Archive for Energy

Community struggling with PTSD, economic recovery in the wake of Oso mudslide

By | November 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Eight months after the deadly Oso mudslide, people in the community continue to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and are struggling to move forward, local officials told lawmakers Thursday.

There is also a “tenseness” because of the uncertainty of what will happen to the Stillaguamish River during the flooding season, said Arlington mayor Barbara Tolbert at a meeting of the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee.

“We have very resilient people in the community,” said Tolbert, who said the region’s next challenge is recovering economically from the disaster. A federally-funded economic review is underway, and the report should be completed early next year, she said.

The Oso mudslide on March 22 killed 43 people, burying dozens of homes and part of State Route 530. The road reopened to two-way traffic in September.

The committee also heard testimony from people involved in the recovery effort at the mudslide. Retired forest service member Peter Selvig listed several problems he encountered in the days after the mudslide as he helped organize efforts on the Darrington side of the disaster.

He said he was twice denied flood lights, and he also received pushback on the number of portable toilets and body bags he ordered. Communications were focused on the Arlington side of the disaster, he said, leaving the Darrington side with minimal services.

“These are some of the confusions that just rip your gut apart thinking that this was happening and there was nobody there to respond,” Selvig told the committee.

Watch the hearing below:

Bill would preserve floating homes

By | February 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Existing floating homes would be allowed to stay on Lake Union in Seattle and other shorelines, under a bill that passed in the Senate and was heard in a House committee Friday.

The move would be welcome by residents of floating homes, such as John Chaney, of the Lake Union Liveaboard Association, who says that houses like his do not deserve their reputation among regulators.

“We’re no longer the ‘shanty shacks’ that dump sewage and garbage into our state’s waters,” he said.

Photo by Dan Ramirez,

Floating homes differ from houseboats; houseboats have motors and are designed for navigation and floating homes are house structures built on a barge or a similar floating structure.

Under SB 6540 sponsored by Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle), local governments would have to grandfather in floating on-water residences in local shoreline regulations if the homes were established lawfully by July 1, 2014.

However, Susan Neff, who lives in a houseboat on Lake Union, opposed the bill, saying that owners of floating homes are taking up shoreline space that can no longer be used by other boaters.

“I view this as an aquatic land grab,” she said. “The space is limited. We’re not building new marinas.”

She also feels there is not enough regulation on how floating homes are built.

But Barbara Ingram, who said her floating home on Lake Union is her main investment, said that shoreline regulations would force her at age 76 to buy a home or pay rent.

“Frankly, I can’t manage that,” she said.

The bill is one of several this session concerning on-water dwellings.

TVW webcast the hearing.

Senate approves study on nuclear power plants

By | February 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

Legislators in the Senate passed a bill that would create a task force to study nuclear power. The task force would look into using nuclear power to replace fossil fuels in Washington state.

Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch) supported SB 5991 and said Washington is missing out on money the federal government has been investing in nuclear power in other states.

The Columbia Generating Station in Richland is the state’s only commercial nuclear power plant.

“There’s great opportunities and I think this task force will pave the way for new things happening in Washington state that provide low-cost, no-carbon, carbon-free power for years to come,” he said.

Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) said nuclear disasters in New Jersey, Chernobyl and Fukushima should serve as a warning.

“I was a 12-year-old girl in New Jersey when Three Mile Island had its leak, had its accident,” she said. “I would never put my children through that kind of fear.”

She said studying nuclear power is the wrong direction for Washington.

“Let’s not talk about expanding smaller nuclear packages throughout our state and putting more communities at risk.”

According to the bill the task force must consist of eight members that serve in the House and Senate committees that are concerned with energy issues. The members would be equally represented from the caucuses.

However, Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia) says the U.S. Navy has been operating smaller nuclear reactors throughout the country, including at the naval bases near Bremerton.

“This can and is done in a safe and thoughtful manner. We shouldn’t just say no because it says nuclear, and I think this is a good approach.”

Sen. Maralyn Chase (D-Shoreline) said a study would help lawmakers make policy decisions based on facts.

“I am not afraid of a study. I believe a study a scientific study would give us both the pros and the cons of this proposal,” she said. “These smaller plants, do I know that they’re good? Do I know that they’re bad? No. I want to take a look at the study.”

Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) said his concern was over the bill’s language.

“I have a problem with the definitive statement by the legislature in the intent section that this is a safe industry,” he said. “We’ll be putting our imprimatur on it.”

Senate Bill 5991 passed 34-15. It would have to be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by the governor before becoming law.

Categories: Energy, Environment

Inslee skeptical of proposed changes to renewable energy policy

By | February 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

Wind turbines near the Blue Mountains in southeast Washington. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

The debate over renewable energy is again creating friction among lawmakers in Olympia as a number of GOP-backed bills take aim at I-937, the 2006 initiative that requires utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity with renewable sources by 2020.

Some of the bills would allow utilities to count hydroelectric power as a “renewable” source, instead of wind and solar. Other bills would narrow requirements that utilities face under the Energy Independence Act.

Gov. Jay Inslee, who has made green energy a keystone of his legislative agenda, said the push to amend I-937 is taking a step in the wrong direction. In the coming weeks, he plans to roll out new measures aimed at increasing new clean energy.

“To go backwards would be a real mistake,” Inlsee said last week. “So I’m hopeful people will take the rear view mirror off and start driving forward on renewable energy.”

Republicans leaders say some of the requirements outlined in I-937 don’t add up, eventually hurting utilities and their customers.

“Our approach is that the hydro is as clean and green as anything else and moving those standards higher just raises costs on citizens. We feel like hydro should be part of the portfolio without raising standards,” Sen. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) said.

House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt (R-Chehalis) said Washington is already one of the leaders in renewable energy, and is the envy of other states.

“To create an artificial economy on top of our green power to satisfy special interest doesn’t really work for me,” he said.

Hydro currently accounts for about 87 percent of Washington’s electric power and Inslee insists the state must diversify.

“I think the state of Washington has a job creation future associated with moving forward on renewable energy. We see that happening in wind energy. We see that happening in solar energy,” he said.

Categories: Energy, Environment
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