on the credits over the last year favored reinvestment, council members advocating rebates said the majority of residents wanted refunds.
However, Adelman said speakers reflected the majority. She was also critical of council voting without putting the item on the agenda first, which reinvestment supporters said blindsided them.
“If council and others really want to discuss choice, then it should be put in front of the voters,” said Adelman, assistant director of the Oberlin Project, a city/Oberlin College environmental initiative. “The decision on how to spend $2.6 million of public funds is in issue that shouldn’t be decided by a simple motion that wasn’t on the agenda.”
Adelman is one of nine residents circulating petitions. Among them is Scott Medwid, who called for a ballot initiative at the July 5 council meeting. With 60 percent of the $2.2 million going to the utility’s top 10 customers, including the college and the Federal Aviation Administration, Medwid said residential customers are losing out and should have a say.
“We vote on bonds. We vote on tax increases,” he said. “We should be able to vote on how this money is disbursed.”
Contact Evan Goodenow at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
Evan Goodenow | Oberlin News-Tribune Resident Scott Medwid calls for a ballot initiative on energy credit disbursement during a July 5 meeting.