Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Energy Alert at Bellingham Cold Storage
August 10, 2000

Thank all of you for coming on such short notice.

I'm very pleased to sign this declaration of a statewide energy alert this afternoon because it is going to keep many of you at your jobs.

This alert will allow the Avista Corporation to increase the output of its combustion turbine power in Spokane County so that the electricity can be produced and delivered to Bellingham Cold Storage.

This emergency supply of power means farmers and fishers throughout Washington can continue to supply their millions of pounds of products to this company, which provides about 40 percent of western Washington's cold storage capacity. Threat of a closure at Bellingham Cold Storage would have meant economic disaster to thousands of families.

It also means that some 1,200 people working in Bellingham Cold Storage's facilities will continue working.

The alert means the natural gas-powered Avista turbine in Spokane County will increase production beyond the current few hours and days to 24-hours-per-day to provide power to Bellingham Cold Storage and others.

The Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency have assured us that 24-hour-per-day production at the Avista facility, in the short term, will not exceed air pollution standards or harm public health.

While my declaration today will keep thousands of people at work processing millions of pounds of food, it also must serve as a wake-up call for all of us.

While energy prices for most Washington consumers will remain stable at this time, electricity prices have been skyrocketing in California and other western states.

These high rates are due to many factors, including record hot weather, high natural gas prices, low river flows through hydroelectric dams and deregulation of wholesale and retail prices in some areas.

In our state, consumers and most businesses have not been affected by the current upheaval in energy costs. That's because we did not deregulate retail energy prices. While other states like California did, I urged caution. Good thing we didn't deregulate.

I have asked the Northwest Planning Council to study these surging prices and determine why they are happening.

These unstable prices in the west underline the need for Washington to develop a long-term energy policy.

That policy must include the production of more clean and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

The nation must move away from its dependence on fossil and nuclear fuels.

Washington must look carefully at the energy deregulation issue. As we do, we must balance these principles which I articulated in 1997:

- Multiple uses, benefits and claims on our rivers;
- Preserving low-cost electrical power for consumers; and
- Fostering real competition and efficiencies in power production and transportation

Now, I am pleased to sign this declaration.
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