Category Archives: Is the PSE project necessary?

PSE’s Energize Eastside Project Counts on the Impotence of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission

Appearing in this month’s King County Bar Association’s Bar Bulletin is an article, “The Toothless Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission,” written by CSEE’s attorney, Larry Johnson. He reveals the real reason why PSE is pushing so incredibly hard to sell “Energize Eastside” with an all-out aggressive PR campaign and fraudulent ads: PSE’s Australian investor owners need the guaranteed 9.8% return on any new infrastructure, thanks to the WUTC and Washington law; PSE’s foreign owners could care less whether the project is needed (which it is not, as we have repeatedly shown here).

A guaranteed return of 9.8% for several years on a $300 million project in today’s markets? Where else can you get a fantastic return like that?

Johnson points out that the WUTC has no power to approve a project like “Energize Eastside” before it is built, only after it is built. By then, of course, all the damage will have been done, so the WUTC’s denying a utility a rate increase to pay for what turns out to be an unneeded project is a meaningless remedy. Not surprisingly, the WUTC has never disapproved any infrastructure project built by PSE.

We need to have a law like other states have, where the WUTC can hold a “public use and necessity” hearing so grotesque boondoggles like “Energize Eastside” don’t get built. Meanwhile, as the article points out, “…something can be done right away under existing law. The WUTC could issue periodic non-binding advisory opinions about any proposed new project before it is built and allow public input before issuing such opinions. There is nothing in existing law to prohibit that. And even with such thin gruel, both the public and the utility proposing the project would get helpful ideas in advance about what the chances are of a project’s approval, thereby hopefully deterring the bad ones.” (emphasis added)

You want to do something to make Washington the “progressive” state you think it is when it comes to energy? Write the WUTC, write the governor, write your elected representatives in the House and Senate in Olympia, and demand they make these changes in the law now!

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PSE’s Calling Energize Eastside a “System Upgrade” is Another Big Lie

PSE likes to play a semantic shell game of conflating “reliability” — coping with very rare peak usage in extreme events, such as early morning on an extremely cold day, where outages might last for just a few hours, occurring about every 5 to 10 years or never — with “updating the grid” to meet “increased demand,” even though overall electricity usage on the Eastside has gone down in the last 8 years. Here is a typical misleading ad from PSE, published in Eastside newspapers:

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The text in the yellow rectangle may appear fuzzy, so here it is: “New, independent research confirms the need to upgrade our electric grid now to meet growing demand. Without the Energize Eastside project, we risk longer and more severe outages. Learn more about how PSE is working with your community on a safe and reliable solution.”

That part about a “safe” solution is truly risible. Read this Planning Commision submittal from CSEE regarding PSE’s horrible gas pipeline safety record and the greed that drives the company to lie to the public in order to secure huge profits for its Australian and Canadian owners, without regard to the health and safety of its customers.

Energize Eastside is one big con job that must be stopped now!

PSE’s Fraudulent Energize Eastside Project Would Gut Newcastle, Bellevue

True to form, PSE for the past three years has never revealed that its proposed “Energize Eastside” project would require its buying and destroying whole swaths of homes in Newcastle and Bellevue. But finally, hidden in the hundreds of pages of the murky and deeply flawed Draft Environmental Impact Statement (which sidesteps all the safety issues!), we find these entries:

EIS chapter 10, page 20: For the first time the EIS makes it clear that PSE will need to purchase many houses adjacent to the existing right-of-way. Not only might some home owners need to vacate their homes and see them destroyed, but the neighbors who remain would be looking at a no-man’s wasteland like the one the Berlin Wall ran through:

Berlinermauer

Chapter 11 page 29: The EIS admits that there will be up to 20% home value depreciation for Newcastle. If you think you won’t be affected just because you don’t live along the path of these gigantic new steel towers built next to jet fuel under pressure that can flow downhill to the tune of thousands of gallons per minute, think again. Check out the devastation caused by the pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California, in 2010: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_San_Bruno_pipeline_explosion. Here is a photo of a home downhill of the massive fire that ensued that killed eight people:

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Here is a graphic of what we can expect if our city councils are crazy enough to permit this project:

Easement expansion online

Easement expansion online2

According to electrical engineer Brian Elworth who prepared this document, “it is based on PSE widening the corridor 75 feet on each side to provide bare minimum separation between the tower base and adjacent pipes (including the hazardous liquid pipeline). It only includes Olympus but much more of Newcastle would be impacted. PSE may elect to only widen one side but it would have to be very wide.”

The greedy Australians who own PSE don’t care, of course, about what may befall us (including 130′ steel towers that could fall on our houses and crush us, such as in an earthquake along the Seattle Fault line that insanely enough is right where these towers would be placed), because they don’t live here.

This project should be called “Pulverize Eastside“!

Inside Look into How PSE Fudged Technical Studies to Make Energize Eastside Look Necessary

Here is how we imagine the PSE board meeting went when they realized simulations of 2018 Eastside electricity reliability requirements revealed no need for the boondoggle Energize Eastside project that would earn their Austrialian owners a Washington State-guaranteed return of a half billion dollars:

Created by CSEE as satire, this cartoon nevertheless conjures a scenario that was no doubt not far from reality. PSE did in fact add irrelevant, invented power flow to Canada (1500 MW) and turned off a dozen peaker plants in Western Washington in its simulated “flow studies” to create phony, skewed results to justify the $200 million Energize Eastside project. It could become the biggest fraud ever perpetrated by a public utility on its ratepayers and on the public in general.

CENSE, CSEE File FERC Complaint over Energize Eastside

The fight against PSE’s insane Energize Eastside project began a dramatic new phase yesterday (June 8, 2015) when CENSE and CSEE joined forces to file a formal complaint against PSE, Seattle City Light, BPA and ColumbiaGrid for numerous violations of the Federal Power Act and Orders of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), especially FERC Orders 890 and 1000. The complaint asks FERC to stop Energize Eastside and make PSE start all over again. The reasons are many and detailed, and taking time to read the CENSE-CSEE v. PSE et al. FERC Complaint and the supporting Lauckhart Affidavit are well worth your time. Mr. Lauckhart once served as the VP for Power Planning for Puget Power & Light, PSE’s predecessor. He is one of the most knowledgeable experts in the United States in this subject area, and it will come as no surprise to you when you read that he thinks Energize Eastside is not needed, and there are cheaper, more efficient and less environmentally destructive alternatives available that must be considered. He cites with specifics five very doable examples in his affidavit.

Mr. Lauckhart’s affidavit runs to 39 pages, with references to 28 documents as attachments to his affidavit. You can download the affidavit attachments here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/mmpuekjyjjq9esi/AAAyQQkB-7PKjZhXIgRQ9uqja?dl=0.

PSE Prepares to Deforest Bellevue with Council’s Blessing

A March 19, 2015, letter to the Editor of Bellevue Reporter reveals how far PSE is willing to go into Godzilla mode to trash the Eastside with urban blight to satisfy its Australian and Canadian owners:

“According to a recent article in the Bellevue Reporter, PSE will pay the City of Bellevue almost a million dollars to compensate for the loss of 295 trees along 148th Ave SE and NE 8th Street. Tall power poles will intrude on these beautiful tree-lined streets. If the project is really necessary to keep our lights on, it should be installed underground. What will Bellevue look like if we lose 300 trees here, 8000 trees there (for Energize Eastside), and blindly continue down that path?

“Is this why Bellevue is giving up its “City in a Park” tag line? Perhaps it should be: “Bellevue, a Playground for PSE.”

“Don Marsh”

That letter may have also inspired this cartoon by Frank Shiers:

pse-trees

PSE Pressures Bellevue with its Energize Eastside Timetable Before People Might Learn of its Sordid Past (and Present)

So far, the City of Bellevue has not once told PSE to back off from its rush to get Energize Eastside built on PSE’s timeline, regardless of the many key questions PSE stubbornly refuses to answer. In his presentation to the Bellevue City Council on January 12, 2015, Larry Johnson for CSEE asked the council to impose as many moratoria as needed until PSE provides complete and credible information. In other words, Bellevue needs to set the agenda and timelines, not PSE.

Johnson recited a list of PSE’s past and current misdeeds that demonstrate it is a serial bad actor that cannot be trusted. Below is that list, including the Attorney General’s lawsuit filed last month against PSE for overcharging its customers $35 million a year, and the potential fines and shutdown of  PSE’s dirty coal Colstrip plant in Montana that accounts for nearly a third of the energy it sells us. With the possibility PSE could go bankrupt from lawsuits and fines and the possible shutdown of Colstrip, no wonder PSE is trying to pressure Bellevue as EIS Lead Agency for all 5 cities to get its bloated, unnecessary project permitted ASAP.

Here is the shocking litany of PSE’s past and present bad acts:

  • 2007: the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) fines PSE $1 million for illegally selling 65,000 customers’ private data to an outside marketing firm;
  • 2008: the UTC fines PSE $1.25 million for intentionally falsifying gas pipeline safety inspection records over the course of 4 years, the biggest fine ever imposed on a utility in Washington State;
  • 2008: PSE settles with the UTC for $500,000 for failing to resolve 67 gas pipeline safety violations dating back to 2003;
  • 2010: PSE fined again $250,000 for violating an order to correct specific customer accounts;
  • 2011: PSE fined again another $104,300 for continuing the same violations among low-income customers;
  • 2012: PSE fined again $430,000 for improperly charging residential disconnect-visit fees;
  • 2013: PSE fined again $275,000 for violating gas-safety rules when responding to gas leaks in Seattle, where due to those violations a family’s house exploded — fortunately, nobody was killed;
  • 2014: just last month, December 14, the Attorney General sued PSE, claiming this “private utility’s … profit margins are unjustifiably high. Customers are collectively being overcharged by about $35 million a year.”
  • Ongoing: PSE generates nearly a third of the energy it sells to ratepayers via the Colstrip dirty coal plant in Western Montana, making PSE a major air polluter and the 8th largest greenhouse gas emitter in the U.S.

Click here for a print version of Johnson’s presentation where he also chides the Bellevue City Council for not adequately engaging with citizens on this critical project and not giving informed citizen action groups the same time and access granted PSE. Here is also a video of this presentation: