NEWS: Legislative delegation to tour eastern Washington nuclear facilities, hold public hearing on Initiative 937 law

HanfordOLYMPIA… A bipartisan delegation from the Senate and House of Representatives will visit southeast Washington next week, touring the Columbia Generating Station on Monday and the Hanford Site on Tuesday.

The Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee will also hold a hearing at 7 p.m. Monday at the Richland Public Library on addressing the unintended consequences of the Initiative 937 law. Created in 2006, the law requires electric utilities to obtain a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources but fails to recognize hydropower as renewable. The I-937 hearing will be open to the public and those interested in testifying will have an opportunity to do so.

Sen. Doug Ericksen chairs the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee and said the tours and hearing will provide legislators and staff with invaluable first-hand knowledge.

“During the 2013 session, our committee held meetings on nuclear energy and the effect of Initiative 937. But there’s only so much we can learn in the abstract,” said Ericksen, GOP-Ferndale. “Hearing and learning directly from leaders in these industries will provide us with a greater understanding of energy policy and some of the major issues facing our state.” The I-937 Senate hearing held in February that Ericksen referenced may set the stage for Monday’s meeting. Notably, it featured testimony from Martin Valadez, who at the time was president of the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, on what he sees as the effects of the I-937 law.

“Our families in the Hispanic community work hard to put food on the table and pay their electrical and other utility bills,” Valadez said. “So why would we want to raise these electrical rates simply to fulfill a mandate that is sending big dollars to developers and taking money away from our families? While we support efforts to increase renewable energy, we do not want this to be done on the backs of hard-working families.”

Ericksen reiterated Valadez’ concerns about potential cost associated with increasing reliance on alternative energy sources like wind and solar power. “Above all, Washington has to maintain its low power costs and reliable energy grid. These are competitive advantages that help drive our state’s high quality of life and attract businesses to our region,” he said.

The Columbia Generating Station, owned and operated by Energy Northwest, is Washington’s only nuclear power plant. The Hanford Site, owned by the U.S. Department of Energy, was established during World War II as part of the nation’s nuclear-defense complex; today it is in the midst of a massive environmental-restoration effort.

An itinerary of the tours and public hearing can be found below. Due to federal regulations, the Hanford and Columbia Generating Station tours will not be open to the public. The I-937 hearing will be an open meeting and Ericksen encouraged anyone interested to attend and testify before the committee.

  • Monday, Sept. 16
    • Columbia Generating Station tour – 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    • Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications public hearing examining unintended consequences of Initiative 937 law – 7 p.m. at Richland Public Library, 955 Northgate Drive.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 17
    • Hanford Site tour – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.