Inslee Seeks to Speed-Up Green Projects;
by Don Jenkins
The evaluation council was established to review large power projects, such as nuclear plants or transmission lines that cross many counties.
For developers of wind and solar projects, the council is an alternative to seeking approval from counties.
OLYMPIA -- An Eastern Washington Republican has proposed a moratorium on governor-approved wind and solar farms, even as Gov. Jay Inslee seeks more authority to greenlight the projects.
Wind turbines were "fascinating" 25 years ago, but have become "problematic," said Rep. Mark Klicker, R-Walla Walla. Turbines and solar panels are sprouting east of the Cascades to supply Puget Sound with renewable energy, he said.
"I'm hearing from so many people who are pretty upset," Klicker said Wednesday. "People are beginning to get tired of it and are asking, 'Why us?'"
The House Energy and Environment Committee held a hearing Tuesday on Klicker's proposal, House Bill 1871. The bill would bar the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council from recommending projects to Inslee until the ecological and economic outcomes of proliferating energy projects are studied. The study would be due in December 2023.
Officials from three Eastern Washington counties, as well as the Yakima-Klickitat Farm Bureau and Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, testified in favor.
That hearing was followed by a hearing on House Bill 1812, legislation requested by Inslee to broaden the site council's jurisdiction and "streamline" hearings. The committee likely will vote Thursday to approve Inslee's bill.
The evaluation council was established to review large power projects, such as nuclear plants or transmission lines that cross many counties. For developers of wind and solar projects, the council is an alternative to seeking approval from counties.
HB 1812 would allow the council to also review clean-energy-related manufacturing, such as for electric vehicles, charging stations, batteries and biofuels.
Inslee climate adviser Becky Kelley said the site council, made up mostly of Inslee administration officials, is "gaining more interest from clean-energy developers as a one-stop process for siting, environmental reviews and permitting."
Construction trade unions and environmental groups praised the bill. It was criticized by Washington Association of Counties policy director Paul Jewell.
"Let's be clear about what's being considered here," he said. "This is a broad expansion of authority to override the local community decisions around planning and zoning.
"These are not nuclear power plants. They're not expansive power-generating facilities. They're not pipelines. They're not high-capacity transmission lines," Jewell said. "These are factories."
Under HB 1812, the site council could prohibit people from raising environmental concerns if the site council's director determined the clean-energy development would not have a significant environmental impact.
"Reducing and limiting testimony for these projects is a surprising proposal given the state's emphasis on environmental justice and equity," Jewell said.
Klicker's bill has no Democratic co-sponsors and is not scheduled to be voted on by the Energy and Environment Committee. The Department of Commerce says it would need to hire a consultant for $500,000 to do the study.
Klicker said he hopes the governor's bill will incorporate some of his ideas, such as studying how renewable projects affect a county's tax base. The bill also suggests looking at whether counties should receive "view shed impairment payments."
Klicker told the House committee that the proposed Horse Heaven wind and solar project in Benton County calls for up to 244 turbines taller than the Space Needle. "Picture all those in Elliott Bay in Seattle," he said.
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs