Our Sponsors:

Read more »

Trending Stories

Our Members

Many thanks to Bill Lavery and Terry Cook some of our many supporters.


Most Commented


    Seattle City Light's little nuclear share

    The new push to eliminate Hanford-produced power from Seattle's electrical system.
    The Columbia Generating Station in Richland: cause for controversy

    The Columbia Generating Station in Richland: cause for controversy Credit: Northwest Power and Conservation Council

    Editor's note: This story has been updated to delete one reference to Seattle City Light as a "part owner" of Energy Northwest, which operates the Columbia Generating Station. City Light is a part of a board that manages Energy Northwest.

    The polite fiction that there's nothing controversial about the fuel mix of the Emerald City's public utility, Seattle City Light, is getting a new poke in the eye. Watchdog groups, anxious to revisit operation of the region's sole nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generating Station (CGS) on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, are looking to Seattle to alter the course of history and phase out nuclear once and for all.

    Nuclear power represents 4.4 percent of City Light's fuel mix compared with hydro's 90 percent. Nuclear is a small part of the supply, which is generally very climate-friendly. But, in the eyes of critics, nuclear's small share makes it all the more dubious for City Light to feel it needs to use the Hanford-produced power at all. Chuck Johnson, Director of Washington/Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility Joint Task Force on Nuclear Power, one of the watchdog groups behind the effort to phase it out, says there is no need to "take a risk with an old faulty reactor on the Columbia River.”

    Seattle City Light, a publicly owned utility, is one of 27 utilities that serves on the board that manages Energy Northwest, the owner of the plant. A separate 11-member executive board directly controls the Generating Station and any decisions about its operations and future; the executive board includes five Energy Northwest board members and three outside directors selected by the full Energy Northwest board. (City Light does not have a representative on the executive board.)

    Energy Northwest was originally formed in the 1950s, under the name of the Washington Public Power Supply System, to ensure that the Pacific Northwest had a constant source of electricity. The Columbia plant is the only completed in what became a massive effort by Northwest public utilities to build five plants in the blunder that, drawing on the agency’s acronym, WPPSS, became known as “whoops.” The zealous over commitment to nuclear brought about a municipal bond failure a US News report of last year still listed as among the five largest in US history.

    At a briefing before the City Council's Energy Committee last week, Heart of America Northwest, Washington/Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and others asked the council to push City Light to phase out its nuclear power usage and replace it with renewables. The two organizations have been tracking Hanford, a highly contaminated radioactive waste site on the Columbia River, since the 1980s. The nuclear power plant has generated some 320,000 spent fuel rods containing long-lived radioactivity for which there is no permanent disposal. The Columbia Generating Station has operated since 1984.

    In their efforts to decommission the commercial reactor, the watchdog groups hired Robert McCullough, an electric utility economist who helped expose the Enron rate hike scandal as an expert contractor for Snohomish PUD and California utilities. In his report, he found Washington ratepayers could save $1.7 billion over the next 17 years throught the purchase of replacement energy rather than continuing to operate the Columbia Generating Station. McCullough says, “It's a little preposterous that the City of Seattle is the partial owner of a nuclear plant. They led the battle against nuclear power in the mid-1970s.”

    The City Council’s refusal to continue investing more in nuclear construction was a key factor in ending WPPSS’s plans for five reactors. “When Seattle said no back then,” says Heart of America Northwest's acting Director Peggy Maze Johnson, who was a lobbyist in Olympia at the time, “it was like a house of cards falling.” About that same time, 1979, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident happened and many in the environmental movement began to question the wisdom of nuclear power.The Washington Environmental Council filed suit to require City Light to produce an environmental impact statement on all proposed nuclear plants. But it dropped the suit after the utility came up with a study, Energy 1990, which examined ways to meet future power needs.

    Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!


    Posted Wed, Aug 20, 8:05 a.m. Inappropriate

    So it turns out Seattle is getting some of its energy from a nuclear power plant (just like, say, the citizens of Stockholm do). Could that account for all the 2-headed people we see here??

    Posted Wed, Aug 20, 11:03 a.m. Inappropriate

    Yes, it turns out that Seattle gets some of its energy from a nuclear power plant (just like, say, Tokyo did until they had a few meltdowns up the coast to their north - and now they get zero electricity from nuclear power).

    Interestingly, the nuclear power plants that melted down at Fukushima were GE Boiling Water Reactors, like the Columbia reactor at Hanford on the Columbia River. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is requiring Columbia to put in vents to its containment structure by 2017 to prevent hydrogen explosions in a loss of coolant accident. The US Geological Survey has found that ground motion at Hanford is more than double the strength that the Columbia reactor was built to withstand in the 1980s. It is time to retire this aging, dangerous, expensive nuclear power plant.

    Seattle City Light is a partial owner of the plant through its purchase of shares in the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) Nuclear Project - 2, now known as the Columbia Generating Station. In the Energy Northwest (WPPSS's new name) July 2012 Prospectus, the "City of Seattle, Washington, Light Department" is listed as having a "7.193"% share in "Columbia." City Light, as a share holder, is a member with 91 other utilities of the CGS Participants Board, which approves budgets and elects a board annually.

    Seattle City Light also serves on the nuclear plant operator, Energy Northwest's, board, along with 26 other utilities. The Energy Northwest board meets quarterly and must approve Columbia's budget on an annual basis and elects five members to the Energy Northwest Executive Board, which makes decisions on a monthly basis.

    In addition to being a member of the owner and operating boards of the nuclear power plant, Seattle City Light's CEO Jorge Carrasco serves on the Executive Committee of the Public Power Council, representing the majority of publicly owned utilities in the Pacific Northwest and included in annual reviews of the current costs and future budgets of the Columbia reactor.

    The operation of the Columbia reactor accounts for 14% of the budget of Bonneville on an annual basis and the combined debt costs for Columbia and the two failed WNP-1 and WNP-3 reactors account for 21% of Bonneville's annual expenses. For 35% of the budget, Bonneville gets 10% of its power. Hydroelectric facilities, by contrast, account for 51% of the expenses and provide 90% of the power. The remainder of Bonneville's costs are mostly related to fish habitat and protection, and administration. If we eliminate the CGS from the equation, McCullough's study has shown we will save the region money. We also eliminate the risk of a meltdown and the resulting contamination of the Mid-Columbia basin.

    Posted Wed, Aug 20, 12:39 p.m. Inappropriate

    Actually Chuck, Japan is in the process of restarting all its nukes, as they are tired of paying Big Oil $35B annually to each year murder tens of thousands of Japanese citizens with air pollution. Nice that the state is exporting a good part of that death with it nasty coal trains.

    CGS is newer model BWR with numerous improvements over the old. FUKU was not damaged at all by the earthquake, just by corrupt regulation in the face of a tsunami. The US has the silver standard for nuke regulation, far behind Canada while the Japanese are formerly the most corrupt in the world.

    CGS costs 4 cents a kwh all in - a tiny fraction of what the state pays for its worthless never around when you need it wind power, that gets dumped on the grid usually on a pay to take basis. The citizens of British Columbia thank the brainless state taxpayer for the gift.
    Search "wind-energy-of-no-use-in-the-pacific-northwest"

    THere is no risk of a meltdown at CGS - a zero fatality incident at FUKU - compared to the extreme risk of a earthquake destroying the Grand Coulee and killing hundreds of thousands.

    McCullough's work would get a failing grade if produced by a high school freshmen. It is utterly debunked here.

    Search "irresponsible-physicians-oppose-nuclear-energy"


    Posted Wed, Aug 20, 2:05 p.m. Inappropriate

    Hi Seth,

    Please show us the citations for your assertion about Japan being "in the process of restarting" all of its nuclear power plants. It is three and a half years after the Fukushima meltdowns and, for some reason, the Japanese public doesn't trust the nuclear power industry and their own government when they says they can safely operate nuclear power plants in seismically active Japan.

    Japanese regulation of nuclear power is modeled on US regulation. Since the accident, Japanese regulation has become more stringent than US regulation and about half the reactors left after the meltdowns will not qualify for a restart, even if they overcome local public opposition. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is requiring the Columbia reactor at Hanford to put a vent in its containment, despite your assurances that it is an improved model BWR. The NRC believes it is vulnerable to the same loss of coolant accident. Apparently they are not as relaxed about the safety of this reactor design as you are. By the way an earthquake destroying Grand Coulee could lead to a meltdown at the Columbia reactor at Hanford as it would knock out both water and power to the site. Thanks for mentioning that.

    Like the rest of the nuclear power industry in the US, you curse wind power because its cheap cost is driving nuclear power and coal out of business. The inflexibility of nuclear power to power up and down and its increasingly high operating cost makes it an albatross for utilities across the country that are using increasing amounts of wind power. You might want to check out what those radical greens in Texas are doing with wind power. The answer may surprise you - http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/tag/texas-wind-power/

    As to your insult of Robert McCullough - you may not know that he is one of the most highly respected utility economists in the US and not an opponent of nuclear power on safety grounds. This is one of the reasons we asked him if he would be interested in studying the Columbia nuclear reactor at Hanford.

    McCullough, when he was on contract with Snohomish PUD, is credited with uncovering how Enron was cheating ratepayers during the California energy crisis of 2001. The author of Energy Northwest's study, Lawrence Makovich, told the US Senate Energy Committee on January 29, 2002 that he was not certain that Enron had manipulated the electric trading system on the West Coast. At the same hearing, sitting next to Makovich, Robert McCullough explained that it was almost certain that Enron had manipulated the system. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-107shrg79753/pdf/CHRG-107shrg79753.pdf Which of the two men proved correct in this case?

    McCullough's testimony led to the Senate investigate that unraveled their scheme and his own staff's research uncovered the incriminating transcripts that showed Enron's culpability. Here is a profile on him and his Columbia nuclear reactor study from Portland's "Willamette Week" - http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-21636-costly_to_the_core.html

    Posted Wed, Aug 20, 2:28 p.m. Inappropriate

    Interesting you mention Enron and the Western Energy Crisis.

    Here's what the Public Power Council said earlier this year about the importance of Columbia Generating Station during that time:

    During that relatively short energy crisis, the cost benefit of Columbia’s power “dwarf[ed] the modest benefits that would have been achieved” through replacement power. “In 2001 alone the operation of Columbia Generating Station compared to the market saved Bonneville Power Administration ratepayers $1.4 billion,” according to the council.

    Posted Wed, Aug 20, 11:11 a.m. Inappropriate

    That should read "the US Geological Survey has found that potential ground motion at Hanford in an earthquake is more than double the strength that the Columbia reactor was built to withstand in the 1980s."

    The US Department of Energy has been either reinforcing its buildings to withstand the greater ground motion potential in an earthquake at Hanford, or making plans to close those facilities. So far, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Energy Northwest have indicated no plan to strengthen the Columbia reactor to withstand the greater ground motion in an earthquake on the Hanford site predicted by US Geological Survey scientists.

    Posted Wed, Aug 20, 12:41 p.m. Inappropriate


    Excellent story. A member of the Pacific Northwest energy community just called about your story and mentioned that you had received some criticism that you had described Seattle City Light as an owner of the Columbia Generating Station.

    This is an interesting question. Seattle City Light sits on the Energy Northwest board and, as such, has authority for making decisions ranging from budgets to its eventual closure./1 The situation is complicated by a skein of obsolete contracts from the early 1970s that define conflicting budgetary, control, and ownership responsibilities between the Bonneville Power Administration, the participants, and Energy Northwest. "Participants" in this context mean the individual utilities who act as budgetary go betweens in a slightly doubtful arrangement known as "net billing." For a detailed explanation of these matters, please take a look at chapter 4 of my monograph on this subject, "Economic Analysis of the Columbia Generating Station."

    In March 2007, the Energy Northwest board hired the respected Ric Redman of Heller Ehrman to address just this issue. His 55 page analysis made it clear that BPA is not the owner of the plant. A key statement in his report is that "Under the P[roject] A[greement] ENW [Energy Northwest] continues to own and operate the CGS, and to be responsible for the Project's operations and maintenance (as well as safety)."/2

    Since Seattle City Light is on the board of Energy Northwest, its own legal analysis classifies it as an owner.

    Robert McCullough

    1/ See http://www.energy-northwest.com/whoweare/leadership/Pages/default.aspx
    A Report to the Executive Board of Energy Northwest
    pursuant to Executive Board Resolution No. 1462, Ric Redman, March 22, 2007, Attachment B, page 13.

    Posted Wed, Aug 20, 12:54 p.m. Inappropriate

    Note that it is a Big Oil's mantra oft repeated in its captive media that there is no solution to nuke waste.

    The US waste problem is 100% political, funded by massive Big Oil donations to the corrupt Obama, with similar solutions in use in Sweden and Finland. The tiny amount of waste ,safe to touch like natural uranium after only a few hundred years, covering a football field, is infinitesimal compared to the thousands of cubic miles of deadly toxic forever mine and coal tailing waste ponds scattered around the country without barely a word of complaint from lefty tea party types. Yucca Mtn and WIPPS meet all science based storage requirements. The coal ash is soon to be joined by tens of cubic miles of deadly toxic forever solar panels leaching into water supplies from land fills across the country. The cost of waste storage - far less dangerous than any other chemical waste has already been paid . It any case its all valuable nuke fuel for Gen IV nuke plants now coming on line.

    While Big Oil's Obama, likes to quote the 98% of climate scientists who believe in AGW, his thoroughly corrupt administration denies the science of the nearly 100% of power engineers that tell us nukes are the only in time AGW solution. Here's a poll of scientists in general with 70% confirming there is no AGW solution without nukes that so called "renewables" are not going to cut it.

    Search "#nuclear-power-is-a-critical-part-of-a-solution"

    The French were able to go from zero to 75% zero carbon nuke in a little over ten years, while the engineering experts in Germany are looking to the same in 40 years with wind and solar, a plan if implemented worldwide will kill 200 milllion souls from air pollution and billions more when it inevitably drags us over an AGW precipice.


    Posted Wed, Aug 20, 12:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    I want to compliment both the leadership of the Energy Committee of the Sea. City Council and especially Counci-people Sawant, Clark and O'Brien for their interest and concerns. This news piece by Baskin is also an example of good reporting of the Watchdog groups and Chair Sawant's long term concerns for clean, low cost energy substitutes for the highly subsidized nuclear, coal, oil as well as gas for our electric needs.

    The problem for nuclear is not just expense, or the age and the design of the Boiling Water Reactors such as CGS, it's the rising level of outside risks facing the US nuclear industry. The Physicians sponsored report on the increased evidence of seismic activity in Eastern Washington is only one of an inter-related series of threats. An earthquake of greater than 8 magnitude at the lake at the Grand Coulee or at the Mica Earthen Dam further upstream on the Canadian Columbia, whose flood waters could overtop the Grand Coulee dam would then flood and then cut out the intake water pumps at the shoreline at CGS. Could CGS's backup batteries which have four hours of required life run a separate backup pump for cooling water be counted on? What about the flight time to and the installation time in a flooded Reactor area for the smooth delivery of a substitute water pump currently in reserve not in Richland, but in Phoenix Arizona? The risk lists are long. In the words of one nuclear engineer, "We could have 40 years of safe nuclear production, and one bad day." Is Washington state ready for that one bad day?


    Posted Wed, Aug 20, 2:07 p.m. Inappropriate

    Actually, Columbia was designed with a scenario such as that in mind.

    With help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and using all available flood data and postulated flooding events, Columbia Generating Station’s designers ensured it was sited far enough inland from the Columbia River and elevated high enough to avoid any potential flood scenario associated with the Columbia River. This includes a breach of the Grand Coulee Dam and the subsequent failure of the earthen portions of all downstream dams and release of their storage pools.

    Additionally, river flows analyzed for a postulated Grand Coulee Dam breach were four to five times greater than those expected from a seismic event failure of Grand Coulee.

    According to Grand Coulee officials, the likelihood of dam failure, particularly due to overtopping, is highly unlikely. Grand Coulee operators have run emergency action exercises with scenarios involving the failure of upstream dams in Canada that send a high flow over the spillways – 400 to 500,000 cubic feet per second. Though it would overwhelm the capacity of downstream dams, Grand Coulee is designed to handle up to 1,545,000 cubic feet per second through the dam structure (including the power plant) and over its spillways, without overtopping.

    Posted Wed, Aug 20, 1:46 p.m. Inappropriate

    Much of what Mr. Johnson says, and others now, is simply incorrect. Yes, he doesn’t like nuclear energy, but his conclusions cannot be supported by the facts. And mentioning “Hanford,” as if Columbia Generating Station has anything to do with the nuclear weapons facility, is a favorite trick of the anti-nuclear energy types. (Columbia is located on land leased to us by the Department of Energy, which happens to be part of the Hanford site).

    Let’s take his points one at a time.

    Age: Columbia is at the mid-point of its 60-year license to operate, which runs through 2043. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2012 granted Columbia a 20-year license extension (60 years total). That was based in part on an exhaustive two-year review of our systems and components.

    In 2012, Columbia set a record for sending electricity to the grid – more than 9.3 million megawatts.

    In 2013, we set another record for a refueling outage year: 8.4 million megawatt hours sent to the grid.

    Safety: Columbia has a more than 30-year record of safe operations. 30 years. At some point, reasonable people would look at that and agree it is a safe plant. Reasonable people would look at the entire nuclear energy industry, the safest in the U.S., and acknowledge that record.

    Energy Northwest employees and contractors recently passed the 12-million-hour mark of working safely. What other industry can say that?

    The nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi did not melt down on their own, based on the mere fact they were GE boiling water reactor designs. A magnitude 9.0 earthquake devastated the power grid, followed by a 45-foot tsunami which wiped out the plant’s emergency cooling systems. The reactors did survive the earthquake. Not the tsunami. However, those reactors at Fukushima Daini did survive both. Mr. Johnson will not tell you that.

    The comments about Columbia’s seismic safety are designed to mislead. Anti-nuclear energy petitions to the independent NRC to shut down Columbia for this reason have been rejected three times. Three times.

    The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is currently managing a review of seismic hazards that is focused on Columbia and four other locations in the Columbia Basin, including the ground surrounding the Energy Department’s Waste Treatment Plant.

    The laboratory expects to issue their seismic analysis in November, which will define the hazard at bedrock about 400 feet below Columbia. Energy Northwest will then contract with an independent party to perform ground motion response spectra analysis to define Columbia’s response at the bottom of plant buildings. The results of this analysis will be compared to the original plant design seismic assumptions, and if values are higher than the original design assumptions, plant structures and equipment will be evaluated for potential impact.

    Columbia was originally designed and constructed with a significant amount of conservatism which provides margin to the original design assumptions.

    Value: In January 2014, the Public Power Council, representing all Northwest consumer-owned utilities (including Seattle City Light), examined the Cambridge market assessment of Columbia’s value and the competing Physicians for Social Responsibility/Robert McCullough report.

    The council observed that the variable cost of Columbia operations in recent years were slightly above spot market energy prices. However, the council noted that a single unanticipated shift in the markets “can easily wipe out years of anticipated benefits” gained from replacement power, and concluded that the continued operation of Columbia “is economically advisable for the region.”

    The Cambridge study found Columbia’s continued operation saves Northwest ratepayers $1.6 billion through 2043.

    Not mentioned in all of this is the 1,100 men and women of Energy Northwest who provide this safe, reliable, cost-effective power. More than 450 of them are members of organized labor. They are professional, skilled, in short, the type of labor force we want in Washington state.

    It would be a shame to lose those jobs - and this clean energy – based on something as flimsy as a 40-year-old ideology that is no longer pertinent to the current energy discussion.

    These are some of the facts that should have been included in the above article.

    John Dobken, Energy Northwest

    Posted Wed, Aug 20, 6:40 p.m. Inappropriate

    Thanks to environmental reporter Martha Baskin and to the Seattle City Council Energy Committee -- Kshama Sawant, Mike O'Brien and Sally Clark--for taking seriously the potential economic and environmental hazards of the Columbia Generating Station (CGS), our state's only nuclear power plant.

    As a citizen and ratepayer, I like low cost energy, and am happy to hear how demand for CGS's energy is being reduced by efficiency and conservation, and it's replacement supply increased by renewables. But I am alarmed by CGS' seismic vulnerability. With its highly radioactive "spent" fuel rods stored under water on the plant's roof, an accident at CGS, as at Fukushima, would contaminate a vast land area and the Columbia River. A big earthquake or hydrogen explosion at either the Hanford tank farms or at CGS would create a hazardous environment, jeopardizing access of crews to perform essential operations and repairs at both sites.

    I am reminded of CGS's similarity to both Fukushima and Oso. We risk paying an unpayably high price for not proactively confronting seriously hazardous realities, waiting for concern to die down after each catastrophic wake-up call. We can close CGS, eliminating the chance of an accident thousands of times more painfully destructive than Oso.

    Posted Wed, Aug 20, 9:16 p.m. Inappropriate

    Unfortunately, you seem to be repeating a lot of false information regarding Columbia Generating Station and nuclear energy. Not sure of your sources, but you may want to search out the facts in order to make an informed decision about our energy future.

    Posted Thu, Aug 21, 8:22 a.m. Inappropriate

    Nuclear power is in a fight for its life. All we really need are some fancy new solar panels on our roofs and they will be out of business.

    Nobody knows what to do with the waste and they never will. That is the fact jack.

    Fukushima meltdown is still under way and the media won't cover it. Hmmmmm, wonder why?

    That is all the info I need.

    Sorry guys, I know it's paid the bills for a long time but it's finally time to wipe your ass and go help Japan figure out how to stop those reactors from melting into the ground.

    Posted Thu, Aug 21, 8:43 a.m. Inappropriate

    All nuclear power is not created the same. The current crop of plants are actually bomb making devices desguised as civilian power plants. Thorium salt reactors which don't produce Plutonium would be fine to have as alternative sources of power.

    However I'd prefer that we upgraded our nations grid so that those windy places in the middle of the country could sell power to those living on the coasts.

    The other technological change coming is high temperature super conducting wire. Which when it works out will reduce the power loss in shipping electricy around the country.

    And as "GetOffMyLawn" mentions as we move toward a more decentralized power system there will be fewer mass outages and it will be more resiliant to failure of any one part.

    Still for every unit of GDP, there is a unit of energy behind it.


    Posted Thu, Aug 21, 10:24 a.m. Inappropriate

    Writer Martha Baskin passes along this comment:

    As the reporter on this story I'd like to weigh in on the subject of City Light ownership in Energy Northwest and the shares it holds to date in the Columbia Generating Station. Energy Northwest's 2012 Prospectus shows the City of Seattle's ownership percentage as 7.193%. City Light, a public utility owned by its customers, is both a participant (having invested in the project and holding shares in it) and an owner-operator through the Energy Northwest board upon which it serves.

    Because the history is so long here -- Energy Northwest was originally called the Washington Public Power Supply System when it was created in the late 1950's as a municipal corporation - ownership shares have been negotiated and renegotiated several times.

    But City Light's ownership of the nuclear generating station remains. Under Washington State Law RCW 54.44.020, "Authority to participate in and enter into agreements..." is defined as follows: (1) Except as provided in subsections (2) and (3) of this section, cities of the first class, public utility districts organized under chapter 54.08 RCW, and joint operating agencies organized under chapter 43.52 RCW, any such cities and public utility districts which operate electric generating facilities or distribution systems and any joint operating agency shall have power and authority to participate and enter into agreements with each other and with electrical companies which are subject to the jurisdiction of the Washington utilities and transportation commission or the public utility commissioner of Oregon, hereinafter called "regulated utilities", and with rural electric cooperatives, including generation and transmission cooperatives for the undivided ownership of any type of electric generating plants and facilities, including, but not limited to, nuclear and other thermal power generating plants and facilities and transmission facilities including, but not limited to, related transmission facilities, hereinafter called "common facilities", and for the planning, financing, acquisition, construction, operation and maintenance thereof. It shall be provided in such agreements that each city, public utility district, or joint operating agency shall own a percentage of any common facility equal to the percentage of the money furnished or the value of property supplied by it for the acquisition and construction thereof and shall own and control a like percentage of the electrical output thereof."

    Posted Thu, Aug 21, 7:49 p.m. Inappropriate

    Ms. Baskin – we cannot state it any clearer: Seattle City Light, or any other participant in Columbia, does not OWN a percentage of Energy Northwest or Columbia Generating Station.

    Since its passage in 1975, RCW 54.44.10 allows cities, municipal corporations and joint operating agencies to combine (“participate together”) for the building and operation of new generating facilities, and may form these same relationships with regulated utilities – that is, utilities regulated by Washington’s Utilities and Transportation Commission. RCW 54.44 removed prior restrictions on these entities owning in a consortium, or other forms of joint ownership, new generating facilities. So, for example, Energy Northwest and the City of Seattle could form a consortium and jointly own a wind farm or some other generating asset. In that case, each would have ownership of the asset and the liabilities associated with the asset. That is not the case with Energy Northwest and Columbia, and to the extent you claim RCW 54.44 somehow grants rights to the City of Seattle is simply in error.

    Additionally, RCW 54.44 does not change RCW 43.52, which is the statutory scheme associated with the formation and operations of joint operating agencies such as Energy Northwest. RCW 43.52 allows two or more cities or public utility districts (or combinations thereof) to form a joint operating agency. A joint operating agency is a municipal corporation of the state of Washington with the right to sue and be sued in its own name. See RCW 43.52.360. As such, it has the right to own assets, sell assets, operate and maintain assets and like other corporations, it is a legal entity separate and apart from those who may own an interest in the entity. Just as no shareholder of a private or public corporation has an ownership interest in the assets of the corporation or a citizen has an ownership interest in municipal property, a member of a joint operating agency does not have an ownership interest in the assets of the joint operating agency

    RCW 43.52.360 governs membership rights in a joint operating agency.

    RCW 43.52.360 provides in relevant part:

    After the formation of an operating agency, any other city or district may become a member thereof upon application to such agency after the adoption of a resolution of its legislative body authorizing said city or district to participate, and with the consent of the operating agency by the affirmative vote of the majority of its members. Any member may withdraw from an operating agency, and thereupon such member shall forfeit any and all rights or interest which it may have in such operating agency or in any of the assets thereof: PROVIDED, That all contractual obligations incurred while a member shall remain in full force and effect. An operating agency may be dissolved by the unanimous agreement of the members, and the members, after making provisions for the payment of all debts and obligations shall thereupon hold the assets thereof as tenants in common. (Emphasis supplied).

    If the legislature intended for members to acquire an interest in a joint operating agency, it would have done so by requiring some sort of “buy in” for new members or a buy-out” the departing member. Clearly, RCW 43.52.360 does not contemplate any such process when it expressly provides that the departing member “forfeits” any interest in the joint operating agency.

    The 7.193% you label an “ownership percentage” is merely the output allocation to Seattle City Light, as defined by the Net Billing Agreement, signed in 1970. The Net Billing Agreement signed among the Participants, BPA and Energy Northwest provides a percentage of the “capability” of Columbia, which in turn, has been assigned to BPA by each Participant. Each Participant is responsible for the costs of operating Columbia equal to the percentage of capability of Columbia which has also been assigned to BPA. The Net Billing Agreements are clear that this is simply a contractual right – it does not vest ownership in, or to, a Participant in the particular asset.

    We hope this puts to rest the ownership question once and for all and any errors relating to this will be corrected. Thank you.

    Posted Sat, Aug 23, 10:35 a.m. Inappropriate

    So you want Seattle to use more renewable energy? I presume some of it would be wind. For those of us in other parts of Washington and Oregon who are surrounded by wind farms that ruin the scenery and kill thousands of wildlife animals each year, no thanks to more. If you need it, build the windmills within the Seattle city limit, otherwise you are no better than California that declares itself nonpolluting but uses electricity from coal plants sited in surrounding states. I would far prefer the small physical and environmental footprint of the Columbia Nuclear Station instead of thousands of acres of "clean" windmills.


    Posted Mon, Aug 25, 8:52 a.m. Inappropriate

    We're pretty lucky here in the PNW as the vast majority of our baseload is from hydro. Given that we have made some incremental progress on energy efficiency - but certainly not enough to dampen future demand, the folks calling to eliminate the possibility of nukes haven't provided much of an alternative scheme.

    Wind? Forget that - right now it is such a management nightmare for BPA and utilities such as Idaho Power that they are pushing hard to alter the cost structure for buy-back to reflect the grid integration problem. Because it is unpredictable the surges to the grid are like a random switch that goes on and off, on and off. And when it would be most useful - when in winter we get a high pressure system parked over us - the wind doesn't blow.

    Solar? This can help in peak during the summer - but obviously not at night and an efficient battery system is not even on the horizon. Forget about it during our low angle and cloud filled winter.

    So what is the answer? Most likely a combination of everything - until that fusion thing gets figured out.


    Posted Tue, Aug 26, 1:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    Geothermal is the single biggest alternative being ignored in the PNW. As 1/3 or more of residential power use is for heating and cooling, it's the ultimate electricity saver. As for solar, solar thermal heats water based upon ultraviolet light--no panels but what looks like a large radiator (cloudy days are as good as sunny ones), and can store for nightime. Residential and utility scale solar batteries are in their new second generation, and are increasingly available. Solar PV is still and option, and net metering can offset the cost.

    Also note that quasi-geothermal units, called heat (air) pumps are currenty being offered rebates by City Light.

    We don't need nukes, don't need to rely on wind as the only alternative. What we need is the political will to transition.


    Login or register to add your voice to the conversation.

    Join Crosscut now!
    Subscribe to our Newsletter

    Follow Us »