April 15, 2019
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Douglas County PUD looks to produce hydrogen from surplus hydroelectricity

Leaders from the Douglas County Public Utility District are considering purchasing new equipment that would allow them to create hydrogen fuel and electricity. The idea centers on using surplus electricity from the Wells Dam to split water molecules and make hydrogen fuel, which can power modified vehicles and other equipment. Douglas PUD General Manager Gary Ivory told the news station that the price of the necessary equipment, called an electrolyzer, has fallen recently.

“For around $3 million, we think we can purchase a two to three megawatt electrolyzer as kind of a test project so we can determine if this is economically feasible,” Ivory told a state Senate committee.

The report says a hydrogen fuel cell creates a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, which can power a car, for example. Proponents have said hydrogen holds tremendous potential to power American auto fleets.

But the infrastructure for consumer use is nearly nonexistent. Northwest Public Broadcasting noted a 2019 Toyota Mirai that’s sold only in California and Hawaii to people who live near a fueling station for more than $58,000.

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Spring Meeting
State Funding

Lifting levy lid violates spirit of McCleary deal

By The Columbian Editorial Board

Efforts in the Legislature to remove a lid on local school levies represent a step backward for school funding in Washington. Rather than invite a return to inequitable funding and open the door for lawsuits, lawmakers should provide state funding where necessary and adhere to a hard-fought agreement.

Following the 2012 state Supreme Court ruling in McCleary v. Washington, lawmakers took five years to hammer out a compromise in which the state would fully fund public K-12 education. That compromise limited local levies to $1.50 per $1,000 in assessed property value or $1,500 per student, whichever is less.

That was the promise lawmakers gave to taxpayers in 2017 -- state property taxes would increase in order for the Legislature to live up to its "paramount duty" of funding basic education. In exchange, local levies would decrease. The adjustments would prevent inequalities between districts that were at the heart of the McCleary decision; local levies had been used to fund basic expenses such as teacher salaries, creating disparities between wealthy districts and poor districts.

Now, school districts want the Legislature to keep both state and local property taxes high. Senate Bill 5313 would allow districts to tax up to $2.50 per $1,000 in assessed value -- a 67 percent increase from the current law -- or $2,500 per student, depending on a district's enrollment.

Passage of such a plan would put the state on the road to McCleary 2.0. It would invite the return of an unfair funding system that triggered the lawsuit in the first place and that had the amenities of a public education determined by a student's ZIP code.

Read the full editorial in The Columbian
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