Former PSE VP Blows Whistle on Energize Eastside, Calling It a “Scam”

Richard Lauckhart, who for 22 years was a Vice President for Power Planning at PSE, has decided to blow the whistle on PSE’s Energize Eastside project, claiming PSE has been using specious facts and false assumptions to justify it. Last week he wrote these words to the city council members of the affected cities who have yet to receive permit applications from PSE for Energize Eastside:

City Council Members and staff –

Over the past two years, I have spent considerable time and energy investigating PSE’s proposed Energize Eastside project.  I am an energy consultant who worked for Puget for 22 years, most notably as vice president of power planning.  I keep abreast of all new projects in the Pacific Northwest, and two years ago I learned that PSE wishes to build 18 miles of new, high voltage transmission lines through the Eastside.  I assumed when I read through the documentation surrounding this project that everything would check out.  Instead, I came to quite the opposite conclusion.

I have investigated this project on a deeply technical level, for no compensation whatsoever, because I am compelled by my conscience.  I am shocked and dismayed that the company  where I spent the bulk of my career would try to put forth a project that at its best is baseless, and at its worst, a deceptive attempt by PSE to get a deeply flawed, yet highly profitable project into their rate base.

I’m reaching out to you today because I recognize that PSE is putting you in a difficult position.  As much as I respect the important role you play in your community, you are not experienced transmission planners.  Yet due to the way transmission projects are permitted in the state of Washington, you are being expected to fully vet a highly complex transmission project that, if permitted, will have a devastating impact on your community.  I know that PSE’s motto is “just trust us, it’s too complicated for you.”  However, your constituents are counting on you to represent their concerns and to force PSE to be transparent about things that up until now have been opaque.  PSE is counting on the fact that you will not do a deep dive into this project. It is a sad truth that a project of this cost and magnitude could be built through your communities with no vetting by anyone highly experienced in Pacific Northwest transmission planning other than PSE, which stands to gain financially from this project.

Based on my thorough investigation, I must conclude that PSE’s main goal in building this line is to reap the generous 9.8% rate of return allowed on projects like this.  This will yield PSE over a billion dollars over the next 40-50 years.  The project will not measurably improve reliability on the Eastside and may in fact significantly increase other risks, like those of a catastrophic pipeline fire.  However disappointing this is, it is not unusual in our country.  The media is full of reports on the “death spiral” of old fashioned utilities, and despite its seemingly progressive nature, Washington is not one of the states that has made significant overhauls to its incentive programs for utilities to invest in smart, clean tech.

In order to “blow the whistle” on this project, I have written two detailed papers.  I have also prepared a slideshow that provides an overview of what is in the two papers and enhances the message with graphics.  I have attached all three to this message.

I would be happy to talk to you individually or in a work session if you are interested.  I’m also happy to answer any questions you have about my documents.  You can reach me by responding to this email.

Richard Lauckhart
Energy Consultant
Davis, California

Links to the three documents he references are here: 1) summary overview slides; 2) PSE’s motive for Energize Eastside; 3) Setting the technical facts straight.

We salute Mr. Lauckhart for taking this courageous stand against this boondoggle project and hope our elected city representatives will do likewise.


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