Oberlin council: Choice Fund set up to allow REC rebate donations

By Jason Hawk - jhawk@civitasmedia.com

Feel the city could use a little more cash?

Oberlin city council voted unanimously Tuesday to create a “Community Choice Fund” where electric customers can make tax-deductible donations.

The move stems from a long-running debate over Renewable Energy Credits, which are pollution offsets Oberlin sells on the open market. You efforts to clean the air here, measured by the credits, are bought by other cities, allowing them to pollute a little more.

By the end of 2016, the Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System had generated $2.6 million from the sale of RECs.

Council, after a year of raging debate, decided to give the lion’s share of that money back to electric customers in the form of rebates. Only 15 percent will go to the city’s Sustainable Reserve Fund.

The Community Choice Fund will let residents donate some or all of their rebates back.

Linda Slocum, vice president of city council, said she supports the plan because it allows customers to decide how their money should be used. She also likes that it builds on the Sustainable Reserve Fund from a source other than your monthly utility bill.

She said the Community Choice Fund will remain active even after REC money is long gone.

John Elder, representing Communities for Safe and Sustainable Energy, expressed opposition to the Choice Fund, which he called “misguided.”

He said returning 85 percent of REC money to rate-payers was a misuse and “it will be difficult to recover this money for its originally intended use.”

Resident Katie Hayes also spoke against the move, saying there is an effort to place the issue on the Fall ballot for voters to decide.

Council moved ahead regardless, fast-tracking a vote to establish the Choice Fund and drawing loud grumbles from the audience that packed the meeting room.

By Jason Hawk