Portland, Ore. – Port Townsend’s largest private employer may get another nine years of federal power if a new proposal from the Bonneville Power Administration is adopted.
BPA is proposing to amend Port Townsend Paper Company’s existing power purchase contract extending the term of the contract until September 2022, preserving 300 family-wage jobs in a community of 8,300 residents.
BPA will take public comment on the proposed contract amendment and its accompanying equivalent benefits test through Sept. 14, 2012.
Port Townsend Paper Company’s current contract with BPA runs through Aug. 31, 2013, with the proposed amendment starting the following day. The proposal has BPA continuing to provide 20.5 average megawatts. However, BPA expects the newly formed Jefferson County PUD to take over Port Townsend Paper’s wheel turning load (load not integral to the industrial process) and the Old Corrugated Containers (OCC) recycling plant load totaling 8.5 average megawatts in July 2013. In that case, BPA would continue to serve the remainder of the mill’s load, approximately 12 average megawatts.
Twelve average megawatts is enough electricity to serve more than 8,000 homes for a year. Port Townsend Paper is located near the city of Port Townsend, Wash., on the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula.
"Our analysis indicates that this proposal would provide another decade of benefits to everyone involved," said BPA Administrator Steve Wright. "We look forward to hearing from the public as we consider moving forward with the contract."
Following Port Townsend Paper’s most recent request to extend service, BPA conducted an analysis, called the equivalent benefits test, to determine whether net benefits would flow to BPA ratepayers through a contract with Port Townsend Paper. The results of the latest test show that service can be provided through September of 2022 while continuing to benefit all BPA ratepayers. The ability to offer a nine-year extension is primarily due to the long-term market price forecast for Northwest electricity, which has been driven down by low natural gas prices.
BPA, celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2012, is a nonprofit federal agency that markets renewable hydropower from federal Columbia River dams, operates three-quarters of high-voltage transmission lines in the Northwest and funds one of the largest wildlife protection and restoration programs in the world. BPA and its partners have also saved enough electricity through energy efficiency projects to power four large American cities. For more information, contact us at 503-230-5131 or visit our website at www.bpa.gov.
Friday, August 17, 2012
From BPA to WAPA - Western Area Power Administration Welcomes New Acting Administrator (Western Area Power Administration)
Anita Decker, Chief Operating Officer at the Bonneville Power Administration
On Aug. 15, the Department of Energy announced that Anita Decker, Chief Operating Officer at the Bonneville Power Administration, will serve up to a four-month detail as Acting Administrator of Western. She starts Aug. 20 and will work out of the Administrator's office at the Corporate Services Office in Lakewood, Colo.
“This is a great development opportunity for Anita and for Western. I have worked with her closely over the years as a fellow Power Marketing Administration COO, and I am excited to have her come on board. Anita brings a wealth of experience, professionalism and new perspectives. I am confident she will carry out Western's essential functions and services in support of our mission,” said Montoya, who will return to his COO position.
“I also want to thank customers for their support during my detail,” he added. “I enjoyed working with you.”
Anita’s focus will be to support and carry on Western’s core mission of delivering cost-based, renewable, non-carbon-emitting Federal hydropower to our firm electric service customers. “I’m honored by the chance to work with Western’s leadership team at a key time as they go through the process of hiring a new administrator. I will gain from the experience and bring a different perspective back to BPA when I return,” Decker said.
Decker has served as COO for the BPA since 2007. Before this position, she spent 27 years with PacifiCorp, rising to the role of vice president. As COO she has responsibility for BPA’s Power Services; Transmission Services; Environment, Fish and Wildlife; Energy Efficiency; Customer Service and Internal Business services.
Decker earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Utah Valley University and completed a senior business leadership program through the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a graduate of the European Institute for Business Administration, also known as INSEAD, advanced management program in Fontainebleau, France.
See her full biography at http://www.bpa.gov/corporate/about_BPA/execs/adbio.cfm.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Northwest RiverPartners (NWRP) appreciates Congressman Hastings’ leadership in proposing legislation to promote and protect hydropower resources with H.R. 6247, the “Saving Our Dams and New Hydropower Development and Jobs Act of 2012.” Hydropower, a clean, domestic source of energy, provides 90% of the Northwest's renewable energy and keeps 100% of the skies clean. Additionally, the irrigation and transportation benefits provided by the Snake River dams help farmers feed the Northwest and the world.
“We thank the Congressman for highlighting the role of dams and hydropower and what they have contributed to this region for so long: lighting the West and making our farmlands bloom,” said Northwest RiverPartners Executive Director Terry Flores. “And with today’s concerns about air quality and the economy, our hydropower plays an even greater role in terms of clean energy production and attracting new companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon with good jobs for the Northwest.”
Flores noted that the Hastings legislation will foster healthy and needed dialogue over many issues that have been of long standing concern to Northwest interests, namely the removal or breaching of the Snake River dams. “In terms of putting Snake River Dam removal off the table, this legislation is squarely aligned with public opinion, which shows that nearly two-thirds of the public believes that removal of the Snake River dams would be an ‘extreme solution’ that would do more harm than good,” Flores said.
The results of public opinion polling conducted for NWRP on hydropower and Snake River dam removal issues can be seen on the NWRP web site: http://nwriverpartners.org/images/stories/riverpartners_POLL2011_Final_-_11-29-11.pdf
Flores also cited NWRP’s polling as showing that the public highly values the unified efforts made by Northwest states, tribes, federal agencies, and river users over the past few years to make dam operations more fish friendly and to restore fish habitat. “By wide margins the public agrees that improving salmon protection technology at our hydropower facilities and improving habitat are far and away the best things we can be doing,” Flores said.
“Furthermore, those actions – a cornerstone of the federal salmon plan on the Columbia and Snake system -- are demonstrating that dams and salmon can co-exist and thrive. We've seen extraordinary runs of returning adult salmon this decade and this year is no exception with record runs of sockeye and a robust return of Snake River Fall Chinook also forecasted.”
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
FCC Report: Broadband Health Care Networks Improve Quality of Care for Rural Americans, Reduce Costs & Help Save Lives (Federal Communications Commission)
Washington, D.C. – Broadband health care networks improve the quality and reduce the cost of delivering care in rural areas, according to a Federal Communications Commission staff report evaluating the Commission’s Rural Health Care Pilot Program.
The FCC staff report at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-12-1332A1.pdf details the benefits of the Pilot program, as well as the lessons learned from the Pilot, which supports 50 active projects in 38 states. The five largest projects are statewide networks in California, Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina and West Virginia, which are on target to connect over 800 health care providers.
Broadband networks of rural and urban providers save lives by providing rural Americans with instant access to specialized services that are not available in rural areas, saving time that is critical in stroke care and other emergencies. High-speed broadband networks capable of supporting telemedicine and telehealth applications also provide rural patients access to more routine telehealth consultations with medical specialists, efficiently transit health records, and facilitate training of nurses and doctors.
But rural health care providers operate on thin margins, and may not be able to afford broadband communications without assistance from the FCC’s Rural Health Care program, the report says. The FCC launched the Pilot in 2006 to explore how best to help rural health care providers harness the power of broadband to improve care. A map at http://www.fcc.gov/maps/rural-health-care-pilot-program shows the location of the pilot projects and of the health care providers participating in each project.
The experiences of those pilot projects are providing critical information to the FCC as it considers comprehensive reform of its Rural Health Care program. Some examples of benefits from the Pilot-funded networks include:
- Physicians in Bacon County, Georgia saved the life of a young stroke victim by using a telemedicine connection to a specialist in Savannah in order to administer clot-busting medication
- Remote psychiatric consultations for patients in rural South Carolina hospitals that lack staff psychiatrists speeds treatment and save days of waiting in expensive emergency rooms
- Hospitals in South Dakota’s Heartland Unified Broadband Network have saved $1.2 million in expenses through electronic intensive care unit services, which reduce the number of days patients spend in ICU and the number of transfers to other hospitals
Monday, August 13, 2012
Oregon Teen Agers’ Climate Lawsuit Appealed - Two Eugene students ask two appeals courts to force the state of Oregon to take action on climate change (Eugene Register-Guard, OR)
Friday, August 10, 2012
Politifact - Would Proposed Ban Target Only Oregon Commercial Gillnetters, Leave Washington Fishermen Free to Use Gillnets on the Columbia? (Oregonian, Portland)
Common Ground Alliance encourages homeowners and contractors who plan to dig to make a free call a few days beforehand. Every three minutes this year, someone will dig and hit an underground gas, electric, communications, water or sewer line, according to data compiled by the alliance, which promotes the "Call 811 Before You Dig" campaign. When they call 811, homeowners and contractors are connected to a local one-call center, which notifies the appropriate utilities of their intent to dig. Professional locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, spray paint or both.
(CENTRALIA) – Centralia City Light is forced into purchasing more expensive power for a little while longer than expected. A sinkhole repair project that knocked the Yelm hydroelectric project offline now won’t be finished until the middle of next week. Officials had hoped it would be finished by now. The entire cost – including the additional BPA power – could cost City Light around $300,000. A reserve account is being used to cover the bills. Whether that will need to be passed along to customers later down the road in the form of rate hike still has yet to be seen. The diversion dam provides up to one-third of Centralia’s power.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Wave Broadband Acquired by Equity Firms - deal termed a refinancing with no impact on customers (Peninsula Daily News, Port Angeles, WA)
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Consumer-Owned Utilities Weigh In on Next Head of the Bonneville Power Administration (Northwest Public Power Association)
On July 30, NWPPA, along with 12 other consumer-owned utility associations, sent a letter to DOE Deputy Sec. of Energy Dan Poneman regarding the criteria for selecting the next BPA administrator. The choice of a BPA administrator that understands the issues we face in the Northwest and has an appreciation for the importance of public power is critical to our future, the group said in the letter.
The letter highlighted the “impressive legacy” of current Administrator Steve Wright, who has announced his intent to retire in December, and the critical role the agency has in “maintaining BPA’s cost-based rates, meeting other statutory obligations such as fish and wildlife mitigation, and doing so in a manner that upholds the legal mandate to set the lowest possible rates consistent with sound business principles is of fundamental importance to the region.”
The letter outlined the minimum criteria a viable candidate must have to effectively lead the organization. They include:
- Extensive northwest electric utility experience at a senior level.
- A demonstrated working knowledge of the primary mission and statutory responsibilities of BPA.
- A noteworthy history of leadership, collaboration, principled decision making, and an active commitment to furthering the interests of northwest electricity consumers.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Monday, August 6, 2012
Friday, August 3, 2012
The warmest weather so far this year is likely across much of Western Washington this weekend.
Affected Local Areas
- Southwest Interior
- Hood Canal Area
- Seattle, Bremerton Area
- Tacoma Area
Temperatures will climb well into the 80s across much of the area on Saturday, with highs in the lower to mid-90s likely along the I-5 corridor south of Olympia and in the Central Cascade valleys.
The coast will experience temperatures in the upper 70s to mid-80s, with farther inland sites climbing to near 90. The hot spell will be caused by the combination of high pressure aloft and low level offshore flow.
Onshore flow will return on Sunday. The coast will be 10 to 15 degrees cooler on Sunday or in the upper 60s to upper 70s. In contrast, the interior will likely be a couple of degrees warmer. This will put max temperature records in jeopardy of being broken or tied at some places. The forecast high for Seattle for Sunday
The 5th is 90 degrees. The record for the 5th is 89 degrees. The warmest day over the interior often ends up on the day when the low level flow transitions from offshore to onshore.
Daytime temperatures will return to near normal on Monday. Open water can be very inviting during hot spells. If you plan to be in or near area lakes and rivers this weekend, be water safe. Wear a life jacket. If you do not know the depth of the water, do not dive into it.
Limit time spent in the sun and drink plenty of water during hot spells.
Other Affected Areas:
- Admiralty Inlet Area
- Central Coast
- East Puget Sound Lowlands
- Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca
- Everett and Vicinity
- Lower Chehalis Valley Area
- North Coast
- San Juan County
- West Slopes Central Cascades and Passes
- West Slopes Northern Cascades and Passes
- Western Skagit County
- Western Strait of Juan De Fuca
- Western Whatcom County
Thursday, August 2, 2012
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Bearing Down - Court of Contempt: FERC and the Demise of Judicial Decorum (Courtesy of "Clearing Up," Ben Tansey)
In case the Northwest needed any more evidence of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s profound contempt, Judge Edward M. Silverstein, one of the agency’s longest-serving administrative law judges, has issued the mandate.
After more than a decade trying to squeeze a modicum of justice from FERC, Seattle and Tacoma, the last Northwest utilities with the courage to push aging claims over outrageous prices charged during the Power Crisis of 2000-2001 have at last been granted a hearing before a presiding FERC judge, along with their fair-weather compatriots, the California Parties (EL01-10-086).
Nearly 50 attorneys turned up for a two-hour, pre-hearing conference July 11 in FERC Hearing Room 1 where, according to a transcript posted in the docket, Silverstein systematically treated the Commission, the Chief Judge, the attorneys, his colleagues, his own law clerk and every Western ratepayer to a patronizing spectacle of open indifference.
“Settle this case,” he demanded almost from beginning, actively abandoning any pretense of objectivity. “It’s gone on for 11 years already. It’s dumb not to settle this case. It’s bad lawyering not to settle this case. The only people who benefit from this case are the lawyers. I guarantee it.”
Gosh, I bet it never occurred to any of the parties to settle. What a genius, this Silverstein. I wonder if he knows the parties have already filed nearly a dozen bilateral settlements. And I guess it’s completely irrelevant that during May and June his colleague, FERC settlement judge John Dring, filed no fewer than eight separate reports with the boss, FERC Chief Judge Curtis Wagner, each stating that remaining bilateral negotiations among the parties had “reached an impasse.” He recommended termination of settlement proceedings and appointment of a presiding judge. Wagner approved the request, noting that the proceeding had been in settlement phase for five months and that “it is now time to move forward with the hearing.”
Silverstein went so far as to recommend a mediator. The parties could call the FERC Dispute Resolution Office’s Helpline (which resolves only half the cases it takes), or they could hire Bruce Birchman, a former FERC ALJ. “He’d be happy to charge you big bucks to mediate,” Silverstein said before making a crack about Birchman’s memory and adding, “He’s not as young as he used to be.”
But Silverstein was just revving up. He literally told the parties there was no chance the commission would ever seriously weigh their arguments or evidence. With the breathtaking honesty of a man possessed of unrestrained impropriety and ease with the exercise of administrative fiat, he revealed, “The Commission doesn’t care what you say. They’re going to do whatever they want to do, and the people who write their decisions don’t understand the cases, so it doesn’t really matter.”
One must pause to fully absorb the vast scope of the cynicism of this statement. It is worthy of the basest outtakes from the Enron trader tapes: “Burn, baby, burn.”
Silverstein had a much more worldly and colorful theory about who parties should address themselves to if they want to win: the circuit law clerk.
At some length, he explained that clerks graduate in May, take the bar exam in July and then spend a month sitting on the beach drinking until the Friday before Labor Day. They “spend the weekend sobering up” and take Tuesday off before reporting to court. There, the circuit judge hands them this unbelievably complicated case with its 1,500 exhibits and 15,000-page transcript, and demands a written summary so the judge can be ready for next week’s oral argument. “See, that’s the kid that you have to worry about.”
Silverstein is probably dead right about both the commission and the clerk. But such brutal truth-telling, while at once chilling and refreshing, is plainly inappropriate coming from the bench.
Silverstein spent an equal amount of time discussing the rules of the tie contests that are apparently common to his proceedings (“scarves don’t count but bow ties win”), and assuring the “girls” that they, too, can participate. But he prejudged even this contest, telling Gary Bachman, attorney for Avista and Puget Sound Energy, that his “islands and toucans” tie had already won.
Then, no doubt attempting to preserve the appearance of fairness, he advised Paul Fox, attorney for Powerex, that Silverstein’s law clerk, Kaleb Lockwood, was absent that day because he was interviewing for a job at Fox’s lawfirm, and that Fox should “tell the hiring partner” to employ the young man.
Perhaps Silverstein was just trying to break the ice. Hey, I’ve been to a few FERC hearings, I get it. Levity, even irreverence, are welcome relief. And goodness knows, FERC administrative hearings aren’t courtroom trials, nor its judges legal scholars. In fact most are ex-Social Security or Medicare ALJs with no background in energy.
But informality must be balanced with respect for the parties and the proceedings, for the seriousness of the case at bar and, perhaps, even the issues and principles involved. Somewhere out there are clients who believe their interests are at stake, who are paying attorneys to laugh at Silverstein’s jokes, and who might even have the naïve audacity to think they deserve a fair hearing. This is especially so in the Western Refund proceedings, where claimants have hung in like champions against an onslaught of masterful counterparty lawyering and pernicious FERC obstruction.
But Silverstein doesn’t care. How do I know? He said so, not once, but twice. He said “It doesn’t matter” three times—and all during the single hour he did not devote to engaging in game show-host like banter with the attorneys during introductions.
He doesn’t care that unjust and unreasonable prices forced Tacoma to put through a 50 percent retail rate increase months before Bonneville, its principal supplier, did the same on the wholesale level, or that one of the city’s largest customers went bankrupt due to high rates, leaving it with a $2.2 million bad debt. He didn’t have to watch Tacoma’s other industrials suspend or curtail operations and jobs, or pay for installation of 48 MW of diesel generation. And he needn’t reflect on how Tacoma survived only by plowing through a $130 million reserve and borrowing $35 million more. But he sure got off a couple great one-liners.
Silverstein said he was “shocked and amazed” that the first item on the parties’ proposed schedule was a statement of claims. By now in the case, “Doesn’t everybody know everything about everybody else, including whether you wear briefs?” The silver lining was that it gave him another opportunity to berate the attorneys. “I’m just stunned at the lack of ability of the counsel in this room to discover exactly what the claims [are].”
Nor did his parade of contempt cease before those who are professionally obliged to retain his goodwill. Silverstein advised that he even holds Chief Judge Wagner in the palm of his hand. File any motion you wish, but “He’s going to do what I want.”
Toss in the irony that Silverstein was Wagner’s punishment for the California Parties successfully arguing that his original designee for the hearing, Carmen Cintron, was disqualified because she’d sat in on earlier settlement negotiations. They said her appointment violated FERC policy that “parties in individual proceedings appear to and actually receive a fair and impartial adjudication of their claims.” Take that, California.
Silverstein is only the latest in a long line of FERC judges hired to lead Western refund claimants into the middle of FERC’s procedural desert. The agency has repeatedly sent every signal it can that it will never voluntarily use its authority to make Seattle, Tacoma or California whole. Silverstein is only its most recent, if crudest, offering.