Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A Tribute to Tony Usibelli (Energy News, WA Dept of Commerce, Energy Division, Olympia, WA)

By Howard Schwartz

When I joined the original Washington State Energy Office in 1989, Tony was already a legend in Northwest energy conservation circles. He had just convinced the Bonneville Power Administration to fund an Energy Ideas Clearinghouse – a project he had conceived with other Energy Office staff to provide a one-stop service for commercial energy consumers seeking advice on how to use electricity more efficiently. Long after he moved on to other projects and greater responsibilities, the clearinghouse flourished, attracting funders including the U.S. Department of Energy, becoming national in its coverage and a core of the Washington State University Energy Program.

Tony came to Olympia in 1985 from the Lawrence Berkeley Lab in California, the foremost American research institution on energy efficiency. He was a good fit for the dynamic and innovative Energy Office. Tony had a passion for energy efficiency and clean energy as well as a sense of how the office could be a leading edge of environmental policy.

A key to Tony’s success as a leader is that he is extraordinarily disciplined and organized. To him, effectiveness comes from organizing your own time, and that means spending as little time as possible organizing the time of others. Anyone who has worked with Tony knows that his first principle of managing people is to let them do their jobs. He always tried to hire people who were the smartest, most knowledgeable and willing and able to work on their own. These qualities enabled him to have long runs as the Assistant Director for Energy, Energy Office Director, and Special Assistant to the Director for Energy and Climate Policy.

Tony understood early on that climate change would define energy and environmental policy for the next century. He set out to become a climate expert even as he managed energy efficiency programs. This climate policy vision would stay with him throughout his career, and looking back, it is hard to think of a climate change policy process that did not involve Tony. Here is a sample: Western Climate Initiative? He was the Washington Energy Office representative. Pacific Climate Partnership? He led the Washington staff work for it. Western Interstate Energy Board? He was the Washington member for 20 years and held every executive board position including chair. Washington state legislation and ballot measures? Tony worked with advocates, other state agencies, and the governor’s office to marry sound science and policy with political strategy. National Energy and Climate Policy? For many years Tony was on the Board of Directors of the National Association of State Energy Officials. He has given presentations at hundreds of meetings and conferences around the country and abroad.

You would rarely read in the news media about Tony’s work. As a colleague noted, “Tony seems to know everybody and yet is almost never the one getting the attention.” To those who know Tony, this is hardly surprising. His interest is always in getting the job done, never in taking credit. He is a classic public servant who understands how to support elected officials and their political appointees and to earn their trust. For more than 30 years he has been a trusted source of accurate information and honest advice.

It would be unfair to give Tony all the credit for his career success, because that would overlook the great support he has received from Heidi, his wife of forty years – I know how long, because we share our wedding anniversary dates. In recent years their roles have changed due to illness, and their relationship through this transition has been an inspiring example to the rest of us. As in everything else, Tony adjusts to whatever life hands him and uses his organizational skills to structure his life so what needs to be done gets done. In some sort of care-giving jujitsu, he uses the situation to broaden the experiences that both he and Heidi have. And should I mention that he is also responsible for the care of his mother, who is a centenarian, living in a residential facility in Olympia?

I could go on at length about Tony’s role in fostering recreational bicycling in Olympia, playing many kinds of sports, following professional sports, reading nearly a book a day, keeping up with movies and classical archaeology (his college major), playing bridge, and making bad puns. Instead I will just mention that in addition to all of his other attributes, he has been a great and loyal friend to me and others whom he and Heidi have known for decades. I know that Tony will be missed in government circles, but I also know that he will continue to make Olympia and the broader community a better place to live and work.

Howard Schwartz worked at the Washington State Energy Office from 1989 until his retirement in 2013.

Public Power Council Comment on Bonneville Power Administration River Operations Agreement (Public Power Council, Portland, OR)

(PORTLAND, OR) –  Last week, the Bonneville Power Administration signed an agreement with the States of Oregon and Washington and the Nez Perce Tribe to temporarily halt years of litigation around a regional salmon protection plan.  The agreement is for three years and is intended to provide more water for migrating fish while not increasing costs to regional power customers.  Details of the agreement have only recently been made public, and much of it still needs technical modeling and state-run processes to ensure its feasibility and adherence to stated goals.

“Public power customers recognize the goal and potential benefits of moving beyond the courtroom by agreeing on actions for ESA-listed salmon that are conducted in an economical manner,” said Scott Corwin, Executive Director of the Public Power Council.  “Yet, until there is greater clarity around the operations and costs of the agreement, we cannot be certain it provides the intended benefits to fish or to electric utility ratepayers.  The parties will need to ensure that implementation of this outline provides all the expected benefits without further risk to electricity consumers or to protected fish.”

Flexible Spill Agreement Aims to Benefit Salmon & Hydropower (Joint Statement of: State of Oregon – Washington State – Nez Perce Tribe - Bonneville Power Administration – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Bureau of Reclamation

(PORTLAND, OR) -- Federal, State and Tribal partners have come together to develop an agreement on a key component of operating federal dams in the Columbia River Basin. Parties to the agreement have aligned on a flexible spring spill operation premised on achieving improved salmon survival while also managing costs in hydropower generation. Key supporters of the agreement are jointly issuing this statement:

“Collaboration is key to this new approach to Columbia River system management. Working together, the region’s states, tribes, and federal agencies have developed an approach that demonstrates environmental stewardship and affordable sustainable energy are not mutually exclusive.”

The agreement Parties are the states of Oregon and Washington, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. In addition, the states of Idaho and Montana reviewed the agreement and are supportive of the flexible operation.
The agreement covers up to three years of fish passage spill operations at eight lower Columbia and Snake River dams. During this time, the agreement avoids litigation while the co-lead agencies complete the Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement Records of Decision.

The agreement calls for flexible spill operations that meet three objectives: provide additional fish benefits by increasing spill; manage power system costs and preserve hydro system flexibility; and retain operational feasibility. Specifically, these operations involve increased spill during certain times of the day for fish migration and lesser amounts for the hours when hydropower production is needed most.

The parties have agreed to engage in a transparent and collaborative manner to implement this agreement. This agreement is an important step forward for the parties and the region. Rather than focusing on our differences, we are working together on our shared objectives of improving salmon passage and providing affordable hydropower for the region’s electricity consumers.

PNGC Power Statement on Federal Columbia River Power System Spill Operation Agreement (Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative, Portland, OR)

(PORTLAND, OR) -- PNGC Power appreciates the recent collaborative efforts of the States of Oregon and Washington, the Nez Perce Tribe, and the federal action agencies to get out of the courtroom and design an operational solution for spring and summer river operations that could be good for both salmon and the multiple users of the river system.

This is potentially a step in the right direction, but ideally the settlement would include the States of Idaho and Montana, as well as other parties of the endless litigation. In part, because a partial settlement may not be a lasting settlement.

Additionally, given the lack of a public process, PNGC will need more information before making a judgement on:
  • How the agreement impacts power rates;
  • How increased/unprecedented spill levels insisted on by Oregon (up to 125 TDG) impact ESA listed salmon; and
  • The extent to which the increases in spill exacerbate carbon emissions associated with energy consumption in the western United States.

Statement from NW RiverPartners: Power and Fish Agreement to Pause Litigation, Questions Remain (News Release, NW RiverPartners)

(PORTLAND, OR) – Northwest RiverPartners appreciates the spirit of collaboration between states, tribes and federal agencies that has led to this short-term agreement around operations of the federal hydropower system. We are encouraged that this agreement intends to put a temporary halt to the ongoing litigation that for so long has ill-served our region. 

At the same time, we are concerned about the unprecedented and scientifically unproven levels of new spill being contemplated by the agreement – particularly in 2020 and 2021. Further, many details remain unclear, making it difficult to determine whether goals of the agreement will materialize. We are also concerned with the potential adverse effects on carbon emission reduction goals that appear to have not been adequately analyzed. 

In 2020 and 2021 the agreement considers levels of spill that are not supported by current science or allowed under existing state water quality standards.  The agreement proposes operating the federal dams during some spring hours of each day at higher levels of spill while also providing lower levels of spill during other periods of the day when power is more valuable. Spill can be a useful tool to aid salmon in migrating downstream; however, too much spill can cause gas bubble trauma in fish, which can harm or even kill them.

This is why NWRP has called on the Washington Department of Ecology to conduct a rigorous science review before granting any waiver to the existing water quality standards.  The Department established these standards explicitly to protect salmon and other aquatic species. Given this, the possible adverse effects of increased spill on endangered salmon and other aquatic species should not be ignored simply to avoid future litigation. There also needs to be rigorous monitoring and accountability for this new proposed operation with mechanisms in place to reduce spill levels if they begin to negatively affect fish survival. 

Public utilities are responsible for providing reliable, affordable carbon free energy to their customers and have been supportive of the federal agencies’ management plans for the federal hydropower system. The public power community understands and can appreciate the goals of the agreement but needs more information to ensure those goals can be realized and to better understand the costs, benefits and risks of the agreement to customers, salmon and the Northwest’s environment.

BPA states it will continue to work collaboratively with the parties to the agreement to refine the analysis and determine final spring spill operations, particularly in 2020 and 2021 when higher levels of spill may be pursued.

Given the significance of this complex agreement, in the coming days and months, we look forward to gaining a better understanding of it – including an understanding of the full suite of benefits and risks to Northwest ratepayers and the multi-purpose users of the river system. We look forward to working closely with the federal agencies, the states, and regional stakeholders to ensure that this agreement is implemented in a manner that maximizes the value of our region’s carbon free hydropower resource, protects ratepayers, and protects ESA listed salmon species.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

U-S Energy Secretary to Announce Red Team/Blue Team War Games on Defending the Grid (Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy)

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Rick Perry discussed an upcoming announcement on Thursday that the Energy Department and an outside institution will be launching cyber war games focused on defending the grid and infrastructure from hackers.

The Cyber Defense Competition will work with national labs on setting up a red team versus blue team scenario where “one group will be attacking infrastructure and the other will be defending against it,” Perry said Thursday at a forum hosted by the Consumer Energy Alliance. 

The red team/blue team competition “breeds excellence” at a time when real threats face the U.S. on the cybersecurity front.

He said he just got done shooting a video with the outside participants in the exercise, and that the competition will be announced soon.

Cyber defense is bipartisan: Perry said the issuing of defending infrastructure from attack extends across both aisles. “Efforts in this area is truly bipartisan,” he said. It is “tantamount to the future of this country” that all sides come together, he continued.

“These are changing time in a very challenging moment,” Perry said.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Waiting on Senator Cantwell – Energy Committee Will She Stay, or Will She Go (Politico, Morning Energy)

(Washington, DC) – Sen. Maria Cantwell told reporters Monday she's undecided on whether she'll leave her spot as top Democrat on the Energy Committee for the Commerce Committee. "Both committees have lots of great things to work on," Cantwell said. "We're still talking to the leadership about everything."

Manchin interested: Manchin, who has a plausible path to the ranking member spot on the Energy Committee depending on how things shake out, didn't deny his interest. "I'm ready, willing and able. I can tell you that," he said. "There's got to be a balanced approach about how we maintain energy independence." Remember ME told you last week that Sen. Debbie Stabenow will face pressure to switch to the Energy slot as Manchin would likely face vocal opposition from environmental groups.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Study Shows Proposed Methanol Plant Would Drive Down Greenhouse Gas Emissions (KELA Radio, Centralia, WA)

(KALAMA, WA) -- A draft study of a proposed $2 billion methanol refining project in Kalama says the plant would drive down global greenhouse gas emissions by displacing coal-based methanol sources.

The Longview Daily News says the review released Tuesday by the Port of Kalama and Cowlitz County concludes the plant, which would produce methanol from natural gas, would displace dirtier coal-based methanol sources in China and result in net reductions in carbon emissions. Environmentalists called the report flawed. They say it underestimates methane associated with the project from hydraulic fracturing and makes speculative assumptions about global markets.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Ribbon Cutting for Chehalis’ New Interstate 5 Chamber Way Overpass (KELA Radio, Centralia, WA)

(CHEHALIS, WA) – The Washington State Department of Transportation, local leaders, and members of the business community will celebrate the completion of the new Interstate 5 Chamber Way overpass in Chehalis with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting Thursday afternoon. The ceremony will be at 2 PM in the Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce parking lot and the public is invited to attend. Tamara Greenwell with the Department of Transportation says the new overpass is wider and taller with more highway clearance than the overpass it replaces and has improved sidewalks.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Franklin, Benton PUDs Note Deadlines Set for Washington State Solar Incentive Program (Franklin & Benton PUDs, Tri-Cities, WA)

(Tri-Cities, WA) Deadlines have been set for a popular Washington renewable-energy incentive program that is nearing the maximum funding level and is expected to meet the incentive limit by June 2019.   Although funds may be exhausted at any time, Washington State University has notified utilities that customers installing residential scale solar projects have until February 14, 2019 to apply for the State Incentive Program.  After that date, customers will be put on a waitlist and applications will only be processed if funds are available.  This is due to the overall program nearing the state funding limit of $110 million, not each utility’s specific funding limit.  As of Oct. 17, 2018, around $95 million of the funds had been reserved either through application reviews already underway, existing contracts, or project certification or precertification.  However, there is a strong possibility that funds will be exhausted before the Washington State February 14th deadline.

Smaller projects, with capacities up to 12 kW (residential scale) or greater than 12 kW (commercial scale), must be installed and pass a final electrical inspection by Jan. 31, 2019, and then apply for incentive payments by Feb. 14, 2019. Application submittals or inspections after these dates will be placed on a waitlist and processed only if funds are available.

The two separate procedures and deadlines were established by Washington State University’s Energy Program, which administers the incentive program, to fairly allocate the remaining funding among the project categories.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Carbon Fee Initiative: High Stakes, High Spending in Washington State (Politico)

(Olympia, WA) – One week from today voters in Washington state will decide on a ballot measure that could make their state the first in the nation to require polluters to pay a fee on carbon pollution. But before voters head to the polls, a showdown is unfolding between grass-root environmental activists — who have the backing of billionaires like Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg — and the oil and gas industry that has raised about twice as much to defeat the ballot initiative known as I-1631.

The fee would start at $15 per ton of carbon dioxide in 2020 and increase by $2 per year — plus inflation — until 2035. Seventy percent of the funds raised under the fee would go to pay for "clean air and clean energy" projects, 25 percent for "clean water and forest" projects and 5 percent would help communities adapt to climate change impacts, Pro's Anthony Adragna reports, with estimates suggesting I-1631 could generate $2.3 billion over the first five fiscal years.

Backers of the ballot measure have raised $15.2 million with the help of big-name donors like Gates and Steve Jobs' widow Laurene Powell Jobs, Anthony reports. But they are facing an opposition campaign that has raised nearly $30 million almost entirely from oil and gas companies, including BP America, Phillips 66 and Koch Industries. Opponents say they worry the funds raised by the carbon fee would not be spent effectively but could increase costs for low-income consumers.

One statewide poll from this month put the ballot initiative on course to pass with support of 50 percent of voters versus 36 percent opposed. "We believe strongly that the policy is built to reduce emissions and be effective and that it covers the economy-wide emissions in a reasonable and effective approach," Mike Stevens, state director for the Nature Conservancy, said in an interview. "This is a carefully constructed policy that very carefully evaluated the issues of exemptions and public oversight."

Monday, October 29, 2018

Scientists Declare Annual ‘Dead Zone’ Season Off Pacific Coast (Politico, Morning Energy)

(Washington, DC) – State ecologists on the West Coast say there is a new ‘season,’ akin to wildfire season: The time of year in which falling oxygen levels on the seafloor kill off commercial fishermen’s catches.

"We can now say that Oregon has a hypoxia season much like the wildfire season," Francis Chan, co-chair of a California task force tracking the growing problem known as hypoxia, told NPR on Sunday.

It’s become a regular danger: "Every summer we live on the knife's edge and during many years we cross the threshold into danger – including the past two years," Chan said. "When oxygen levels get low enough, many marine organisms who are place-bound, or cannot move away rapidly enough, die of oxygen starvation."

The presence of warmer water off the U.S. Pacific Coast, attributable to global warming, is causing oxygen levels on the seafloor to disappear, killing off the crabs and other sea creatures that commercial fishermen rely on.

Feds still plugging away on climate under Trump: The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is funding research to help policymakers understand the problem amid rising global temperatures, according to its website.

“Changes in both global and regional climates have the potential to make coastal and marine ecosystems even more vulnerable to hypoxic conditions,” says the agency. NOAA's coastal climate change program is conducting interdisciplinary research to understand the relationship between ecosystem function and climate change, it says.

Monday, October 15, 2018

FERC Nominee Will Have to Wait on His Senate Hearings (Politico, Morning Energy)

(WASHINGTON, DC) – The U-S Senate skipped town Thursday until after the election — leaving FERC nominee Bernard McNamee to wait for his turn before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. McNamee, the Energy Department's policy chief, had been scheduled to testify at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, less than two weeks after President Donald Trump tapped him for the fifth FERC seat. Democrats and consumer watchdogs balked at the speedy timeline for McNamee, a controversial pick thanks to his involvement in the administration's efforts to prop up lagging coal and nuclear power plants. But that hearing is likely to be rescheduled for some time in November now that senators are back to the campaign trail.

McNamee had been scheduled to share the witness table with Rita Baranwal, Trump's pick to lead DOE's nuclear energy office, and National Park Service director nominee Raymond David Vela. Committee aides did not respond to requests for comment Thursday night. It remains to be seen whether this delay prevents McNamee from being confirmed this year, as Republicans would like to see.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Time to Vote on America's Water Infrastructure Act (Politico’s Morning Energy

(WASHINGTON, DC) -- Shortly after a bitterly divided Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled a vote today at 5:30 p.m. for a broad water resources infrastructure package S. 3021 (115) . The bill, America's Water Infrastructure Act, would authorize a slate of new Army Corps of Engineers port, levee and ecosystem restoration projects, and reauthorizes the Safe Drinking Water Act for the first time in two decades. Look for the measure, which passed the House by voice vote, to attract northwards of 85 votes. The leaders of the Environment and Public Works Committee — Sens. John Barrasso and Tom Carper — told ME last week to expect about a day of debate before a final vote.

McConnell also filed cloture on the nomination of Jeffrey Bossert Clark to be assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. That move sets up a likely vote on that nomination later this week. The administration first tapped Clark for the role in June 2017 and a coalition of industry groups urged his confirmation back in June.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The FERC and the Furious: Bernard McNamee Nominated to FERC Board (Politico Morning Energy)

(WASHINGTON, DC) -- President Donald Trump intends to nominate Bernard McNamee, the head of the Energy Department's policy office, to take over Rob Powerlson's seat at FERC, the White House announced Wednesday. McNamee played a crucial role in devising last year's proposed rule to bail out coal and nuclear plants struggling in the nation's power markets, which FERC shot down in January. If confirmed, he would also have a crucial vote on whatever DOE puts forward next. FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre welcomed McNamee's nomination, which would return the commission to full strength. "He is eminently qualified for the job, and I look forward to serving with him," McIntyre wrote on Twitter.

Industry is jittery: In principle, FERC's regulated industries prefer a full slate of commissioners to keep the business of the agency moving, but natural gas, renewable, and some electric power groups have spent months battling the Trump administration's attempts to intervene on behalf of coal and nuclear. "The industry is more than well aware of Bernard McNamee's rumored ties to helping craft the Department of Energy's NOPR, which FERC rejected last year," said one industry source opposed to the bailout. "We look forward to his confirmation hearing to learn more on his views on the role of competitive markets in supporting a level-playing field, and expect members of the Senate Energy Committee to make this a central point in confirming his nomination." Dena Wiggins, who leads the Natural Gas Supply Association, said her industry is "keenly interested in seeing FERC continue its work to support competitive markets as well provide a timely and thorough review of proposed pipeline projects."

Green groups concerned: Both Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council were out with negative reviews of McNamee's nomination. "FERC has a longstanding commitment to fuel-neutral regulation, but Mr. McNamee's past writings and career track record suggest that he would seek every opportunity possible to support fossil fuels," John Moore, director of the Sustainable FERC Project housed within NRDC, said in a statement. "He even went so far as to state in an op-ed (The Hill) that fossil fuels 'dramatically improve' the human condition."

Start the clock: Once the White House officially sends McNamee's paperwork to the Senate, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee can schedule his nomination hearing. The math on the committee works in his favor — there's no obvious reason for Republicans to oppose him, and Sen. Joe Manchin is likely to vote for him too. But, for the moment, McNamee is riding solo when FERC picks typically move in bipartisan packages, leaving the timing around his confirmation uncertain. Democratic Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur's term ends next year, so the White House could roll out a new Democratic nominee (or renominate LaFleur herself) for that spot. Otherwise, McNamee may be waiting a while before he takes his seat at FERC. Oh, and there's an election in a few weeks that could throw a wrench into things, too.

Bonneville Power Administration Completes 35th Consecutive U-S Treasury Payment (Bonneville Power Administration)

(PORTLAND, OR) – The Bonneville Power Administration paid its 35th consecutive U.S. Treasury payment today. This year’s $862 million payment brings BPA’s cumulative payments to the Treasury during those 35 years to over $29.8 billion.

“This is a significant milestone that demonstrates BPA’s ability to meet all of its financial obligations on an ongoing basis, regardless of changing conditions and markets,” said Michelle Manary, BPA executive vice president and chief financial officer. “It’s also important because it provides a full and timely payment for the benefit of U.S. taxpayers.”

The Treasury payment is significant because it’s BPA’s lowest priority payment and is made only after all other financial obligations are paid in the fiscal year. BPA sets its rates to maintain an annual 97.5 percent probability of making this payment.

This year’s payment includes $569 million in principal, $226 million in interest and $27 million for irrigation assistance, which BPA provides to help irrigators repay their share of certain Reclamation projects.

BPA applied $93 million of credits toward this year’s Treasury payment. BPA received most of this credit under a section of the Northwest Power Act as reimbursement for the non-power share of fish and wildlife costs it pays annually.

In addition to the U.S. Treasury payment, BPA paid operations and maintenance expenses for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service projects directly funded by BPA. This direct funding amounted to $421 million in fiscal year 2018.

BPA is a self-financed power marketing administration that receives no annual appropriation funding from Congress. Instead, BPA primarily recovers its costs through revenues from the sale of electric power and transmission services.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Bucking Trends, Findings for Ruralite, Currents, and Florida Currents Show Huge Engagement, Loyalty (Ruralite Services, Hillsboro, OR)

(HILLSBORO, OR) -- A focus on community journalism and other highly relevant content results in exceptionally engaged print readers, an independent survey of Ruralite Services’ readership says. Results of a 2018 readership survey conducted by GfK MRI confirm that readers of Ruralite magazine’s three labels—Ruralite, Currents and Florida Currents—continue to both read and enjoy the monthly publications at rarely seen levels.

More than 84 percent of Ruralite publication readers are highly engaged and spend an average of 30 minutes each month reading stories about neighbors, local businesses and the energy industry. The time spent reading and other engagement metrics were well above those for the most highly rated magazine titles in the country, GfK MRI said.

“The numbers tell a great story,” says Ruralite CEO, Michael Shepard. “Defying all the rumors of print’s decline, our magazines are actually as popular as ever with the readers we serve. Survey results also indicate that while print remains strong, digital is gaining strength.”

The survey was designed to profile readers of Ruralite, Currents and Florida Currents magazines by looking closely at lifestyle data, demographic characteristics and measure use of consumer products and services. Ruralite Services’ editorial team will use the survey results to guide a long-anticipated redesign and new content refresh of all three magazines.

“Our challenge will be to take a good thing and make it even better,” said Ruralite Publications Editor Leon Espinoza. “Readers, for instance, expressed high interest in gardening and organic foods. Our job, how do we tap those passions and put them on the printed page.

“One neat find is that views about the quality hold strongly across states and regions, from the far reaches of Alaska to the Florida Keys. Based on the data, Florida Currents readers like what they are seeing just as much as readers of Ruralite and Currents magazines.”

Ruralite Services distributes 440,000 magazines for public power utilities and associations across nine states, reaching over a million readers each month. A four-page questionnaire was mailed to a random sample of Ruralite readers starting in April 2018. A total of 539 completed surveys were tabulated to form the results.

“In today’s extraordinarily time-pressured environment, the decision to engage with a print magazine is a definitive choice in terms of how a reader wants to invest their time,” according to Head of Custom Research Paul Sammon with GfK MRI.  “Two elements particularly stood out in the results: time spent reading and reader loyalty.  A Ruralite publications reader’s choice to sit and enjoy the magazine for a full 30 minutes is a testament to engaging content.  That a full 77 percent of all magazine readers read each and every issue is a testament to their powerful bond with the magazine."

“The survey shows our magazines offer a unique opportunity to keep connecting with readers,” says Espinoza. “There is so much to tap, from lifestyle and new technology content to focusing on locally grown food and associated recipes.”

From a demographic perspective, Ruralite publication readers typically are well-educated, are pet owners, own their own home, and are active home improvers and remodelers.

A considerable majority of readers agree the magazine(s) contain relevant information, articles are informative, and the content can easily be shared with others.


About Ruralite Services

Ruralite Services is a full-service communications cooperative serving electric utilities across the U.S. Since 1954 we have been a trusted solutions partner—now in 20 states—we offer customizable printed and digital magazines, and much more. From building websites and providing social media support to offering design, print and delivery of special reports, calendars, directories, bill inserts, ballots and posters. For us, success is when your member customers give your cooperative or utility all the credit for materials we helped create.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The New Energy Water Bill Deal (Politico Morning Energy)

(WASHINGTON, DC) -- Conference negotiators unveiled details of a final deal reached for the first "minibus" package, H.R. 5895 (115) that will come up for a vote later this week. The three-bill package that includes the Energy-Water title is expected to easily clear both chambers and reach the president's desk before the Sept. 30 deadline, Pro's Sarah Ferris reports . Lawmakers are expected to vote on the measure when they return Wednesday, although Hurricane Florence could affect that timing.

So, what's inside the roughly $147 billion measure? Negotiators rejected some of Trump's cuts and agreed to boost funding for nuclear security efforts and energy research. The Energy-Water portion of the bill contains $44.6 billion — $1.4 billion above current levels and $8.1 billion above the president's budget request, Sarah reports. Democrats mostly fought off partisan policy provisions that House Republicans had put forth, such as allowing firearms to be used on Army Corps of Engineers lands.

Specifically, Pro's Annie Snider reports, negotiators blocked GOP efforts to overturn a court decision requiring hydropower dams to be operated for the benefit of endangered salmon, but they also denied immediate funding for green groups' ultimate goal of removing the dams. Elsewhere in the bill, Congress avoided Trump's call to nix the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program and instead gave the popular program $366 million, $12.7 million more than it got fiscal 2018, Pro's Darius Dixon reports . The bill's conference report does not include funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project yet again, which House Republicans have been pushing. Read the Energy-Water summary and the one-pager.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Washington State’s Crystal Mountain Ski Resort is Being Sold (KELA Radio, Centralia, WA)

(CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN, WA) -- A fast-growing ski resort company is planning to purchase Washington State’s largest ski resort.

The Seattle Times reports Denver-based Alterra Mountain Company announced plans Thursday to acquire Crystal Mountain Resort, located about 80 miles southeast of Seattle.The company says the sale is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.

The company currently owns 13 resorts in the U.S. and Canada. Crystal Mountain is expected to be added to the company’s resort network for the upcoming ski season.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Bonneville Power Administration Selects Michelle Manary as New Chief Financial Officer (Bonneville Power Administration)

(PORTLAND, OR) -- The Bonneville Power Administration has appointed Michelle Manary as executive vice president and chief financial officer starting Sept. 30. As CFO, she will oversee the capital and debt management program, accounting, cash management and budgeting for BPA’s $4.3 billion total budget.

Manary is currently the vice president of Transmission Marketing and Sales, a position she has held since 2015.

“I am very excited to appoint Michelle as BPA’s next CFO,” said BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer. “She is a dynamic, creative and highly engaged leader who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our Finance organization. Michelle’s 20 years of experience across BPA’s Power, Transmission and Corporate organizations will be invaluable as we build on the momentum we have gained this year in strengthening our financial health.”

Manary started at BPA in 1998 as a financial analyst in Power Services where she led the development of a spending review, which is comparable to BPA’s current Integrated Program Review process. She became the manager of the Power finance group, ensuring spending targets were met for Power capital and expense. Manary went on to hold additional management positions in Transmission, Corporate Strategy and Power before landing in her current role.

“I am looking forward to joining Finance and partnering with organizations across BPA to dive into the implementation of the agency strategic and financial plans,” said Manary. 

Before coming to BPA, Manary served as CFO at More Housing USA in Tacoma, Washington. Manary has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, and a master’s degree in business administration and public administration from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

Acting CFO Mary Hawken, who had announced her intent to retire, will return to her previous role as the deputy CFO and stay on through December to help with the transition. Hawken has been a valuable member of the Finance team for 32 years, working her way up to the top post from her first role as a student trainee. 

“This year we have advanced a lot of commitments outlined in the financial and strategic plans, and I’m looking forward to working with Michelle and helping to integrate our strategy into our everyday work before I leave,” Hawken said. “But I am also looking forward to traveling more and expanding my volunteer time.”

“I would like to thank Mary Hawken for her tremendous service as acting CFO and am pleased that Mary and Michelle will be able to work closely together during the transition,” said Mainzer

Tina Ko, the current acting deputy chief operating officer, will take over as acting vice president of Transmission Marketing and Sales until a formal announcement and selection take place.

BPA is a federal agency that markets wholesale electrical power from 31 federal hydroelectric projects in the Northwest and one nonfederal nuclear plant providing about 28 percent of the electric power used in the Northwest. BPA also operates and maintains about three-fourths of the high-voltage transmission in its service territory, which includes Idaho, Oregon, Washington, western Montana and small parts of eastern Montana, California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. BPA also funds regional efforts to protect and rebuild fish and wildlife populations affected by hydropower development in the Northwest.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Senator Murkowski: FERC Nominee Should Go Litmus Test-Free (Politicos’ Morning Energy)

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Senate Energy Chairman Lisa Murkowski wouldn't comment on POLITICO's report that DOE's Bernard McNamee will be nominated to FERC.

The Alaska Republican said she believes that the next nominee shouldn't face a litmus test over their view of the Trump administration's efforts to prop up coal and nuclear power plants, "I worry that this is going to be viewed as, 'If you don't commit to voting against or voting for, then you're not going to have my support,'" Murkowski said. "That's not the way that we should be selecting commissioners for the FERC."

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Money Flows for Washington State Carbon Fee Ballot Measure (KELA Radio, Centralia, WA)

(CENTRALIA, WA) -- More than $4.5 million already has been raised by supporters and opponents of a proposed carbon fee that the Washington Secretary of State’s office has certified for the November ballot.

The Seattle Times reports State Public Disclosure Commission records show proponents have brought in more than $2.7 million as of Monday, while opponents have raised $1.7 million.

The initiative by the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy would create an escalating state carbon “fee” on most fossil-fuels emission, and invest the revenue in clean energy, clean water, forests and other projects. The ballot measure’s carbon fee would start at $15 a metric ton of carbon, which would add an estimated 14 cents to the cost of a gallon of gasoline. The fee would rise annually by $2 per ton of carbon emission, plus the rate of inflation.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

RiverFest 2018 - Our Rivers, Our Way of Life (Pasco Chamber of Commerce, WA)

A festival showcasing all the benefits of the rivers and the hydrosystem

(Tri-Cities, Washington) Local utilities – Franklin PUD, Benton PUD, Benton REA and City of Richland Energy Services - have joined businesses, community organizations and people of all walks of life throughout the region to host RiverFest 2018.  RiverFest 2018, a fun and educational family event, will feature exhibitors, vendors and entertainment to showcase all the benefits of the Federal Columbia River Power System and highlight the four lower Snake River dams including navigation, irrigation, recreation and power.

“RiverFest 2018 will help raise awareness about the overall hydrosystem, specifically the Snake River dams that are vital to our economy,” said Colin Hastings, chairman of RiverFest 2018 and CEO of the Pasco Chamber of Commerce.

RiverFest will be held Saturday, September 8, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at east end of Columbia Park in Kennewick, Washington.  Over the years there has been a continued movement to have the four Snake River dams removed. At the same time, billions of dollars have been invested in the dams to mitigate the impacts to fish. This has increased downstream salmon migration survival rates to 1960 levels, before the Snake River dams were constructed.

The dams are valuable components of the Northwest’s clean, carbon-free, low-cost hydropower that thousands of jobs rely upon. Dam removal would kill jobs, take away clean, renewable power, eliminate river navigation, impair the environment, and hurt agriculture - and there is no scientific proof that removing the dams would actually help salmon recovery.

Save the date and plan on attending with your family and friends.  Contact the Pasco Chamber of Commerce (509) 547-9755 for more information regarding sponsorships, exhibitors, and vendor opportunities.

Raising Eyebrows in Alaska – A Carbon Tax? (Politico, Morning Energy)

(JUNEAU, AK) – Alaska's climate task force wants the oil-rich state to look into instituting a carbon tax, with revenues directed to a green bank and to offset some costs to consumers and companies.

The idea is part of a draft action plan posted by the group, led by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, ahead of its meeting Thursday. It also suggests consideration of whether to endorse any national fee and dividend legislation.

The task force said its plan is not a consensus document but is meant to offer a "suite of options" to inform agency efforts. Alaska's Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to approve a carbon tax.

Mallott, a Democrat, and Gov. Bill Walker, who was previously a Republican and is now independent, ran together on a unity ticket in 2014; they are up for reelection in a close race this year after Walker reduced annual oil checks to residents.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Franklin PUD Places Moratorium on New High Density Load Applications (Franklin PUD, Pasco, WA)

(PASCO, WA) – Franklin PUD stopped processing applications, effective immediately, to provide electric service for those needing high density loads (HDL).  At its regularly scheduled Commission meeting on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 the Board of Commissioners unanimously imposed the application moratorium to give staff time to review impacts on utility operations and the impacts of providing future services for HDLs. 

High density loads are energy-intensive and place large demands on the electric system.  To date, Franklin PUD has not experienced an influx in these types of service requests, and the potential impact to the District’s electric system from servicing HDLs is uncertain at this time.  However, because of the energy use required for HDLs, demands on the electric system, safety of the system, and other uncertainties, the Commission adopted the moratorium on accepting any new or altered electric service applications for HDLs, effective immediately. The moratorium will not apply to existing approved applications that have paid all applicable fees.

High density loads have impacts on an electric system that are different from typical residential and commercial customers.  Because of this, Franklin PUD must ensure that distribution facilities are adequate to alleviate any potential safety and reliability risk for Franklin PUD and its customers.

By approving the moratorium, this will allow staff time to evaluate a proper rate structure, cost recovery, electric system assessment, safety and reliability impacts, as well as the business stability of HDLs.  Franklin PUD staff will bring the findings of this research to a later Commission meeting.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Getting the Bandwidth Back Together – Utility Needs for Radio Frequencies (Politico’s Morning Energy)

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Board members of the Utilities Technology Council are swarming Capitol Hill today to press an energy issue flying far below the Beltway radar: the energy needs for radio frequency spectrum. That bandwidth is particularly crucial during grid outages when crews need to coordinate restoration and is expected to become an increasingly stressful subject as more wireless smart meters and sensors are added to the electric grid. The FCC has primary jurisdiction on how portions of spectrum are doled out, and according to UTC CEO Joy Ditto, the agency hasn't been sympathetic to the communication needs of utilities and other power generators.

"They don't really differentiate between us and Joe's pizza place down the street," she told ME. "That's not the way the rest of the government perceives us," she said, given the emphasis the White House and the departments of Energy and Homeland Security have put on protecting critical infrastructure like the electric grid. "Yet, when it comes to this crucial component of our communications systems, we're not treated any differently than anyone else." Federal utilities like the Energy Department's power marketing administrations and the Tennessee Valley Authority are given some priority.

One of the industry's big concerns isn't so much that wireless interference will trigger an emergency so much as it could make some of those fancy sensors designed to keep the system operating reliably from sending data at critical times. "You're lacking situational awareness, so if you're lacking something on your system you may not see it," she said. So, during the 30-40 meetings the trade group has lined up with congressional offices, their critical request is that FERC and the FCC talk more often, pursue a memorandum of understanding between the two regulators, and perhaps set up joint technical conferences, Ditto said.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Man Seriously Injured In Fall at Mossyrock Dam in Lewis County (KELA Radio, Centralia, WA)

(MOSSYROCK, WA) – A man who reportedly fell 50 feet at Mossyrock Dam early Saturday morning was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with serious injuries.

According to the Lewis County 911 Center, the first 911 call came in at 5:36 AM reporting an incident at Mossyrock Dam and a person suffering fractures. The Chronicle reports at 5:50 AM the Lewis County Tactical Rescue Team was dispatched to the site. The Chehalis Fire Department is the lead agency for the team.

Chehalis Fire Chief Ken Cardinale reported team members used a rope rescue system to rescue the victim, who reportedly had multiple broken bones.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Yucca Mountain – We Do Need an Education (Politico, Morning Energy)

(TONOPAH, NV) – GOP Rep. John Shimkus will educate another dozen lawmakers on the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository this weekend via a field trip to the Nevada site. He told ME "the purpose of the visit is to walk the grounds and get an appreciation of the site" and that most of the lawmakers coming along have never been. Shimkus said he expected Mark Menezes, undersecretary of Energy, to participate along with other DOE officials.

Attendees include: Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg WaldenJoe BartonLarry BucshonJeff DuncanNeal DunnBrett GuthrieDoug LaMalfaMark SanfordDavid Valadao and Steve WomackDonald Norcrossis the lone Democrat on the trip.

Shimkus invited two Nevada Democrats — Reps. Jacky Rosen and Dina Titus — to participate in the visit after another, Rep. Ruben Kihuen, was unable to make his schedule work. "Unfortunately, his schedule will no longer enable him to tour the facility located in his congressional district," Shimkus wrote in a letter to Titus. She told ME in a statement that she has visited the site before. Rosen slammed Shimkus' visit as "an obvious political stunt" and vowed not to participate. "I am not interested in giving legitimacy to his taxpayer-funded junket," Rosen said in a statement to ME. Kihuen's office did not respond to a request for comment.

A local group opposed to the project, the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, wanted to attend but Shimkus said "logistical issues" prevent its participation.

The approps fight: Shimkus said he expects the issue to be a live one as the House and Senate work out differences between their versions of the "minibus" that includes the energy and water title. The House's bill included $267.7 million for the project, while the Senate's didn't offer a penny. But Shimkus said House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen and Rep. Mike Simpson, who leads the subcommittee responsible for the title, would fight for the Yucca funding. "They're supportive of our mark," Shimkus said.

Simpson added there was "nothing sinister" in the postponement of the conference committee's first scheduled meeting on the minibus Thursday and said that wrapping up negotiations by August is still "our goal." "But it doesn't have to be before August. Obviously, we have until Oct. 1. We'd like to get it done as soon as possible, but there are some issues in all parts of it," he said. More on the battle over Veterans funding that spurred the 11th-hour postponement here.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

U-S House Votes to Shed Limits on Commercial & Sport Fishing (Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy)

(WASHINGTON, DC) – The House voted to open up U.S. fisheries to more commercial and sport fishing on Wednesday.

The House passed the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act by a 222-193 vote.

Eliminates ‘unscientific’ conservation limits: The bill would open up U.S. coastal waters to more fishing by reducing "unscientific" conservation limits and quotas on the amount of fish caught annually.

The bill "eliminates unscientific timeframes to rebuild fish stocks," which "unnecessarily restrict access to fisheries," according to a summary of the bill.

Reauthorizes the fisheries law: The bill introduced by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, reauthorizes, while modernizing, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in U.S. federal waters.

The bill provides greater regional flexibility, tailored management practices, and improved data collection for all U.S. federal fisheries off the coasts of most ocean-adjoining states.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Northwest Public Power Association Announces 2018-2019 Board Officers (Northwest Public Power Association)

(VANCOUVER, WA) – The Northwest Public Power Association (NWPPA) Board of Trustees has named Scott Egbert of Wells Rural Electric Association (Wells, Nev.) as the 2018-2019 NWPPA Board of Trustees president; Egbert will succeed Idaho Falls Power’s Jackie Flowers, who accepted the position of director of utilities at Tacoma Utilities. Egbert’s term as board president begins on July 21.

The board also announced the following officers:
  • First Vice President Ron Holmes of Wasco Electric Cooperative (The Dalles, Ore.)
  • Second Vice President Brad Janorschke of Homer Electric Association (Homer, Alaska)
  • Secretary/Treasurer Michelle Bertolino of Roseville Electric Utility (Roseville, Calif.)
  • Immediate Past President Steven Taylor of Mason County PUD No. 1 (Shelton, Wash.)
About NWPPA: The Northwest Public Power Association is an international association representing and serving over 150 customer-owned, locally controlled utilities in the Western U.S. and Canada. The Association also serves approximately 300 associate members across the U.S. and Canada who are allied with the electric utility industry. For more information, visit: www.nwppa.orgwww.facebook.com/NWPPAssoc, or www.Twitter.com/NWPPAssoc.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Governor Bullock, Bonneville Power Administration Release Report on Montana’s Positive Outlook for Renewable Energy (Office of the Governor, State of Montana)

(HELENA, MT) – Governor Steve Bullock and the Bonneville Power Administration today released the Montana Renewables Development Action Plan, which identifies specific actions intended to promote the further development of renewable energy projects in Montana and improve the ability of West Coast markets to access that energy.

“We brought together stakeholders from diverse interests to seek common understanding on very complex issues – and to find solutions that work,” said Governor Bullock. “With this effort, we’re boosting the opportunities for more energy development in Montana and making Montana wind more attractive for West Coast buyers, all to create good-paying jobs and economic opportunity for Montanans.”

The report supports the conclusion that Montana has an opportunity to play a significant role in energy markets by growing its renewable resource base. The state currently has more than 700 megawatts of installed wind capacity, with the potential to develop significantly more wind resources. Even more encouraging is the report’s finding that there is existing capacity to transmit that power to the Northwest.

“It was a pleasure to work with Governor Bullock and many other partners from across the region during this process,” said Elliot Mainzer, BPA Administrator. “Through collaboration, hard work and a little bit of active listening, we identified existing short-term opportunities and some longer-term priorities that should enable the additional development of renewable energy in Montana to complement existing hydropower and other renewable generation across the Pacific Northwest. I am excited and committed to working with the other participants in this process to deliver on the plan's recommendations.”

Efforts to compile the report began several months ago when Mainzer and Bullock invited a diverse group of stakeholders to take a collaborative look at renewable energy challenges and opportunities in Montana. The group, which included public and private utilities, regulators, advocates, and renewable resource developers, focused their efforts on producing a sustainable long-term strategy to develop new renewable energy resources in Montana. The work addressed issues including commercial needs, policies, planning and operational issues. This inclusive approach to collaboration and problem-solving allowed the group to identify solutions that satisfy the region’s needs.

“We’ve always known that Montana had the most energetic wind resource in the region. This collaborative process reveals that existing transmission — with modest investments — can deliver considerable amounts of renewable energy to West Coast utilities,” said Rachel Shimshak, executive director of Renewable Northwest and a member of the Task Force Steering Committee. “This is great news for customers, the environment, and Montana’s rural economic vitality. Washington and Oregon utilities should be confident that they can cost-effectively deliver Montana wind to their customers."

The Action Plan identifies 18 actions that, if taken, would remove barriers to the development and export of Montana renewable resources. Highlighted actions include:

  • Broad recognition and agreement that the Colstrip transmission network is not only important to local Northwestern Energy needs, but vital to future renewable energy development in Eastern Montana. The Colstrip owners and BPA have committed to reviewing the agreements that govern the delivery of Colstrip power and to look at modernizing them to address today’s energy challenges and opportunities.
  • There is a considerable amount of transmission capacity available now to move renewable energy out of Montana, and over time and with a few relatively cost-effective actions, that available capacity is expected to grow significantly as Colstrip units 1 and 2 retire.
  • Many believed that technical limitations of the transmission system would significantly limit the opportunity for Montana renewables to move to west coast markets. The report and underlying analyses shows that these concerns are not significant barriers.

BPA has committed to track progress on the action items and file progress reports with committee members and interested parties.

The Action Plan marks another step in Governor Bullock’s Energy Blueprint to determine the state’s energy future through a balanced and responsible plan with all sectors of the energy industry. Through the blueprint, Governor Bullock has committed to working with the Colstrip community to ensure they remain a viable part of the energy future, in addition to developing potential for wind and solar power and harnessing new technology for carbon capture. Since the release of the blueprint in 2016, Montana has quadrupled its solar production.  

The Montana Renewables Development Action Plan can be found here: www.bpa.gov/goto/MontanaRenewablesDevelopmentActionPlan

Bear Prairie Appointed General Manager of Idaho Falls Power (City of Idaho Falls, ID)

(IDAHO FALLS, ID)  -- The Idaho Falls City Council voted unanimously to appoint Bear Prairie as the new General Manager of Idaho Falls Power during the June 28th city council meeting.

Prairie has worked for Idaho Falls Power since 2010 where he has served as the Assistant General Manager. With more than 20 years of experience in the energy industry, Prairie started his career in energy at the Idaho Power Company in Boise.  He has extensive experience and expertise in commodity trading and management of a broad range of energy products.

“As I examined the range available options for filling the vacancy, a few things quickly became clear to me,” said Mayor Rebecca Casper.  “First and perhaps foremost, in his role as Assistant General Manager for IFP, Mr. Prairie has been professionally prepared to step in and lead the utility. He is eminently qualified to lead any energy utility in the county and we are very fortunate that he has chosen to continue his career here with us.”

In his role as Assistant General Manager, Prairie helped manage the daily operation of Idaho Falls Power’s four hydroelectric dams, 450 miles of distribution lines and service to over 28,000 customers including a fiber optic communication business.  He was also responsible for the utility’s long rage power supply planning, power operations, resource development and risk management.

“I am excited for the opportunity to work with City leadership and the community to continue Idaho Falls Power’s legacy of delivering reliable and cost effective services to our City,” said Prairie.  “Surrounded by the dedicated staff that works through all conditions to serve our customers, I see many bright days ahead.”

With his appointment, Prairie, who will make an annual salary of $225,000, will take over control of Idaho Falls Power from current General Manger, Jackie Flowers, who is departing to assume leadership of Tacoma Public Utilities in Washington.  Her last day with Idaho Falls Power will be July 20, 2018.

“I am humbled to be chosen to fill Jackie’s shoes. She has provided great leadership to the team and vision to the utility,” Prairie said.  “I plan to continue to listen to the community, as she did, so we are well positioned to continue delivering services.”