Gov. Jay Inslee vetoing major sections of a clean energy siting facility bill could end up having major consequences for Eastern Washington.
House Bill 1812 expands the jurisdiction of the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, made up primarily of state agency officials who report to Inslee, to help meet clean energy goals and create clean energy jobs. The council reviews large-scale energy development in the state. After public hearings, it sends a recommendation to the governor, who approves or denies the project.
The council can already site wind turbines and solar panels. Under HB 1812, the council could also approve projects such as biofuel refineries, renewable hydrogen plants, electric vehicle and parts manufacturing, and charging stations.
“This makes our process for siting and permitting energy facilities more efficient, effective, and transparent,” Inslee said at a Friday bill-signing ceremony at the Pierce Transit Tacoma Dome Station. “This bill, which I requested, gives more clean energy projects access to our one-stop permitting process, so we can build the clean energy future in Washington. However, I will veto Sections 19, 20, 21 and 22, I’m sure for good reasons.”
Those sections of the bill called for the Department of Commerce to study how renewable energy projects would affect rural areas – including the costs and benefits of such projects – over the next three decades and a legislative task force to consider the study.
In a same-day letter to the state House of Representatives, Inslee said the legislature did not provide funding for the requirement that the state Department of Commerce conduct a study and communicate with affected communities and groups.
Reps. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, and Mark Klicker, R-Walla Walla, decried Inslee’s decision. These are the lawmakers who added the now-vetoed portions to the bill after negotiations with Democrats during this year’s legislative session.
“We worked in good faith with our Democratic colleagues across the aisle through some very intense negotiations to insert this important amendment into the bill,” Dye said in a press release put out by both legislators. “To say that we are beyond disappointed with the governor’s vetoes is an understatement.”
The two lawmakers said their amendment would have given rural stakeholders more input and a broader long-term picture in the siting review of wind and solar projects.
“We wanted to ensure that rural communities would have the opportunity to see what’s at stake for the total build-out on the rural aesthetic, not just the visual impact of individual solar and wind farms that are sited here and there,” Dye said. “It is critical for our rural communities and local landowners, especially those in Eastern Washington, to see the ‘big picture’ of what 30 years of siting utility-scale wind and solar would do to Washington’s rural landscape.”
The potential effects of the weakened legislation could be terrible for the eastern side of the state, she noted.
“Now that the governor has vetoed these sections, it opens the flood gates for big out-of-state energy corporations to swoop into these small, rural economically-disadvantaged communities and offer leases at a fraction of the value of the agricultural land to struggling farmers and landowners,” Dye said. “It’s absolutely devastating to our Eastern Washington farmlands.”
Klicker echoed his colleague’s comments.
“Those who are living where the green energy is being sited know that the jobs and tax-base impacts have been more salesmanship than substance,” he said. “We asked for a study to show the true costs and benefits, and the governor’s vetoes show we were right to be skeptical. If there was going to be good news about jobs and taxes from these projects, the governor surely would have wanted that documented.”
The Center Square reached out via email to Mike Faulk, the governor’s press secretary, for comment on what Dye and Klicker had to say about Inslee’s partial veto of HB 1812. He did not respond.
HB 1812 is set to take effect on June 30.
This article was originally posted on Inslee’s partial veto of clean energy sites bill upsets Eastern lawmakers