Pasco city Councilman Tom Larsen is running for Franklin PUD commissioner, saying he does not want the utility district to begin using "smart meters."
The incumbent for the position on the Nov. 6 ballot, Stu Nelson, said with the electrical rate pressures the district is facing that it's crucial that the commission have experienced leadership.
Larsen spoke at a candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters this month, but did not respond to requests for an interview.
He said at the forum that he was concerned that smart meters could damage health, based on an internet video by a Seattle-area doctor who blames manmade electromagnetic fields for chronic diseases.
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Smart meters pass information on electrical use back and forth between customers and a utility, which eventually could allow reduced use when electricity demand is at its peak and help reduce costs.
Nelson said smart meters have been discussed by the PUD, but there are no plans to use them now.
Nelson is running on his record, saying he's served on the PUD commission for nine years and during that time has voted to lower electric rates three times. Being fiscally conservative has allowed those reductions while service levels are maintained, he said.
Last year when many other utilities around the state raised rates, the Franklin PUD was able to hold the line on its rates, he said.
He's earned the respect of his peers around the state, being named to the Board of Trustees for Northwest Public Power, he said. He also represents Franklin PUD at the Public Power Council and at the Washington PUD Association.
Nelson, who's owned a Pasco business for 34 years, said he would continue to protect hydropower, fight unnecessary legislation that increases electric rates and provide customer rebates for conservation measures.
Larsen, who has served on the Pasco council for 11 years, has worked as a real estate broker and loan officer. He has a master's in business administration and was an electrician in the Navy, giving him the training and experience to serve on the commission, he said.
Larsen said he would work to buy power inexpensively and to economize without installing "invasive electric meters."
He'd also continue to work to influence the Legislature to accept hydropower as an eligible renewable energy source after the passage of Initiative 937 has required larger utilities to purchase a growing percentage of their power from renewable sources. That generally means buying solar or wind power, which is more expensive than hydropower, even if the utility already has enough electricity under contract.
Nelson said work has been continuing for years without success to get hydropower from federal dams included as an eligible renewable resource under the initiative's requirements. He's supporting a proposal to delay required purchases that may have a more realistic chance of succeeding in Olympia.
Larsen has been in the center of controversy at times on the Pasco City Council. He had to sit out a vote on a proposed Goodwill store earlier this month when he went door-to-door on the issue, in violation of state law that allows only one hearing on land use matters.
Also this year he claimed city employees were lying about the terms of an agreement to sell some of Pasco's excess sewer capacity, despite evidence the council received information about the agreement.
In 2009 the council voted 5-2 to remove him from representing Pasco on the Benton-Franklin Council of Governments after he was accused of misrepresenting the city's position on the Columbia River Bridge Crossing study.
The position of PUD commissioner pays $1,800 a month and $104 per diem a day up to 140 days maximum a year and reimburses some expenses. The term is for six years.