Community Voices: Justin Raffa sees a strong clean energy future for the Tri-Cities

Justin Raffa is a familiar face in the Tri-Cities. Originally from the east coast, Justin made his home in the Pacific Northwest over a decade ago when he joined the artistic team with the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers. Serving as the Artistic Director of the choir, Justin has been a passionate advocate in the region and state to amplify and connect the arts to community.

“I believe the arts serve the community and I aim help people understand the impact of the arts and the economic benefits we offer too,” said Justin “At Visit Tri-Cities, I champion the fact that people come to visit us in part because of the arts and culture, along with all the wonderful outdoor recreation, wine and the other great things our community offers.”

Justin has built a career and life around his deep connection to the arts. This includes serving on the Washington State Arts Commission, City of Richland’s Arts Commission, and as a board member of Visit Tri-Cities with a focus on arts and entertainment for the organization. His community involvement also includes participation as a member of the Richland Rotary Club, representing the Choir at the Chamber of Commerce events, and participation in an array of public events. Justin has also used his platform as a local leader to speak on topics relevant to the broader community, including an interest in having deeper and more engaged conversations about the growth of clean energy in the Tri-Cities.

“Washington state as a whole is a champion of clean and renewable energies. It would behoove the Tri-Cities to be a part of that trajectory.” said Justin “There are benefits to projects like the Horse Heaven Clean Energy Center that need to be considered.”

Justin became interested in understanding more about the Horse Heaven Clean Energy Center project when he ran for Benton County Commissioner. During his campaign, representatives of the project reached out for an informational meeting.

“I appreciated the opportunity to learn more and that they took enough interest to reach out and educate me,” said Justin. “Early on, many community groups felt pressure to take a position on the project without knowing much about it. But in reality, we have time and an opportunity to listen, learn and discuss this project in all its complexity.”

Justin feels strongly that the whole community should be involved in vetting the project with reliable information to confidently make decisions from a more informed perspective. He encourages conversations and learning opportunities as a way to better understand the benefits and impacts.

One of the strongest benefits Justin sees in the Horse Heaven Clean Energy Center are the local jobs and economic boosts from the project. As a child of a blue-collar family where his father worked in unionized factory jobs, Justin sees and maintains the importance of steady wages and benefits for working families.

“It’s about jobs – I’m a big supporter of labor in the community,” he said. “We want jobs to be local, high-quality, and good paying. It’s important that we can attract and retain a highly qualified workforce. That’s a win and needs to be considered.”

In thinking about tourism and its relationship with new clean energy projects, Justin is also considering the potential benefits. As an artist, he notes that beauty is in the eye of the beholder – some may find wind turbines unattractive, but that’s not universally true.

“Many people who come here are from Seattle, Spokane, Portland – and those folks understand and value these clean and alternative sources of energy,” Justin reasons. “They live in communities where these things are embraced. I see them coming to Benton County and being inspired by our community and our commitment to clean energy solutions.”

Ultimately, Justin wants the community of Tri-Cities to engage in conversation about the project. To slow down, look, listen and, at the end of the day, know that everyone has had a chance to consider the totality of what the project brings.

“I’m glad that Horse Heaven Clean Energy Center has become more present in the community,” Justin concludes. “That’s what I did when I moved here. It’s important to be out and visible in the community so people have a chance to connect and learn. The people here are good people, and I am glad that there are opportunities for them to learn more about this project.”