May 13, 2019
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A record Spring Meeting is in the books

In what might have been AWB's biggest event ever, more than 400 people heard from former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley last week. There were also discussions of the economy, state politics, transportation and much more in an event themed "Connecting Communities."

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Ex-Im Bank Board now has quorum after U.S. Senate vote

The Export-Import Bank of the United States is back up to full strength, with a quorum on its board, after the U.S. Senate voted last week to confirm three new board members. The bank is now able to give a full slate of loans; for the past few years, it has been confined to loan amounts under $10 million. Next up for the bank: reauthorization later this fall.

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Gov. Inslee announced opposition to two major energy projects

In a move that journalists called a "shocking reversal" and a "flip-flop," Gov. Jay Inslee has reversed his earlier support for two energy projects. Inslee, who previously hailed the overall carbon reduction from a liquified natural gas plant in Tacoma and a gas-to-methanol refinery in Kalama, now said that the infrastructure would extend the use of fossil fuels too far into the future.

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Columbia Generating Station begins 24th refueling

After a historic year producing more carbon-free nuclear energy than ever before, the Columbia Generating Station disconnected from the Northwest power grid on Saturday to begin its 24th refueling. The 40-day process is timed to coincide with spring snowmelt, which ensures strong hydropower production to make up for the nuclear plant being offline.

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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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