This article in the 4/16 Bellevue Reporter reveals PSE’s project may be less about stated goals and more about hidden agendas.
And note this huge Wappler-Whopper in the article: “[Wappler] added the state utilities commission states if a community wants underground lines, it is the residents’ responsibility to pay for it.”
NOT SO, ANDY! It is PSE’s tariff 34(b)(ii) that the utilities commission acceded to approving that created this overreaching, irresponsible policy. It was PSE who authored that “tariff” and pushed it through the utilities commission, and it can be amended or thrown out altogether by the utilities commission at any time as “unfair or unreasonable” through its complaint process, as well as by the state legislature.
Further, that “tariff” says nothing about putting power lines underground. Rather, 34(b)(ii) says if a “requesting party” (that could be one person, several persons or a city) wants a feature to a project added that PSE in its sole judgment thinks unnecessary, and if that additional feature adds to the cost of the project, then the “tariff” puts the responsibility to pay for that on the “requesting party.” PSE takes too myopic and short-term a view of the cost for under-grounding lines; in fact it is probably a lot cheaper to put lines underground if all cost benefits are taken into account. How PSE got that “tariff” (supposedly just a fair return on PSE’s monopoly) past the UTC must have been a pretty neat trick.
For the actual wording of the tariff PSE relies on, 34(b)(ii), go to the third-to-last page here and start reading.
Here is another Wappler doozie from the article: “The community would have to figure it out,” Wappler said of paying the price tag for underground lines. “We can’t figure out who pays for it and how.” Did he actually say that?!
Finally, as to under-grounding lines, PSE should check out this statute passed by the state legislature and signed into law by the Governor: RCW 35.96.010, “Declaration of public interest and purpose:”
“It is hereby found and declared that the conversion of overhead electric and communication facilities to underground facilities is substantially beneficial to the public safety and welfare, is in the public interest and is a public purpose, notwithstanding any resulting incidental private benefit to any electric or communication utility affected by such conversion.”
This law applies to existing overhead power lines that should be put underground — so why not insist on the same result for power lines that don’t yet exist? Do we really have to build overhead lines first before we can put them underground?