Isn't it Weird That … Green Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee is likely to sign a bill sponsored by conservative Republican Sens. John Braun (R-20, Centralia) and Doug Ericksen (R-42, Ferndale) that would allow coal to count as renewable energy.
The bill amends voter-approved I-937, a 2006 measure Inslee stumped for that requires utilities to generate 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020, with milestones along the way. The original law came with an out clause: A utility can be counted as in compliance with the measure if it has not increased its annual energy output over a three-year average; if it invests one percent of its revenues in renewables; and if it hasn't bought or renewed contracts for any non-renewable sources since 2006.
The bill that's sitting on Inslee's desk tweaks the out clause by making an exception for coal-based energy that utilities buy from TransAlta's Centralia plant; (the legislature passed a bill two years ago mandating that the plant phase out coal by 2025—Braun's bill is an effort to ease the transition by encouraging coal purchases.)
Some Democrats, including Seattle liberal Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46, N. Seattle) and green Rep. Dave Upthgrove (D-33, Des Moines) supported the bill (Upthegrove, in fact, sponsored the house version) because they believe it's a good faith measure to help TransAlta and the Centralia community, which came to a compromise to phase out the coal-fired plant, a major local employer. (The deal required TransAlta to pay into a fund to help the community and this bill would help support that fund by making coal power attractive.)
However, lots of environmentalists—including Sens. Andy Billig (D-3, Spokane), David Frockt (D-46, N. Seattle), Nick Harper (D-38, Everett), Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36, Ballard) Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill), and green bellwether Sharon Nelson (D-34, Sharon Nelson)—voted against the bill. On the house side, the "No" votes included staunch greens such as Reps. Hans Dunshee (D-44, Snohomish), Jessyn Farrell (D-46, N. Seattle), Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, Burein), and Marko Liias (D-21, Mukilteo).
The environmental lobby didn't oppose the bill because they believe the change will only allow utilities to swap non-renewable sources for the TransAlta coal power. But that reasoning is based solely on one utility, the Clark County Public Utility; stakeholders believe the utility is planning to swap out gas power for some coal power because the gas power they currently buy has spiked in price.
Okay. But there's nothing in the bill to prevent utilities from swapping out renewable power for cheaper coal power too.
We've asked both Inslee and his staff about the bill and while Inslee told us "I have to read it," his staff told us they "are not aware of any problems or issues with the bill" and they "expect the governor to sign it."
Isn't It Weird That ... Despite the seeming implosion of the NBA arena deal (two days ago, a committee of NBA owners voted unanimously to bar the Sacramento Kings from moving to Seattle, and the full board of governors is expected to affirm that vote later this month), KeyArena still has to ask ArenaCo investor Chris Hansen for permission to hold events on NBA game days?
Under the city's agreement with Hansen, Seattle's new NBA team would play at KeyArena for two years, starting this summer, while the new arena was being built. Although there won't be a new team this summer, Seattle Center spokeswoman Deborah Daoust confirms, the Center is still holding 84 dates for potential NBA games in 2013, a number that will go down by half when the NBA announces its schedule in July. A separate, existing agreement between the city and Hansen requires KeyArena to set NBA game days aside as "hold dates."
Daoust says Seattle Center has not had to turn away any events at KeyArena, whose last year was its most profitable since the Sonics left in 2008.
The future of KeyArena came up during today's city council finance committee meeting, where council members were scheduled to discuss a proposed deal with Hansen on KeyArena, which called for Hansen to spend $3 million for permanent improvements to the arena, and to guarantee at least $2 million in use fees every year.
Those guarantees, of course, go out the window if Hansen doesn't secure a team—an obvious fact that prompted city council member Sally Bagshaw to declare herself "bamboozled" (her colleague Sally Clark pointed out that she probably meant "baffled") about why the council was still discussing the arena deal.
"I simply do not understand what we are being presented with here today," Bagshaw said, referring to the proposed agreement with Hansen. Clark explained that the presentation was meant to give council members "an outline of what would be discussed" if Seattle ultimately gets a team.