May 13, 2019
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Gov. Inslee announced opposition to two major energy projects



In a "180-degree turnaround," Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week that he would now oppose two natural gas facilities that he had earlier praised and supported for their replacement of dirtier bunker and coal fuel.

After signing a bill banning hydraulic fracking for oil and natural gas in the state, Inslee said he "cannot in good conscience" continue his support for a liquified natural gas (LNG) plant in Tacoma and a methanol production facility at Kalama on the Columbia River.

“In the early days of both projects, I said they could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions as we transition to cleaner energy sources, but I am no longer convinced that locking in these multi-decadal infrastructure projects are sufficient to accomplishing what’s necessary," Inslee said.

Both facilities will use low-carbon natural gas to replace dirtier diesel and coal.

Puget Sound Energy, which is building the LNG facility on the Tacoma Tideflats, defended the facility.

“The Tacoma LNG facility will deliver the cleanest fuel choice possible today for shipping and transportation — one that multiple, local, state and federal government studies conclude benefits the climate, improves local air quality and reduces the chance of oil spills in Puget Sound — while helping ensure local families and businesses have safe dependable energy," PSE reports, via The News Tribune.

Despite saying he now opposes the projects, Inslee said that the state's regulatory process would continue unchanged.

The Port of Tacoma issued a statement saying it takes the governor at his word.

"Though an imperfect solution to the climate challenges we face, LNG represents a significant improvement over using bunker fuel to power the cargo vessels that travel vast distances and drive our economy. We appreciate the desire to move our economy beyond fossil fuels, but at this moment in history there exists no real-world alternative to fossil fuels for powering these vessels," the Port wrote.

The Northwest Innovation Works (NWIW) project in the Port of Kalama is a $2 billion gas-to-methanol refinery that aims to ship its product to Asia for production of plastics, replacing methanol produced from coal.

The plant would create 1,000 construction and 200 permanent jobs.

“It has resulted in what will be production of the cleanest methanol on the planet – replacing the dirtiest,” said Simon Zhang, CEO of NWIW, The Daily News reports. “We know that Gov. Inslee’s decision today isn’t a message to stop innovating.”

Ted Sprague, Cowlitz Economic Development Council president, expressed concern that the governor's statement was related to his run for president with a platform focused on fighting climate change.

“He (Inslee) wants to show the rest of the U.S. that he’s the greenest of the green (candidates),” Sprague said. “I understand that motivation when you are running for president and you want to establish and differentiate yourself.… For his purposes, that’s fine. But for the future of Washington state and jobs, it’s going to hurt us.”



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100% Clean Energy Bill


Washington state's new carbon-free law sounds dandy. Making it work will be daunting

By Bill Virgin

SB 5116 is a dog's breakfast of a bill, an unappetizing hash of the latest political realities, enviro fads and opportunities to award favored groups. If, for example, you're in the business of writing or interpreting rules and regs generated by 5116, or consulting on how to comply with or take advantage of said verbiage, Christmas came early for you and will keep coming from now to 2030 and to 2045.

The laborious, painstaking and often frustrating work of building, testing and refining the technologies that will make the glories of a carbon-free grid possible (never mind whether that prospect is desirable) won't be cheap, either. But without it, the next-generation electric grid doesn't happen.

People won't be happy when they learn, in 2030 or 2045, they've shelled out a lot of money to wind up with a developing nation's power grid. We're accustomed to having electricity available when and where we want it; it's what makes our comfortable lives possible. And it's something we know how to build and run. If we need more power, we can build a big central generating station, powered by cheap and plentiful natural gas, plug it into the grid and be done with it.

What we don't have, and what we'll need places like Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland to build, is a grid smart, fast and resilient enough to handle tens of thousands of generating stations (as small as a residential solar panel and battery array or as big as wind-turbine farm) adding to and dropping off the system at a moment's notice, all the while fending off the cybervandals and cybersaboteurs, who will have tens of thousands of additional points of entry to exploit. We're not there yet...

Read the full column in The News Tribune
Midnight Spending


In Our View: State budget process in need of transparency

By The Columbian Editorial Board

Keeping up with the Legislature can be daunting for citizens interested in performing their civic duty by paying attention to the goings on in Olympia. That is particularly true when it comes to the budget, which typically is kept under wraps until the final days of the session.

That brings up the crux of this editorial: Legislative leaders should adjust how they do business, providing more transparency and more debate and more public engagement. Passing spending bills in the dark of night during the final days of the session is no way to run state government.

Yet that is what happened this year. In the end, lawmakers passed a dizzying array of tax increases in putting together the largest budget in state history. Despite a surge in state revenue created by a strong economy, the Legislature was unable to live within its means. The two-year budget, which goes into effect later this year, represents an 18 percent increase in spending over the current biennium.

Much of that increase goes to increases in salaries and benefits for public employees, whose contracts are negotiated between unions and the governor's office before being sent to the Legislature for either an up-or-down vote. As The Columbian has argued editorially in the past, the public should be kept abreast of offers and counteroffers during negotiations with the unions. After all, it is our money that is on the table...

Read the full editorial in The Columbian
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