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FAQ: Lewis & Clark green fee fund

June 03, 2014

Have questions about the Lewis & Clark green fee fund? We’ve got answers. [updated June 16]

What is the green fee?

Lewis & Clark’s Green Power Initiative was launched in 2003. At that time, about 95 percent of CAS students chose to voluntarily devote $20 each in annual fees to purchase enough Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to represent about 30 percent of CAS energy usage.

In 2010, the Green Power Initiative was expanded to ensure that 100 percent of the power used by the campus was from renewable sources. In order to reach this goal, students increased their (opt-out) “green fee” to $85 annually starting in the 2010-11 school year; seven out of eight undergraduates decided to contribute this extra amount.

An investment representing 100 percent of the power consumed by the undergraduate campus means that this amount of new renewable energy is currently being added to the nationwide grid.

What is the green fee fund?

The green fee fund was established by student legislation in 2010-2011 in order to create a process for allocating any surplus from the collection of the green fee. As the costs associated with purchasing RECs have come down, the surplus has increased; it currently stands at around $340,000.

Why is there a surplus?

The surplus is the result of several factors including 1) establishment of a competitive bid process among renewable energy certificate (REC) providers 2) lower-than-projected prices in the REC market, and 3) high enrollment and participation rates by CAS students in the program—particularly in 2011-2012, and 4) reductions in electricity use. The green fee fund must maintain an eight percent reserve, in order to manage any fluctuations or unanticipated increases in the REC costs.

Who administers the green fee fund?

Because the fees are collected by the College, the Business Office plays a key role in their administration. In short, the administration has a responsibility to steward the fees collected specifically for the purpose of purchasing RECs. While an independent, student-run Green Fee Committee currently exists, it does not and cannot have sole authority over these funds collected by the College. In 2013-14, the members of the committee were Sam Alexander ’16, Osamu Kumasaka ’16, Melia Manter ’15, Quinn Rohlf ’15, Frances Swanson ’17, Director of Accounting Marietta Lawson, and Sustainability Manager Amy Dvorak.

What can the surplus be used for?

Currently, the green fee billing language states that “The Green Energy Fee…is a result of a student initiative funding student initiated projects that support renewable energy.” In the past, this language has been interpreted broadly, allowing the surplus to be used to fund a variety of student-initiated sustainability-related grants. There has been a difference of opinion about whether this language needs to be tightened to align more closely with the original intention for the RECs; i.e. their use for renewable energy purchases but not sustainability grants.  There is also a question about whether current students can change the spending rules for the funds that were raised from previous students.

What happens to current grant proposals that, in the past, might have received green fee funding?

In fall 2013, all proposals for green fee funding were put on hold while a Green Fee Review Committee—made up of two students and staff from Facilities, Student Affairs, and Finance—met to determine how best to move forward. Though some proposals were resubmitted, it was unclear whether they were sufficiently focused on renewable energy. Two student-proposed projects were approved; one in Myanmar and the other in the Grand Canyon.

On June 4, 2014, Dean of Students Anna Gonzalez announced that five additional projects would be funded out of respect for the students, the quality of their proposals, and the good intentions with which they prepared and submitted their projects.

Name of Project

Applicant(s)

Amount Requested

Amount Granted

Fund Status

Myanmar Research

Katie Schirmer, Ira Yeap

7144

7144

Green Fee Funded

Grand Canyon Trust Internship

Osamu Kumasaka*

3552

2000

Green Fee Funded

Student Sustainability Coordinator Compensation

Sam Alexander*

26523

Pending

Pending

Garden Collective Workers

Naomi Sheff, Michelle Moulton

8607

8607

Provost/Student Life Funded

AESS Conference

Samantha Shafer

1039

1039

Provost/Student Life Funded

Sierra Club Internship

Frances Swanson*

4741

3000

Provost/Student Life Funded

Groundwork Portland Internship

Gabriella Henrie

4095

3500

Provost/Student Life Funded

Climate Change Education

Zachary Faza

1715

1715

Provost/Student Life Funded

*Green fee committee member

The funding for these projects is not coming from the green fee but, instead, from contingency money in the Provost’s Office and Student Life Division. This decision was made to avoid setting a precedent for allocation of the green fee fund and to allow time and space to resolve the issue of how the fund is to be used in the future.

What was the charge of the Green Fee Review Committee?

The committee’s goal was to establish best practices for the green fee fund until the surplus is depleted and no longer represents more than eight percent of the total annual fee allocation for the Green Power Initiative. The committee looked at factors including specific criteria for grant proposals; adjustments to the application process; oversight of the existing Green Fee Committee; appropriate uses for funds; and the appropriateness of the current fee.

In short, the committee hoped to establish clear guidelines, priorities, restrictions, and requirements for the management and disbursement of the green fee fund.

What were the recommendations of the Green Fee Review Committee?

The committee made several recommendations, including clarifying and broadening the language on the bill and green fee fund website; increasing budget transparency; refining the current student-run Green Fee Committee’s charge, composition and voting structure, advising role, and management plan; clarifying criteria and the application process; and adjusting or redefining the fee.

What’s ahead for the green fee?

Currently, the green fee fund is frozen—the funds haven’t been taken away nor are they currently being used. Plans are underway for staff to work together with student leaders to carefully review and clarify the language used to collect the fee, and ensure funds are being spent for renewable energy in the way they were originally intended.

The Board of Trustees must vote on any fee changes, and they did so in May 2014, returning the green fee to its original level of $20 per year. Students had shared feedback that they wanted to participate, but were unable to pay the previous $85 fee. The return to a fee of $20 will help minimize the surplus beyond what is needed for RECs and encourage 100 percent student participation.

In fall of 2014, Dean Anna Gonzalez will invite staff from Facilities, students from ASLC, and other key campus leaders to work together to review and implement the Green Fee Review Committee’s recommendations, with the goal of creating a more transparent process for the future.

 

If you have further questions about the Lewis & Clark green fee fund, contact the Lewis & Clark Sustainability Council at lcsc@lclark.edu.

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