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Council Poised to Override Washington
County's Pause on Solar Projects

by Don Jenkins
Capital Press, June 22, 2023

The county's land-use laws are antiquated

A company has won Washington state support for putting solar panels on about 3,000 acres in Yakima County. The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council signaled June 20 it will disregard a Central Washington county's moratorium on solar projects and fast-track a 2,000-acre installation of panels on farmland near Goldendale.

The council told staff members to prepare an order declaring the proposed Carriger Solar project consistent with land-use regulations. The council plans to formally vote on the order in August.

The council will base the order on a memo written by Assistant Attorney General Jon Thompson. Council spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said the memo was attorney-client information and not available to the public.

Most council members represent state agencies in the Inslee administration. Klickitat County's lone representative, Matt Chiles, said he did not agree that the project was compatible with land-use laws.

County commissioners voted in January to pause new solar developments. One month later, Cypress Creek Renewables applied to the council to build Carriger.

Commissioners said they wanted to give the county time to plan for a rash of solar projects, especially ones that take up farmland and mar scenic views.

The county's land-use laws are antiquated, Klickitat County Commissioner Lori Zoller said June 22.

"We're trying to slow down a freight train," she said. "We could pave that valley with black glass."

The state council has the power to override county land-use laws. Projects can be approved quicker if the council declares county zoning ordinances allow the project. The council's position is that anything that's not outright banned in ordinances is allowed.

Several Central Washington counties have tried to pause solar developments by passing moratoriums. The state council has dismissed them, approving projects over moratoriums in Yakima and Kittitas counties.

Cypress, based in Santa Monica, Calif., and owned by EQT Infrastructure headquartered in Stockholm, argues Klickitat County's moratorium is irrelevant, citing past decisions by the council.

The moratorium paused the county accepting applications to build solar projects, but did not change how land is regulated, according to Cypress.

The county has raised several issues, including concerns about the panels taking 70 acres of irrigated farmland.

Renewable energy companies have been drawn to Central Washington by the state's green-energy mandates, requiring utilities to purchase electricity generated by wind or sunshine.

Don Jenkins
Council Poised to Override Washington County's Pause on Solar Projects
Capital Press, June 22, 2023

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