Category Archives: Need for a Moratorium

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:

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 4.39.29 PM

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“!

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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:

 

City of Newcastle Joins Dissenting Report on PSE’s Phony CAG Process

In what we hope will be the first of many such dissents, here is what the City of Newcastle has to say about the whole phony, PSE-rigged CAG process and Eastside Energy through its Community Development Director, Tim McHarg, who signed the CAG Dissenting Report on behalf of the city:

“The City of Newcastle supports PSE in its efforts to deliver reliable and cost effective solutions to the Eastside’s energy needs for existing and future residents and businesses.  However, the CAG process did not offer sufficient depth or breadth of data, analysis or alternatives to determine the best solutions to these needs.  If pursued, the resulting recommendation would have significant and irreparable impacts on homes and businesses along the routes and to our entire community, since both routes run through the middle of Newcastle.  Based on the information and process to date, city staff remain unconvinced that this is the only available option.  We encourage affected cities and the public to participate in the Environmental Impact Statement process for Energize Eastside to ensure a clear understanding of the nature of the problem and the impacts of feasible alternative solutions.”

PSE’s “Community Advisory Groups” (CAGs) Are a Sham and a Fraud

The centerpiece of PSE’s “public outreach” propaganda is to set the stage with rigged “Community Advisory Groups” so it can then falsely tell the permitting authorities PSE’s preferred route for dinosaur overhead wires and 12-story poles has the blessing of the citizens affected. In reality, this process has been manipulated and rigged by PSE in multiple ways to force the results it wants and sell it as “what the community wants.”

This isn’t the first time PSE has tried to pull this kind of stunt, and the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission called them out on it last year. PSE is required to file an annual Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) with the WUTC.  In its response to PSE’s 2013 IRP, the WUTC was highly critical of the same sharp practices with a CAG that PSE is repeating in the Energize Eastside project: “Advisory Group members expressed continued frustration with the way PSE responded to questions or requests for data. … Certain data were not provided … due to concerns about confidentiality. Yet, PSE did not take advantage of standard Commission practice for the handling [of] confidential information. These omissions inhibited [Commission] Staff review of the IRP, which the Commission finds unacceptable.” http://www.wutc.wa.gov/rms2.nsf/177d98baa5918c7388256a550064a61e/4b0c052bf4e679fe88257c7700773244!OpenDocument, p. 8.

And the WUTC further found generally: “[PSE] fails to meet the Commission’s expectations of clarity, transparency and thoroughness.” http://www.wutc.wa.gov/rms2.nsf/177d98baa5918c7388256a550064a61e/4b0c052bf4e679fe88257c7700773244!OpenDocument, p. 11.

But don’t take our word for it that PSE’s CAGs are a sham and a fraud. Below are several videos of Bellevue citizens airing their grievances to their city council on June 3, 2014 against PSE’s riding roughshod over them and others in a race against the technology clock to get their INDUSTRIAL BLIGHT project built. These citizens’ combined message to PSE and the City of Bellevue: Slow down; get all the facts right from trustworthy independent third party experts; put a moratorium on the project until then, and above all, do not accept PSE’s a priori, self-serving rejections of reasonable alternatives that the CAGs never had a chance to evaluate.

Jeff Dubois: PSE — and the City of Bellevue – we need to put safety first. The rail corridor that runs parallel to Lake Washington Blvd. above Newport Shores lies in the middle of a very sensitive slope with homes up on top and more homes and condos down below. In some places that slope is 70 degrees or steeper. Hundreds of trees would have to be removed from the hillside for a 1.5 mile proposed stretch with 50 feet being removed on each side of the line. This could be the next Oso tragedy. The City of Bellevue and PSE need to make sure the risks are truly understood and addressed for the safety of the citizens of Bellevue. For the entirety of his comments:

Don Miller: His neighborhood has attended every open house, every CAG meeting, and every subgroup meeting. Throughout the process they have seen PSE continuously refuse to consider alternatives such as submarining in the lake, giga storage batteries for peak usage, sharing the corridor with Seattle City Light, undergrounding, and others. In their meetings PSE has repeatedly attempted to keep citizens from raising issues or neighborhood concerns or suggestions to modify the process. PSE has routinely turned their questions away with weak data and incomplete or unsubstantiated answers or even deceit. For example, PSE repeatedly claimed no design work had been done on any route, but recently residents learned that on Route L PSE had done preliminary design work and conducted a walk-through and even showed the neighbors on Ripley Lane where the poles would be located. When the City Council attempted to get a specific answer to the question of the real need for regional use, they were forced to ask the question a variety of different ways as PSE dodged giving a specific answer. Miller urged the City Council to issue a moratorium on building permits for this project until such time that the questions are answered and PSE’s data is validated by independent sources. For the entirety of his comments:

Steve Kasner: He noted that although this has been referred to as a private utility based in Australia, there are best practices all over the country and the world as examples of what cities have done to protect their quality of life, their power grids, and the things that were important to their residents. He stated that the citizens have to make this work for the citizens of Bellevue by putting all the options on the table. It is ludicrous that the City can’t get solid numbers about how much energy will be going to Canada from the proposed Energize Eastside project. He hopes this will not be the last meeting facilitated by the City on this project. For the entirety of his comments:

Lisa Taylor:  Apartment owners are also impacted by this proposal, but the City is not hearing from them because they are not property owners. She asserted that Bellevue has been heavily hit by carrying the burden of transmission power for the entire region. There are lines around Lake Washington, along Lake Sammamish, two sets through the central city areas, and a third potential set proposed. She pointed out that she thinks there is more of this coming. This is a precedent that the City is setting in doing this. The Bonneville Power Administration is already carrying capacity on the City of Seattle lines. She’d like to have the City take a look at what the answer is, not just for this area, but also for the region with an eye toward what’s to come. She asked why Bonneville isn’t getting together with Seattle City Light and PSE to come up with one solution that gives us an answer for 50-60 years plus so we don’t have to go through this again. For the entirety of her comments:

John Merrill: There are less destructive alternatives to Energize Eastside, but PSE took them off the table before the CAG process even started. The City needs to put them back on the table and have them thoroughly studied. He referred to a graph stating that in less than three years the lights will start going out unless we let PSE trash our neighborhoods. This is a powerful message, but it is false and disingenuous. PSE has been studying the needs of the Eastside for decades. They had a number of solutions to the problem other than the one that they prefer now but have taken off the table. There is time to study this right. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to study this thoroughly in order to preserve the livability and sustainability of the community. For the entirety of his comments:

Assif Rehan Alvi: He travels a lot and regularly sees third world countries putting power lines underground. He is shocked that they are talking about putting 12-story power lines above ground in this country. He thinks there is enough money to do this right. He agrees that we owe it to our children and grandchildren. For the entirety of his comments:

Pat Hansen: She questioned if PSE’s easements should continue to be on private property. The residents receive no benefit. The easement was signed in 1929 when 10 or more acres were grouped together. PSE pays no part of their taxes for the privilege to occupy this space. She asked what it would be like in the area when they come in with their big trucks moving poles and wires, putting up monstrous metal poles towering over the trees and homes. She expressed concern about the high pressured petroleum lines underground. She asked what would happen when one of the pipes ruptures after repeated loads by the heavy trucks. This would affect not only the easement owners, but those on adjacent properties. For the entirety of her comments:

Dr. Richard Kaner: PSE’s Community Advisory Group (CAG) process is deeply flawed. The data presented for decision making, by PSE’s admission, is inaccurate. Their solution is to blind the CAG members so they don’t know which data applies to which route and then have them vote. The Seattle City Light corridor will be upgraded to meet the needs of Seattle and the region. This may be the best time to replace the “erector set” poles with well-placed undergrounding and less horrific monopoles that meet the needs of PSE, SCL, and BPA. PSE consultants admit that much of the need can be met by adding a third bank to the existing transformer in Sammamish and Lake Talbot. He asked about the connection to Lake Tradition or a combination of all of these. PSE is proposing the cheapest, most convenient solution that allows them to protect their margins and participate in the lucrative market of shipping power to Canada, which will be done at the residents’ expense. However, PSE is dealing with a community that cares deeply about values that have made this a desirable place to live. This community understands that putting this is in anyone’s backyard adds to the industrial blight that will destroy the quality of the Eastside. For the entirety of his comments:

Thomas Abel: He thinks everyone needs to remember that this city was built upon the idea that it is a park within a park; literally it is a community designed to live in nature. He commended CENSE and everyone in orange shirts for the work they have been doing to fight the concept of the power lines. However, he thinks they need to recognize that if these power lines must happen, the residents need to think about ways to do it without damaging the value everyone has in the City without defiling it with huge power lines and a variety of destructive means. For the entirety of his comments:

Philip Malte: He stated that 1 gigawatt is the amount of power that would go down this 230 kV line. 1 gigawatt is what a very large nuclear power plant puts out. A 1 gigawatt power line coming through neighborhoods would industrialize Bellevue. PSE is basically proposing an upgraded version of 1960’s technology. He noted that it is almost 2020 so why can’t we have 2020 technology? Snohomish PUD is planning to install grid-scale battery storage this year. This means they can hold back on their need for more transmission lines. If SnoPUD, which is a smaller utility, can do it, why can’t PSE? There is a lot that can be done with distributed generation. This needs to be looked at very seriously, as well as other alternatives. For the entirety of his comments:

Fred Martin: His house has the Olympic Pipeline running through their backyard with 45-foot poles with 115 kV lines running over the field. He looks out there and sees that as his retirement, as his nest egg. He noted that in an article last night in the Seattle Times, Mr. Andy Wappler referred to the affected residents as multi-millionaires. Mr. Martin confessed that he is not a multi-millionaire or even a millionaire, but this is his property and his nest egg. He commented that PSE is trying to fast track this and push it through. He stated that PSE is used to getting its way and used to being bullies. He urged the City of Bellevue to stand up to them, slow this down, and make them do a full study. For the entirety of his comments:

 

 

Newcastle News Guest Editorial Hits PSE’s Shoddy Safety Record

Here is the “Guest Opinion” by Larry Johnson published in the June 6, 2014 issue of the Newcastle News:

After having lived in Newcastle for the past 10 years next to the PSE power lines and the Olympic gas pipelines, my wife and I first gave little thought to PSE’s proposed “Energize Eastside” project that contemplates Olympus as part of one of two pre-selected routes an upgrade in PSE’s equipment might take. After all, these “H” poles date back to the 1960s and need to be replaced or removed at some point, we figured.

But then we learned things. The proposed new poles would be twice the height of the current ones, as high as 12-story buildings, and the increase in voltage from 115,000 volts to 230,000 volts would quadruple the power flowing through the lines and add to dangerous EMFs (electromagnetic fields). In addition, the new poles would require much bigger cement foundations that would require heavy equipment and massive vibrations to settle them into the soil, all within narrow 100’ easements and over and near gas pipelines that are 50+ years old. In 1999 this was the same Olympic gas pipeline that was ruptured in Bellingham by a mere backhoe. This rupture allowed jet fuel under pressure to escape, causing an explosion and fires that killed three youths and resulted in massive property damage.

Is there really no alternative to PSE’s risking our lives? Is that sane?

Can PSE guarantee our safety? “We have done this before,” they say, “we have a good relationship with the Olympic Pipeline Company, and we are a gas company, too.” In other words, “Trust us,” says PSE. But what PSE will never tell you in their multimillion-dollar PR blitz is that in 2008 PSE was fined a record $1.25 million by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission for having falsified gas pipeline safety inspection records over a span of four years! And we are to trust them to care about our safety?

PSE is a private for-profit utility owned by Australians and Canadians who don’t have to live daily with the consequences of running 18 miles of industrial blight through our Eastside cities. We do.

This is not a case of “NIMBY” (“Not In My Back Yard”). This project should be built in nobody’s back yard. To learn more and add your voice to oppose PSE’s ill-considered project, go to www.sane-eastside-energy.orgwww.CENSE.org and www.lakecorridor.org.

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.

——————————————

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”.

An Appeal to Common Sense and Fairness: “Would Amazon Treat Its Customers This Way?”

From an email of a concerned Eastside citizen to PSE that awaits an honest answer:

“Don’t you believe in your heart that high-voltage power lines are dangerous? Would everyone who works at PSE allow their children to play under a power line all hours of every day?  Would everyone at PSE agree to live under high-voltage power lines; especially those who are pregnant?  Would everyone who works at PSE choose to walk, hike, play, live under lines without a care in the world about the effects?  That is what you expect from us!

“Shouldn’t we start reversing this?  Why are we littering our environment with unnecessary and debilitating power lines when there are other viable long-term solutions?  PSE could be innovators and set the bar for the rest of the area!

“The process we are going through seems backward.  If you worked at Amazon, you would see a great practice of understanding the customer need and working backward into the solution.  They perform research and due diligence prior to proposing a solution.  I think it is a best practice!  That said, I am deeply concerned about the number of people and amount of effort to make decisions with the lack of data provided.  The due diligence [by PSE — ed.] comes later, after all the neighbors fight it out with no information.  We don’t know what we don’t know and PSE isn’t able to answer (or from the North meeting Workshop #2 documentation, refuses to answer) the questions to the level of detail most people desire to make decisions about their homes and communities.  In all honesty, I would sincerely and deeply appreciate studies performed in advance of us moving further from the mandated agencies which PSE must comply to.

“It seems like a small investment compared to the current efforts.”

Thank you, well said!

The fact is, the self-serving “experts” at PSE don’t know everything but act as if they do. They have set, pat answers for every question. Their “public outreach” in reality is one big, phony, evasive sales job.

We all deserve a MORATORIUM on this project until all facts and issues are honestly investigated and disclosed by independent, credible sources. At a minimum, this project should be put on hold for as long as necessary until we are assured all reasonable alternatives to corridors and technologies PSE wants to use have been thoroughly vetted. PSE has had three years to plan the project and launch its PR campaign; those of us who will have to live for decades by whatever decisions PSE plans to make on its own deserve equal time.

At least PSE has been honest enough to admit that all their public shows about citizen input is something they can completely ignore come site selection time (Wappler, 4/21 “Q&A” meeting at Renton Technical College). The “CAG” process is a charade.

AND there is this: We have been informed by electrical engineering experts that the proposed PSE project isn’t necessary and/or better routes exist. PSE admits there is indeed a “short-term” solution that could put this monster project off for as much as five years, but they want “a bigger solution” for all the hassle they’re going through now so the monster poles and wires can remain into “2030 or beyond.” (Wappler, 4/21 “Q&A” meeting at Renton Technical College).