Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Puerto Rico Power Project – Whitefish Contract Canned (Politico)

(SAN JUAN, PR) – Hours after Gov. Ricardo Rossello called for its immediate termination, Puerto Rico's utility axed a $300 million grid repair contract awarded to two-year-old Montana-based Whitefish Energy. "It's an enormous distraction," Ricardo Ramos, CEO of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, said at a Sunday press conference, according to the Associated Press . "This was negatively impacting the work we're already doing." Ramos said the contract's cancellation will result in delays of 10 to 12 weeks, though the company will complete work it's already started.

In a statement, Whitefish said it was "very disappointed" by the decision and claimed it would "delay what the people of Puerto Rico want and deserve - to have the power restored quickly in the same manner their fellow citizens on the mainland experience after a natural disaster." During an interview with NBC News on Saturday, Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski welcomed an audit into the contract and said his company had "nothing to hide."

Doubt this is the end of the story: Multiple congressional committees, government watchdogs and others are still going to want to answers to why the island's bankrupt utility awarded the massive contract in the first place to the tiny company from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown. Just Friday, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel asked DHS to review the contract to determine whether FEMA could be responsible for reimbursing the island's power company for Whitefish's work.

Hearings starting this week: Expect the Whitefish scandal to dominate two congressional hearings on the government's response to a string of recent hurricanes this week. Homeland Security ranking member Claire McCaskill said the contract "raises every red flag in the book" and told federal officials they had "better be ready to answer tough questions" during a Tuesday hearing. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds its own session Thursday on response efforts.

Centralia City Light to Speed Up Replacement of Pole “Cut-Outs” after Power Outage (KELA Radio, Centralia, WA)

(CENTRALIA, WA) – In the wake of the power outage in Centralia on Oct. 21 that left about 1600 Centralia City Light customers in the dark for up to 24 hours, City Light is going to speed up the replacement of the type of device that failed, causing the initial outage.

City Light Manager M.L. Norton says it was caused by the failure of a device called a “cut-out” which is a fuse designed to protect transformers or other items on power poles.

Norton says that the cut-outs on about 75 percent of the poles in the system are an older porcelain type. He says they are going to replace the porcelain cut-outs in the system, starting with the M-4 circuit, which is the most heavily used.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Lewis County Commissioners Approve Agreement for Wind Energy Project (KELA Radio, Centralia, WA)

(CENTRALIA, WA) -- Lewis County Commissioners Monday approved a memorandum of understanding with Thurston County for the proposed Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project.

The proposed site straddles the Lewis-Thurston County line. The wind turbines would be located on Weyerhaeuser timberlands.

Lewis County Community Development Director Lee Napier says the agreement designates Thurston County as the lead agency under SEPA.

The current proposal is for 51 wind turbines with a total capacity of up to 176 megawatts. Most of the turbines will be located in Lewis County.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Equipment Issues Blamed for Centralia Power Outage (KELA Radio, Centralia, WA)

(CENTRALIA, WA) – Equipment failure is being blamed for the power outage that left about 1,600 Centralia City Light customers in the dark on Saturday, some for 24 hours.

City Light Manager M.L. Norton says the initial outage was caused by the failure of a device called a “cut-out” on a power pole on the north end of downtown Saturday morning. It caused a fire on the top of that power pole.

He says there also appears to have been an issue with a breaker at the May Street substation sensing a fault and not closing when they tried to restore power.

Norton says they will be downloading the memory from the relay at the substation to see if was working properly.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Wednesday Storm Leaves Thousands in Western Washington State without Electricity (KELA Radio, Centralia, WA)

(CENTRALIA, WA) -- Officials say over 54,000 customers were without power as a wind and rain storm blew through Western Washington.

The National Weather Service in Seattle on Wednesday issued high wind warnings on the coast and north of Seattle from Everett to Bellingham while wind advisories were issued from Seattle to south of Centralia.

The weather service says a wind gust up to 44 mph was recorded at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Wednesday evening.

Lewis County PUD reports they had several small power outages Wednesday evening affecting a total of fewer than 400 customers.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Wednesday Weather Outlook: Windy and Wet

October 17, 2017

Apparently, the swinging gate let the first of our three storms past Mason County with minimal impact. Saw wind gusts in the mid 20 MPH range for Shelton and Belfair.

The National Weather Service had a briefing today about the second of the three storms forecast to arrive in western Washington State. Nasty weather will pick up Wednesday morning. This storm will be the most active so far this week. Check out the “Atmospheric River” backed up all the way to China.

As with yesterday’s report, the key topics remain:
  • Blustery Conditions
  • Heavy Rain
  • Leaves Still on Many Deciduous Trees
Winds are expected to start picking up about 8 AM tomorrow. Mason County wind speeds are forecast at 25 – 30 MPH, with occasionally higher gusts.

Rainfall will hit, hard, tomorrow afternoon through early evening.

Here are the particulars, not much different from yesterday’s report:
  • Wednesday through Thursday will have heavy rain and stronger wind.
  • This week’s total rainfall could reach between 4 and 5 inches in Mason County, over 10 inches in the Olympic Mountains.
  • Many deciduous trees have not lost their leaves. That creates a “sail effect,” which will most likely result in broken limbs, and possibly downed trees.
  • Rising rivers. The Skokomish River may reach flood stage this week.
  • With all the rain, we could see some “urban flooding.” Leaves clogging storm drain gratings could aggravate this.
The University of Washington weather model shows the winds building at around 8:00 AM Wednesday. If the model is correct, the blustery conditions will stick around until at least 6 PM – 8 PM.

There isn’t enough information about the expected weekend storm for a firm forecast. More data should be coming within the next day or so.

Friday, October 13, 2017

H.R. 3144 “Just Makes Sense” for Northwest Ratepayers and Salmon (Northwest River Partners)

Public Power Leader Testifies in Support of Bipartisan Proposal to Let Hydrosystem Review Run Its Course

(WASHINGTON, DC) -- Today, Beth Looney, President and CEO of Portland-based PNGC Power, testified in support of H.R. 3144 before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources/Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans.

Looney told subcommittee members that the bill is a “carefully balanced way” to protect Northwest salmon while managing the economic impacts. Looney also serves on the Board of Directors for Northwest RiverPartners, an alliance of farmers, utilities, ports, and businesses.

Thirteen Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead species are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Driven by these listings, Bonneville Power Administration utility ratepayers—not U.S. taxpayers—fund the largest mitigation program for endangered species in the nation.

Looney told committee members that as BPA’s fourth-largest power customer, PNGC is concerned about BPA’s rate trajectory and its impact on PNGC’s 200,000 member homes, farms and businesses. BPA power rates have increased 30 percent in the last few years, which has been particularly difficult to absorb for customers in rural and underserved areas, Looney said. Fish and wildlife costs make up about a third of BPA’s total cost of power.

As Looney noted in her written testimony, BPA’s recent rate increases have been tied partly to an uncertainty that is driven by ESA-related litigation. H.R. 3144 “effectively puts a time-out on this litigation” until a court-ordered review of federal hydrosystem operations is complete, she told the subcommittee on Thursday.

“In the meantime, it keeps in place current biological measures—vetted by the top federal scientists—that protect salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers. When this work is complete, federal agencies will be positioned to adopt a new salmon plan based on the public, transparent NEPA process and the science it yields. This just makes sense.”

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Man Killed In Officer-Involved Shooting at Lucky Eagle Casino (KELA Radio, Centralia, WA)

(ROCHESTER, WA) -- A Thurston County Sheriff’s deputy fatally shot a man in the parking lot of the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester about 8 PM Tuesday night.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, a family member called 911 earlier in the evening for a welfare check on a 55-year old Lakewood man in the area of the casino.

A deputy found the man inside a car in the casino parking lot. The man exited the vehicle armed with a pistol and approached the deputy while refusing to drop the weapon. The deputy fired several shots at the man, seriously wounding him.

The Sheriff’s Office says the man was flown by helicopter to St. Peter Hospital in Olympia where he was pronounced deceased. The deputy wasn’t injured. The incident is being investigated.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Jefferson PUD Hires Financial Services Manager (Port Townsend Leader, WA)

(PORT TOWNSEND, WA) -- Mike Bailey has joined the Jefferson County Public Utility District as its financial services manager.

The new position was created to focus on work-order and plant accounting needs at the PUD, according to a press release.

Bailey is also to assist with budget preparation and financial analysis and perform other accounting functions.

“I look forward to working for this growing new electric utility and continuing the work they have done to establish sound accounting practices,” said Bailey in a press release.

Prior to being hired by the PUD, Bailey was a staff accountant at Consumers Power, a privately owned nonprofit electric cooperative based in Philomath, Oregon. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in business administration.