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.”

Print out these postcards and send them to Bellevue’s elected officials!

The City of Bellevue is the Lead Agency in the Environmental Impact Studies challenges to the insane PSE “Energize Eastside” project which is not needed and will destroy much of the Eastside with 18 miles of gigantic poles and wires that dwarf current ones. PSE wants to bring URBAN BLIGHT to the Eastside so it can profit from more sales of energy to California and Canada! We need to stop this project in its tracks.

Download this set of postcards to the City of Bellevue, print them out and send them — let them hear from you!

PSE not answering your questions? Let the Utilities Commission know.

We got this timely email from Eastside resident Keith Collins about what you can do when PSE stonewalls or blows smoke on the questions you have asked them about Energize Eastside:

“Greetings neighbors.  Many of us eastsiders are truly energized about PSE’s plan to stick us with a rate increase to build huge transmission lines through our beautiful Eastside neighborhoods for grid reinforcement and power wheeling profits.  For those of you who have been learning about what the true energize eastside project entails, you may have not yet received adequate answers to questions you’ve asked PSE on their energize eastside web site.  If you’ve been stonewalled like a number of us have then it’s time to escalate!   This gentleman would like to hear from you if you have already posted questions to PSE that have not been answered adequately or in a timely manner.  Roger Kouchi with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission is ready for you to send your unanswered questions to him at:  rkouchi@utc.wa.gov   Please make sure you indicate when you sent/posted your questions and please include any follow-up PSE may have provided that you deem inadequate.  You can also submit your complaints online at:  http://www.utc.wa.gov/consumers/Pages/ConsumerComplaints.aspx …or by email at: consumer@utc.wa.gov …or by calling: 1-888-333-9882”

I am sending the WUTC copies of two emails I sent PSE over a month ago that still await replies.

Eastside Citizens Present Their Opposition to “Energize Eastside” to Newcastle Council

In two half-hour presentations to the Newcastle City Council, the first from the Olympus Homeowners Association on July 1 and the second from CENSE (www.cense.org) on July 15, residents who packed the council chambers voiced their strong opposition to PSE’s proposed “Energize Eastside” project. The Newcastle News covered both events in an article in its latest edition at http://www.newcastle-news.com/2014/07/31/energize-eastside-concerns-shared.

From the article:

“Keith Hargis, president of the Olympus Homeowners Association, detailed his community’s concerns, while more than 50 neighbors sat in the audience of the council chambers July 1.

“Hargis highlighted health, safety, easement, pipeline and aesthetic concerns with the proposed installation of 230 kilovolt transmission lines along Route M, which goes through Newcastle, and more specifically, the Olympus neighborhood.

“Along the same corridor sits a gas pipeline that supplies jet fuel to SeaTac Airport, and neighbors are worried that construction along it could lead to a disastrous accident, Hargis said.

“He mentioned the 1999 Bellingham pipeline explosion that caused about $45 million in property damages and killed three people.

“’I think for us that are living along that corridor, we’re very concerned with anything that could happen that’s even close to this kind of magnitude of an event,’ he said.”

* * *

“O’Donnell and Marsh [from CENSE] challenged PSE’s projections that electricity demand is growing at an annual rate of 2 percent. Marsh said that demand has actually been flat or declining, both on the Eastside and nationally, for at least the past six years, even with population growth.

“He added that a Bellevue study anticipates a rate of growth that is less than half of PSE’s projections.

“O’Donnell said he acknowledged the need for PSE to provide reliable power, but argued, ‘there are better ways to do it than industrially blight our neighborhoods.’”

CENSE Makes Its Case to Newcastle City Council

To a standing-room only crowd of Newcastle residents at the Newcastle City Hall, CENSE marshaled its arguments to the City Council why PSE’s proposed project can be safely delayed at least 4 years and probably much more, and the council should support efforts in Bellevue and elsewhere to hire an independent third party expert to investigate whether the project is needed and what reasonable alternatives exist.

Don Marsh of CENSE made the chief presentation with PowerPoints, one of which contains this powerful graphic questioning whether Eastside demand has plateaued and drastic increases in wattage are at all necessary:

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 12.51.42 PM

This flat-lining of demand parallels the national trend, as indicated in this graph from a Barron’s article at http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-07-13/what-power-consumption-telling-us-about-us-economy:

Barron's national peak 2006

From the article: “US power consumption peaked in 2006 (red line), approximately in line with the peak in the US housing market, and the trend line has flatlined since.”

Here is CENSE’s press release summarizing the presentation, which was scheduled for 30 minutes but which wound up, following several questions from council members, to be 90 minutes in duration:

On Tuesday evening, July 15, 2014, CENSE co-founders Steve O’Donnell and Don Marsh were joined by Newcastle resident Larry Johnson to give a half-hour presentation that was highly critical of PSE’s proposed Energize Eastside project.

At the outset, they questioned PSE’s projections of electricity demand growing at an annual rate of 2%.  Demand has been flat or declining, both on the Eastside and nationally, for at least the past 6 years, even with population growth and fluctuations in the economy.  A Bellevue study anticipates a rate of growth that is less than half of PSE’s projections.

PSE also ignored the recommendations of their own reports that showed 56 MW could be saved.  That would delay need for the project for at least 4 years, and save rate payers $40 million.  “I’ve never seen a choice so stark,” Marsh said. “We can pay PSE hundreds of millions of dollars to deface our cities and neighborhoods, or we can ask PSE to implement the recommendations in their own report, watch the trends and evolving technologies for at least 4 years, and save $40 million.”

Even if growth proceeds in line with PSE’s projections, there are a number of alternative solutions that are transforming the electric utility industry.  For example, Tesla is beginning to market a residential-sized battery that can run a home during power outages and can reduce demand during peak usage hours.  Dean Kamen is about to introduce a dishwasher-sized Stirling engine that runs on natural gas.  It produces enough electricity to power a home, and it recycles the waste heat to heat water.  As residents invest in these and other technologies, the need for new transmission lines will recede.

At the grid level, large batteries are being used in projects in California, Hawaii, and New York City.  PSE recently received a grant of $3.8 million from the state to run a pilot battery project.

Another well-known option for addressing peak load issues is time-of-day pricing.  Marsh read from a study PSE did in 2001 on time-of-day pricing.  At that time, PSE was quoted saying the program would solve a crisis of exactly the sort PSE claims we are facing now.

Marsh noted that the Energize Eastside project includes no efficiency incentives or conservation proposals:  “PSE says there are no opportunities for conservation left.  The only solution is poles and wires.”  For a fraction of the price of Energize Eastside, targeted incentives could achieve the same goals, he said.  “That’s the smart choice when climate change and environmental impacts are a real concern for our children and grandchildren.”

All three presenters encouraged the city council to work with other Eastside cities and hire an independent expert to evaluate the needs and alternative solutions.  Many residents don’t know enough about the project, and cities need to educate their residents and keep them updated on developments as they happen.

Other Energy Eastside options need to be studied independently

From a letter to the editor of the July issue of the Newcastle News:

Puget Sound Energy’s Energize Eastside Community Advisory Group process is deeply flawed and does not represent the preferences of the neighborhoods. It is now well-acknowledged that the data collected is statistically invalid, as even PSE’s own CAG representative said it is “meaningless to the process of scoring neighborhood values for the purposes of determining a preferred route.”

PSE unilaterally eliminated several viable alternative solutions to support growth on the Eastside before it began the CAG process.

The neighborhood members of the CAG respectfully ask all five cities to formally notify PSE that the CAG process does not represent the will of the neighborhoods, that this project would significantly violate neighborhood character, and to either stop wasting time on it or restart it with other options for the CAG to consider.

There are too many non-neighborhood stakeholders on the CAG and not enough of the affected neighborhoods are represented, thus PSE stacked the deck against the neighborhoods. PSE and its consultant Enviroissues have purposely manipulated a process that is not fair, accurate, thorough or transparent.

The neighborhoods need the city of Bellevue (the lead agency) to have several other options independently studied prior to the Environmental Impact Statement and State Environmental Policy Act review process commencing.

The PSE Community Advisory Group Members and/or Alternates signed below:
Steve O’Donnell, Somerset, Ruth Marsh, Somerset, John Merrill, Somerset, Norm Hansen, Bridle Trails, Warren Halverson, Bridle Trails, Lindy Bruce, Sunset Hills, Dick Morris, Sunset Hills, David T. Edmonds, Olympus, Sean McNamara, Olympus, Larry Johnson, Olympus, Jeff Dubois, Greenwich Crest, Scott Kaseburg, Lake Lanes, Donald Miller, Lake Lanes, Sally McCray, Lake Lanes, Dr. Richard Kaner, Lake Lanes, Darius Richards, Kennydale, Mark Hancock, Kennydale

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.