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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Feb. 29, 2024

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Don Steinke, noted Clark County environmentalist, runs for utility commissioner

By , Columbian staff writer

Don Steinke, a local environmental activist, announced his candidacy this week for the second commissioner position at Clark Public Utilities.

“The city of Vancouver is developing a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2030,” Steinke told The Columbian. He said that goal would be impossible unless the utility “plans for and facilitates charging stations for commercial fleets such as for Waste Connections, Amazon, UPS, Pepsi distributors, police cars, school buses and drayage fleets from the airport to warehouses here.”

Steinke spent his career as a science and math teacher at Camas and Fort Vancouver High Schools before retiring.

He earned national recognition from the Sierra Club for his advocacy work opposing a proposal to build the nation’s largest oil-by-rail facility at the Port of Vancouver, as well as opposing other oil-by-rail facilities in the Northwest.

Steinke also gathered more signatures than anyone else in the state for I-1631 — an initiative that would have instituted a fee for the state’s largest carbon emitters and invested that revenue in clean energy. The 2018 measure was turned down by the state’s voters. He’s also advocated for other local and state climate change measures.

“Don’s advocacy with legislators helped pass the Clean Energy Transformation Act and the Clean Fuels Program which requires Clark PUD to gradually replace fossil fuels with clean and affordable electricity,” reads the Vancouver man’s campaign website.

“When elected, Don Steinke will urge Clark PUD to provide clean and affordable energy services for electric cars and electric heat pumps as soon as possible.”

The priorities listed on his website are affordable clean energy, low rates, utility-offered rural broadband, affordable electric vehicles, electric car charging ports in multifamily developments and jobs in the solar, charging and heat pump industries.

“The Northwest Power and Conservation Council recommends that we, in the region, acquire 3.5 gigawatts of renewable energy in the next five years. That’s roughly equal to three Bonneville Dams,” said Steinke, who mentioned he’d been attending the utility’s meetings for the past four years. “Our share, based only on population in comparison to the region, would be equal to about 320 solar farms such as the one we have on Padden and 117th.”

The utility has much to do to get ready for the future, Steinke.

“They are behind because they haven’t seen this coming,” he concluded.