Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Press Conference Announcing New Energy Generation Projects
March 6, 2001
Thank you for coming today.
These are tough times for Washington. We just had a serious earthquake. We are preparing to deal with a drought that may be the most serious the state has seen in generations. And we continue to have an energy crisis.
And Washington residents are responding with courage, a spirit of cooperation, and good humor.
For example, our citizens continue to respond to my call to conserve electricity. Statewide, energy consumption is down almost 5 percent.
I'm also asking our citizens to conserve water as we face a serious drought.
But even as we conserve, we also need new energy sources -- sources that protect our air quality and meet the needs of our growing population and our growing businesses, including the technology businesses that are so important to our economy.
Therefore, I am pleased to announce today the addition of hundreds of megawatts of newly generated electricity to our short supply.
Understand that new generation is not going to get us through the next eight to 12 months.
Our energy situation is getting worse as we watch our reservoirs and rivers begin to run dry as a drought draws nearer.
Conservation is critical.
But every new megawatt helps.
The doctrine guiding me as I make decisions about allowing power plants in Washington to exceed federal air pollution standards even temporarily is this: there can be no net harm to the environment. Period. Any increase in air pollution must be offset - pound per pound - over a period of time. Any relaxation of federal permitting rules must be accompanied by clear benefits to the environment.
So, at my insistence, this new generation of electricity comes with extraordinary considerations for our health and well being.
I am willing to speed up the permitting process - and be flexible with environmental rules - as long as this key principle stands: there can be no additional harm to the environment.
I particularly want to thank two people for helping us achieve this dual goal - providing more power while protecting the environment.
The assistance of Chuck Findley, acting director of the Environmental Protection Agency's Region 10, and Stu Clark in our Department of Ecology has been critical.
Let me start by announcing today I'm signing the Amended Site Certification Agreement that will allow Chehalis Power Limited (a subsidiary of Tractabell) to construct a 520-megawatt electricity generating plant in Chehalis. This project was just recently approved by the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC). 520 megawatts is enough electricity to power a city roughly half the size of Seattle. Construction is scheduled to begin in May and should be done within 18-24 months.
I'm also pleased to announce BP-Amoco has reached an agreement with the Washington Department of Ecology, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and the Northwest Air Pollution Authority to replace diesel turbines at its Cherry Point refinery near Bellingham with natural gas turbines.
Instead of the normal 10-month federal permitting process, within weeks, the 14 natural gas generators will produce a net gain of 47 megawatts of new power and replace 26 diesel generators at just one tenth of the air pollution.
BP-Amoco has agreed to go even further to find other ways to reduce air pollution.
For example, the company will refit a heater at its refinery to reduce emissions and deliver low sulfur fuel to large diesel users elsewhere in the region. They will also provide low vapor gasoline next winter in Whatcom and Skagit counties so vehicles there will burn cleaner. In addition, BP-Amoco has agreed to donate $100,000 to a Whatcom County energy assistance fund to help low income people pay their power bills.
This company is showing a genuine commitment to producing the additional energy we need -- while also protecting our environment -- and I thank them for that. Their agreements were readied in one day, during the earthquake!
I want to announce that the Avista Corp. has reached agreement with the Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority and the EPA that allows it to operate its 60-megawatt Northeast Combustion Turbine power plant in Spokane 24-hours-per day (vs. the normal two-hours a day) for the next three months.
That means an additional 2,000 hours of operation over that 90-day period. And that means another 125,000-megawatt hours of electricity -- enough to power approximately 125,000 homes for those three months.
As part of the agreement, because Avista will exceed federal air pollution emissions, Avista will develop ways to reduce air pollution in the Spokane area. These reductions are to be equal to pound for pound the amount of the emissions created by the turbines during their extended operation.
In addition, Avista will donate up to $300,000 to help low-income people pay their power bills.
And in another move today… an extra 420 megawatts will remain on the power grid and available to homes and businesses because McCook Metals has shut its aluminum smelter in Longview for a year and will resell that electricity back to the Bonneville Power Administration. Workers will continue to be paid normal wages during the slowdown.
In the meantime, McCook is negotiating with developers to acquire its own power source and become independent of the Bonneville Power Administration.
And there is more, and the first one's a real gem.
The Stateline wind energy project in Walla Walla will power approximately 100,000 homes in the Pacific Northwest by the end of the year.
And other new power plants are in the pipeline.
For example, the Department of Ecology just issued a building permit to Goldendale Energy to build a 249-megawatt plant in Goldendale. Construction has just begun and the plant should be on line in about two years.
Another company, TransAlta, is hoping to break ground soon on a 248-megawatt natural gas plant in Centralia.
Clearly, there is a lot of activity, and I am confident that for the long term, Washington citizens and businesses, indeed all of the Northwest, will have the power they need for their homes and schools and businesses.
Finally, let me say a word about the proposed Sumas 2 generation plant.
On February 16, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council recommended that I deny approval for that plant. At the request of Sumas Energy 2 -- the firm proposing to build the plant -- that recommendation has not been forwarded to me for action yet. I understand Sumas Energy 2 has petitioned EFSEC to reconsider its recommendation. EFSEC is in the process of reviewing that petition for reconsideration.
Because the EFSEC recommendation has not been forwarded to me, I cannot comment on any action I might take on the Sumas application.
Lastly, I can't say strongly enough that even with all this good news, we cannot become complacent.
Our short-term situation is serious and requires all of us to pull together to be mindful of not wasting our precious water or electricity.
Now, I'm pleased to sign the Amended Site Certification Agreement with Chehalis Power Limited.