Renton Mayor and Councilmembers Ask Pointed Questions to PSE

Update:

PSE responded to the City of Renton’s questions with this letter.

One particular paragraph in their answer to question #3 is rather shocking:

Additionally, it is important to note that the routes being considered by PSE were chosen as overhead routes. Due to the additional engineering and construction challenges with undergrounding, the current route options may not be able to accommodate an underground project and new underground route options would need to be considered.”

So right off the bat no consideration was ever given for undergrounding in PSE’s selection of the 18 segments that would qualify in the potential preferred route — their only thought was putting everything above ground, that’s it. Talk about tunnel vision! So even in their own scenario where the unlikely option of a local community choosing to pay for undergrounding might occur, they would still be able to block that by saying the selected route won’t accommodate that. They never even bothered to explore what they now call “new underground route options” and confess that one, some or all 18 segments “may not be able to accommodate an underground project”! What is the point of all the PSE “public outreach” if they have from the very start foreclosed options that could very well be the most optimal solutions?

After severely and unfairly limiting the project options to just two scarcely vetted routes (one set of segments ending in “M”, the other set ending in “L”), routes that suit PSE’s “wires and poles” tunnel vision and increase profits for its Australian owners but offer the people living here no better, meaningful choices, the entire PSE PR “public outreach” for citizen feedback has been from the start a cynical, rigged farce.

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Gregg Zimmerman, P.E., the Administrator of Renton’s Public Works Department, on 4/14/2014 wrote a letter with several key questions to PSE relaying Renton’s mayor’s and City Councilmembers’ concerns about “Energize Eastside.”  We have asked Mr. Zimmerman to forward PSE’s answers so we can update this post with that information.

Of particular interest is Question No. 2:

“With regard to the option of under grounding all or portions of this transmission line, PSE has made reference to Electric Tariff G Schedule 80, provision 34.b, which states “in order for the Projects undertaken in response to such requests to result in rates for electric service that are fair, just, reasonable and sufficient” the Requesting Entity “shall pay the Company for any and all increase in cost due to such change.” However, PSE’s literature identifies several advantages underground lines provide over overhead lines, including less frequent outages, less susceptibility to wind and ice storms and third party damages such as vehicle collisions, and reduced need to manage vegetation. The purpose of Energize Eastside is to improve capacity and reliability of the power grid. Since underground lines would provide greater reliability than overhead lines, why wouldn’t installation of underground lines provide benefits that could fairly, justly and reasonably be paid for by the general rate payers?”

In other words: “Why doesnt PSE offer an underground option for at least some portions of their proposed project?” The City of Anaheim decided, starting in the 1990s, to remove overhead lines and place them underground throughout the city. They charged an added 4 cents a month on everybody’s electric bills because under-grounding was deemed a citywide benefit; why shouldn’t we apply that same kind of thinking here?

The time is rapidly approaching when PSE’s “tariff” 34(b) needs to be challenged by complaint made to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission — both as to the “tariff” itself and as to PSE’s practice in how it interprets the “tariff” to preclude under-grounding high-voltage power lines. PSE is not serving the public interest as articulated in RCW 35.96.010, “Declaration of public interest and purpose”.

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