Tag Archives: Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project

Governor Gregoire Stops Tilting at Windmills

Governor Gregoire has chosen to do the right thing although not everyone agreed. She has given the go-ahead to the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project to build up to 65 wind turbines on ridges overlooking Route 97 northwest of Ellensburg in eastern Washington.

Back in July Governor Gregoire had asked the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council to re-evaluate the project based on concerns of local rural residents opposed to the Project. At the time we felt Governor Gregoire was tilting at windmills and needed to show leadership.

With an emphasis to build them as far away as possible from residences, the go ahead was significant in that it overrode local opposition to the project by the Kittitas Couty Board of Commissioners.

The Seattle Times quotes US Congressman Doc Hastings, a supporter of nuclear power from the TriCities area as saying, “I fear this precedent will embolden energy companies to bypass local leaders and go to the Governor to have projects imposed on communities.”

Funny thing, I seem to remember that this was exactly what the nuclear power industry tried to do in Washington State back in the 1970’s and 1980’s when they were promoting the WPPSS nuclear power plants at Satsop. I doubt you’ll find any similiar quotes from Hastings back then supporting local opposition to those projects.

Washington voters, by passing Initiative 394 back in 1981, said that they didn’t want to be indebted for bonds for large public energy projects without having a vote first. Washington voters last year actually voted to promote more renewable energy use in Washington State with the passage of Initiative 937.

The Kittitas Valley Wind Project represents a significant step in meeting the goals of Initiative 937 to achieve 15% of our energy from new renewable energy resources like wind by 2020. Governor Gregoire has made the right decision by listening to the voters and acting in the public interest.

Governor Gregoire Tilting at Windmills?

There’s a lot of wind in Kittitas County, Washington. Kittitas County is east of the Cascade Mountains. East of Ellensburg, 110 windmills already are operating as part of the Wind Horse Wind Farm. More are on the way.

Just like with building any large facility for energy, be it nuclear, coal, natural gas, or hydropower, there are changes and impacts to local communities. Weighting these local impacts against statewide significance is not always easy. But windmills aren’t nuclear power plants.

Still its not necessarily surprising that local Kittitas County Commissioners last year rejected another wind project near Ellensburg called the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project.

However the local commissioners did not have the final say. Energy projects of statewide significance are approved on the state level by EFSEC – the Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council. EFSEC on a 6 to 1 vote subsequently approved the project to build 65 windmills, overruling the local land use decision. In a nod to local concerns they only gave approval to about half the number originally proposed.

However now Governor Gregoire has asked EFSEC to re-evaluate whether a setback of 1600 feet from residences could be increased while still keeping the projects viable. Kate Riley, an editorial columnist for the Seattle Times, wrote a column entitled “Wind-farm storm shouldn’t blow governor off course” She’s right.

The Governor may be trying to cater to local concerns but we’re not talking about putting a coal plant or a nuclear plant in someone’s back yard. The Governor should go along with the EFSEC decision – the wind plants will create 125 new jobs in Kittitas County while not adding more CO2 to the atmosphere or producing nuclear waste that will be around for hundreds of thousands of years.

Last year Washington state votes passed the Clean Energy Initiative, Initiative 937, to promote renewable energy like wind power. The voters want to move forward and if Governor Gregoire wants to micromanage where every individual wind mill goes she is moving backward not forward.

As noted in an article in the Seattle PI by Helen Wise of Ellensburg and Sara Patton of the Northwest Energy Coalition

many were shocked when the governor failed to confirm state regulators’ endorsement of a well-sited wind energy project near Ellensburg. The state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council had voted 6-1 for Horizon Wind Energy’s proposed Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project. The project had passed every environmental test and Horizon had halved the number of turbines to address some local residents’ concerns.
The governor wants EFSEC to investigate an issue already addressed during the five-year process — the economic feasibility of greatly increasing the distance between clean energy-generating turbines and outside properties. Horizon officials testified during the EFSEC and earlier county proceedings that doing so would kill the project.
The governor’s remand jeopardizes the many benefits the project would bring to Kittitas County residents, which only begin with direct payments to project landowners. A Kittitas Economic Development Group report says the wind farm would increase county property tax revenues more than $1 million annually — a 5 percent rise — and create 125 full- and part-time jobs.
The move is also a threat to state and regionwide interests. The Kittitas Valley project is the first proposed renewable-energy development to come before the governor since voters approved the state’s clean-energy Initiative 937.”

One has to wonder what’s up? Other wind projects are also in the pipeline to be considered. Governor Gregoire needs to be clear about the value of these projects in producing clean energy and not increasing global warming. She is sending the wrong message questioning a 6 to 1 decision by EFSEC that already reduced significantly the approved number of viable wind turbines.