Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Yakima Rotary Club
April 12, 2001
Thank you for that kind introduction.
It's good have the opportunity to talk to members of both the Yakima and Southwest Yakima Rotary Clubs.
You know how important education is to me so I want to congratulate you for "Rotary Reads", which helps get children and adults into the literacy programs they need.
And you played an important role in expanding Kiwanis Park and creating a Sports/Softball Complex here. The idea of a Big League Field of Dreams here in Yakima is outstanding.
I want to applaud you for your program to establish a medical training and equipment program in Ethiopia. We are fortunate we do not have the crises of Ethiopia, but we do have some significant challenges facing us.
We are only little more than a week into April and we've been hit with more major events in three months than in perhaps the previous three years:
An energy crisis,
And, a Dear John letter from Boeing headquarters.
So I'm glad to have this chance to both update you on what's going on in our state and tell you what I'm doing about it. I want you to know that I'm leading a coordinated effort involving every relevant state agency to guide us through the energy crisis, drought and the aftermath of the earthquake.
I also want you to know that these problems, though volatile and critical to address, have not steered me away from my primary long-range focus, namely:
A world class education system
Reform of our century-old water laws
An efficient transportation system that moves people, freight, and goods
As I mentioned, we recently got that Dear John letter from Boeing headquarters. Boeing said a bad transportation system is bad for business -- Boeing's and everybody else's.
We need to take care of the basic needs of all businesses, including a transportation system that efficiently moves people and goods.
My goal is to make this state one Washington. Nothing illustrates that better than connecting the vital products of Eastern Washington with the ports of Western Washington.
To do that better there are some high priority projects we need to complete in your area.
Separating rail and roadway traffic in the center of Yakima.
Adding a truck climbing lane on Interstate 90 from Vantage to Ryegrass Summit
Widening State Route 240 between Interstate 182 and the Columbia Center interchange
Widening Interstate 90 east of Snoqualmie Pass for better all-weather use.
I have a proposal before the Legislature to help us make a great transportation system.
First, it will reform our transportation department. Permits won't take so long and projects will be designed and built faster and at lower cost.
Second, my proposal targets the projects we need the most.
Finally, it calls on the Legislature to help me put together a plan to pay for them.
We must do this in the appropriate order. Efficiencies, priority projects, and then funds. We cannot get our goods to port without paying for it. My proposal says 85 percent of the new revenue raised in a specific area stays in that specific area.
The consequences of Washington's robust growth are evident in areas other than transportation.
The new census figures tell us that we are dealing with a million more people since 1990 and more growth is projected. More people using electricity and consuming water. Add a drought and unjustified skyrocketing energy costs and you exacerbate the problems geometrically.
This time last year, electricity cost us $16 per megawatt hour on the wholesale market. Last week it was averaging $350 dollars a megawatt hour. At times in January, it was $2,000 a megawatt hour. The price is likely to go even higher this summer and fall - up to $5,000 a megawatt hour.
The BPA warned this week that it hopes it can keep rate hikes in October below 100 percent -- IF conservation becomes a way of life in the Northwest. Rate hikes could exceed 250 percent if we don't.
Look what is happening already. Eight of the 10 aluminum companies in the region from Montana to Washington/Oregon have shut down. Intalco in Bellingham just yesterday announced the rate hikes may cripple them. These companies represent half the aluminum produced in the entire country.
Yakima County is fortunate in that it gets much of its electricity from PacifiCorp, which is offering a reliable source of power and stable rates - so far. I urge the utility's customers to take advantage of PacificCorp's efforts to reduce energy use, including its program which allows those customers to buy blocks of wind power.
Of course, PacifiCorp is a main player in the development of the Stateline Wind Generation Project near Walla Walla. This project will generate enough of this clean energy to serve some 225,000 households (300 megawatts X 750 homes).
We need more of these clean energy projects.
This area also is served by the Benton Rural Electric Association, which has a proud history of excellent service going all the way back to the New Deal. We know that REAs like Benton rely on BPA power to provide service. So it is absolutely essential that we maintain the Northwest's preference for BPA power.
It is also essential that we heed BPA Administrator, Steve Wright's, call for conservation so it doesn't have to go to the over-heated wholesale electricity market and buy power at obscenely high prices -- and pass those prices on to customers.
Turn off unnecessary lights and computers
Turn off outdoor display lights when businesses are closed - not much good at 2 a.m.
Don't wash clothes or dishes at peak hours
Turn down thermostats
Wash clothes with cold water
Purchase energy-efficient equipment.
Every megawatt saved is money that doesn't have to be spent by utilities to purchase power day by day from independent power producers -- on the spot market -- at obscenely high prices.
Meanwhile, I'll continue to press the White House and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure that power producers are limited to a good return on their investment, not an outrageous return.
Some people are saying there's little point in conserving in Washington because BPA will send that electricity to California.
That's a myth. The truth: California does receive BPA power. BUT our irrigators, food processing plants and other businesses and homeowners benefit because California has sent us back electricity at a ratio of two to one.
Another myth: The state is at fault for not approving more energy projects.
I want to emphasize, before this energy crisis began, state and local authorities had already approved six new gas-fired electricity plants to be built by private companies that could have provided 3,000 megawatts of power -- enough for more than two cities each the size of Seattle - had they been built.
The state did its part. But it was the companies that chose to delay construction and invest their money elsewhere, such as the stock market and dot.com companies.
Well, they are starting to move forward now, and many more plants are in the siting process or have been proposed. Enough in fact to produce another 4,000 megawatts that would provide power to 3 million households. Several are being built right now with power available this fall.
Working for solutions
But we need the Legislature to approve other solutions. I'm working in Olympia to pass energy legislation that will do four fundamental things:
Promote the generation of more electricity,
Promote more conservation and energy efficiency
Reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by using renewable sources,
And provide more financial assistance to low-income citizens.
Additional help must come from the federal government.
I, along with several governors, and U.S. senators, both Democrat and Republican, have called for temporary price caps on the wholesale price of electricity.
Because there is a Myth Number 3: this is not just a Washington or California problem. This is a Western United States problem.
I have testified before Congress, and I'm continuing to press for immediate relief from obscenely high electricity prices.
I support the Bush Administration in its effort to make the U.S. more energy independent. But our sole strategy cannot be more oil and gas exploration. Besides, it will take 5 - 10 years to develop and pipe oil and natural gas to our state electricity plants.
We must diversify our electricity sources or we will burn, drill, dig and pollute our way to one energy shortage after another. I want us looking ahead to renewable sources such as wind, solar and fuel cells. Our utilities must not put all our electricity eggs in one basket.
That's why I'm pushing for meaningful conservation as well as legislation to broaden our energy sources. Conservation is one of the most effective tools we can use to get us through the spring, summer and beyond, until we can get all this new generation up and running.
We must change our habits; be mindful of how we use electricity or we'll pay for our waste with more than money later this year.
Eighty percent of our electricity is produced by water. Which leads me to another real challenge facing us - the drought.
We could be facing the worst drought since record keeping began in 1929. We can't be misled by the little bit of rain in parts of the state these past few weeks. While we had some snow in the mountains last weekend, it was dry and powdery -- lacking enough moisture to make up our snow pack deficit.
Yakima Basin snow pack is at 58 percent of normal - a 24-year low. Rain forecasts for the next month are below normal. We'd have to see rainfall at 350 to 400 percent above normal to put the Yakima Basin back in a normal water supply situation.
And as you know all too well, farmers who irrigate are among the hardest hit.
A month ago, we learned that junior irrigation districts in the Yakima Basin would get only 38 percent of their usual water supply -- and that's if conditions didn't worsen. Well, last Friday's water supply projections out of the Bureau of Reclamation did not bring good news. That 38 percent has dropped to 28 percent.
When the agriculture community is hurting, it touches us statewide. Agriculture, food processing and related industries employ more than 180,000 workers, with lots of those in metropolitan areas of Western Washington.
If we can't grow food, we will not have the raw material needed to keep those plants open and all those people working.
Ecology staff are working with local irrigation districts and Yakima County Superior Court to expedite water rights transfers to ease water shortages. Irrigation districts can bring in "packages" of water changes that can be swiftly considered for approval by the judge.
I just came from a meeting with the community group that created the Yakima Action Agenda. As I told them, we are going to spend about $1 million for drought relief in the Yakima Basin -- addressing agriculture, local governments and fish.
I've also proposed a comprehensive program to update our archaic water laws. Why? Because water is precious and we're wasting it. We have to share it, store it and make it easier to reuse.
You know this. People in the Yakima Valley are water savvy. Elsewhere in the state, people are becoming more aware -- because of the drought -- that we can't take water for granted.
Right now state laws punish those who don't use all their allotted water -- it's known as "use it or lose it" -- and it doesn't make sense. The laws currently ignore reuse and they overlook storage. My proposed legislation will correct these outdated, wasteful practices.
And as with energy, we can't underestimate the power of conservation of water. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth or shave… shorten your shower by one minute… wash only full loads of dishes or laundry. These are all little things, but they do make a difference.
These extraordinary circumstances -- the drought and energy crisis -- are just that: extraordinary. They are part of the challenge of governing. But, they cannot and do not deter me from my goal of providing a world class education system here in Washington state.
We know what makes a great education system. So let's use that knowledge and make every school great.
There are four key ingredients in every great school:
Individualized personalized learning for every student,
An outstanding teacher in every classroom
An outstanding principal in every school
And the flexibility to allow our teachers and principals to focus on results - not record keeping - results of high academic achievement of every child.
Just as I will not give up on my vision to establish great schools, I will not give up on holding schools accountable for their progress.
In closing, let me say that the energy crisis, the drought, the best schools and an efficient transportation system are not political or partisan issues.
They are issues of quality of life. In one way or another, they affect all of us.
These fresh challenges tossed at us by both man and Mother Nature make us stronger, force us to find solutions to big problems, and demand we be creative.
We are up to these challenges and I look forward to tackling these issues with you.
Providing a quality education for our children
Moving people and freight quickly and efficiently
Keeping our farmers and industry in business,
Meeting the electricity needs of our homes,
Keeping our salmon alive
And providing a pure water supply for our people.