Legal Complaint Challenges Puget Sound Energy's Energize Eastside Plan
Submitted by: Flash Media Services
CENSE, the Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy, and CSEE, the Citizens for Sane Eastside Energy, today filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) accusing Puget Sound Energy's Energize Eastside project of violating several laws.
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA (OPENPRESS) CENSE, the Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy, and CSEE, the Citizens for Sane Eastside Energy, today filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) accusing Puget Sound Energy's Energize Eastside project of violating several laws.
Energize Eastside is a $200 million project to replace 18 miles of transmission lines on 60-foot wood poles with 130-foot steel poles. It runs through four Eastside cities - Newcastle, Renton, Bellevue and Redmond.
The complaint, which asks FERC to order new studies on the need for Energize Eastside, describes how PSE, Seattle City Light, Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and ColumbiaGrid failed to comply with FERC's orders concerning transmission planning, proper consideration of related environmental impacts, and thorough evaluation of alternative solutions. In particular, the complaint explains in detail how ColumbiaGrid, the consortium responsible for coordinating regional projects in the Pacific Northwest, failed to oversee PSE's Energize Eastside.
"After seeking expert technical and legal advice, CENSE and CSEE believe that PSE may not have followed the FERC rules. These rules would favor one of the smarter, less expensive and less damaging alternatives to reliably power Eastside growth," said Steve O'Donnell, president of CENSE. "We hope that FERC's intervention will enable all parties to transparently compare viable alternatives to Energize Eastside and help our region become a model for how smart energy growth should be done."
In seeking to substantiate the need for Energize Eastside, PSE assumed several impossible scenarios and also used flawed power flow modeling. Utility Systems Efficiencies, an independent technical consultant hired by the City of Bellevue, repeated the same mistakes. To ensure fairness and an impartial review, FERC Order 1000 requires modeling to be performed by ColumbiaGrid, and not solely by the interested individual utility. In addition, ColumbiaGrid did not follow steps required by FERC, which include:
1. Conducting an initial assessment of any reliability problems within the existing system.
2. Notifying stakeholders of the problems and encouraging stakeholders to offer solutions.
3. Analyzing the proposed alternatives in a transparent study using industry-standard power flow simulations.
4. Selecting the best solution to a reliability problem by considering both costs and environmental impacts.
5. A determination by ColumbiaGrid of the appropriate cost sharing on the selected project.
6. A requirement that project construction and ownership to be put out to bid.
"Despite what many people may believe, FERC has determined that utilities do not have a monopoly on the ownership of elements of the Bulk Electric System, which Energize Eastside is part of," said Richard Lauckhart, CENSE consultant and former vice president of power planning for Puget Sound Power & Light Company. "If, for example, after going through all the procedures above, it is determined that Energize Eastside is the best solution to a reliability problem, then any qualified entity that can build transmission lines would have the opportunity to bid on the project and subsequently build and own those lines. That entity then makes it available for use as a part of the Bulk Electric System and then recovers its cost from those who need it."
Additionally, the complaint explains that in response to PSE's request to use Seattle City Light's existing transmission line (which would materially reduce the cost and environmental impact of Energize Eastside), Seattle City Light expressed its "preference" to not share its line. Such refusal is not allowed under the "single utility" planning directive of FERC Order 1000. The existing line should have been considered as an alternative to be studied by ColumbiaGrid.
Furthermore, BPA will benefit from the increased regional transmission capacity created by Energize Eastside. However, BPA sought to disguise its involvement in the project to avoid triggering a national level environmental review, which would include the impact on property values. The impact likely will be significant because the transmission line passes through many residential neighborhoods along its 18-mile route.
In summary, PSE, BPA, Seattle City Light and ColumbiaGrid failed to honor their commitments to FERC to perform Regional Transmission Planning on a single-utility basis in a transparent manner. The complainants ask FERC to stop the project until industry-standard studies on the environmental impact and alternative solutions can be completed by ColumbiaGrid. The complainants welcome any additional relief that FERC deems appropriate to prevent such abuses from recurring in the future.
FERC rules give companies 30 days to respond to filed complaints. FERC will then ask other entities if they want to intervene in the process.
About the Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy: CENSE is an all-volunteer coalition of citizens concerned about many aspects of the Energize Eastside project. CENSE has engaged an energy solution consultant and legal advisor to propose "right sized" energy solutions for the Eastside. For more information go to www.cense.org
About Citizens for Sane Eastside Energy:
CSEE is a Washington non-profit public forum for citizens on the Eastside who oppose Energize Eastside.