Inslee reduces local involvement in new power plants
March 31, 2022
OLYMPIA - Where new energy generating facilities are going to be built is up to a new committee and measures to keep rural communities' input were reduced by Gov. Jay Inslee.
"We worked in good faith with our Democratic colleagues across the aisle through some very intense negotiations to insert this important amendment into the bill. To say that we are beyond disappointed with the governor's vetoes is an understatement," said 9th District Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy.
House Bill 1812, signed by Inslee on March 25, establishes the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) as an independent agency separate from the Utilities and Transportation Commission.
Inslee vetoed sections 19, 20, 21, and 22, which would have given rural stakeholders more input and a broader long-term picture in the review of wind and solar projects.
Dye and 16th District Rep. Mark Klicker, R-Walla Walla, included the provisions to the bill through an amendment.
They stated the removal "will have devastating consequences on the future landscape of Eastern Washington communities and farmland."
Dye's amendment 1812 called for a study of the costs and benefits of energy projects expected to be sited in rural communities over the next 30 years, and for a legislative task force to consider the study. The concept was originally introduced as part of Klicker's House Bill 1871.
"Washington is being divided into clean energy-producing counties and clean energy-consuming counties as most of the burden of sitting large-scale wind and solar farms are falling solely on a few of the less populous counties," they stated together.
"We wanted to ensure that rural communities would have the opportunity to see what's at stake for the total build-out on the rural aesthetic, not just the visual impact of individual solar and wind farms that are sited here and there. It is critical for our rural communities and local landowners, especially those in Eastern Washington, to see the 'big picture' of what 30 years of sitting utility-scale wind and solar would do to Washington's rural landscape," added Dye.
"Now that the governor has vetoed these sections, it opens the flood gates for big out-of-state energy corporations to swoop into these small, rural economically-disadvantaged communities and offer leases at a fraction of the value of the agricultural land to struggling farmers and landowners. It's absolutely devastating to our Eastern Washington farmlands."
Dye and Klicker said rural stakeholders have no input in the project siting review.
"This is a huge loss for people in rural Washington," said Klicker. "It would have been great to receive a report with a forecast of what the full build-out of wind and solar facilities over the next 30 years would look like for rural counties. But the governor's decision means that won't happen."
The bill would have required the Washington State Department of Commerce to present a forecast where all alternative energy projects would be sited over the entire period of the clean-energy transition. The review and report would have looked at the level of monetary impact to the landscape and how that visual impact should affect payments or other forms of economic development assistance.
House Bill 1812 is scheduled to take effect on June 30.