Hundreds testify for clean energy and salmon provisions in 7th Northwest Power and Conservation Plan


Five NW Power and Conservation Council members (left to right: Phil Rockefeller, Henry Lorenzen, Bill Bradbury, Pat Smith & Tom Karier) listen to public testimony in front of a crowd at the Portland hearing.

A series of eight public hearings on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s draft 7th Plan drew hundreds of clean energy, climate and endangered salmon advocates expressing support for the Council’s embrace of energy efficiency to meet virtually all new power demands through the plan’s 20-year horizon.

But almost all of those testifying urged stronger provisions on salmon restoration, climate and replacing coal plants with new renewable energy – including distributed generation such as home-sited solar – rather than more natural gas.

Here’s a hearings recap. Thanks to Marc Heileson and Casey Matoon of the Sierra Club, Kyla Maki of the Montana Environmental Information Center, Tom Stuart of Idaho Rivers United, Ken Miller of the Snake River Alliance for helping to compile these reports. Thanks also to their organizations and the other Coalition member groups and allies who’ve been crucial in generating turnout and testimony at these critical events.

The public hearings kicked off Nov. 9 in Kalispell, Mont. About 40 people attended; 15 spoke. Clean energy activists focused on the positive energy efficiency messages and pointed out weaknesses on renewables and fish. Representatives of the Lincoln and host Flathead electric coops generally sought more flexibility with efficiency targets.
Montana’s Pat Smith was the only Council member present (the state’s other Council member, Jennifer Anders, was ill). Smith received kudos for urging more inclusion of low-income families in energy efficiency programs.


About 85 people attended the next night’s hearing in Missoula, all but a few there to support more energy efficiency, renewable energy and demand response (programs providing incentives to customers who shift power use away from times of high demand). Seventeen people testified in favor of clean energy, with one utility official arguing against additional energy efficiency mandates.

Again, Pat Smith was the only Council member attending.

About 30 people plus Council staff attended the Nov. 12 hearing in Spokane, Wash. More than half of them testified: 13 spoke up for renewable energy, energy efficiency, ending coal and gas generation, and dam removal. Also appearing were a climate change-denier; a board member of the Kootenai (Idaho) Electric Coop, who warned about cycling natural gas prices; and a representative of the City of Cheney who addressed small utility challenges with efficiency standards.


Sierra Club's Jace Bylenga testifies in Spokane.

Sierra Club’s Jace Bylenga testifies in Spokane.

Many of the clean energy supporters
were there through the efforts of the Sierra Club’s Jace Bylenga and Save Our wild Salmon’s Sam Mace, both of whom testified. Speakers included Pat Keegan of Collaborative Efficiency, who’s working on the issue of helping coops and other small utilities achieve more conservation.

Council members Tom Karier and Phil Rockefeller of Washington and Bill Booth of Idaho were present.


About 20 people attended the next night’s hearing in Pasco, Wash. Six people testified, including representatives of the Benton PUD and Energy Northwest; a fossil-fuel/nuclear opposed to regulations, especially on climate emissions; a low-income advocate from a local community action agency; and Marc Krasnowsky of the NW Energy Coalition, who challenged the Council and its staff to address shortcomings on renewable energy and the energy costs related to salmon recover.
Washington Council members Karier and Rockefeller were joined by Oregon Council member Bill Bradbury at the hearing.


We had another big turnout in Boise on Nov. 19. More than 70 people attended and nearly half testified. The overwhelming majority spoke in favor of the strong energy efficiency provisions and expressed concerns about climate change and fish.
Sierra Club activist Edwina Allen speaks at Boise hearing: photo by Justin Hayes of ICL.

Sierra Club activist Edwina Allen speaks at Boise hearing: photo by Justin Hayes of ICL.

Speakers included former Save Our wild Salmon director Pat Ford, fisheries biologist Bert Bowler, Idaho Rivers United’s Kevin Lewis and Tom Stuart, Justin Hayes of the Idaho Conservation League, and Sierra Club’s Edwina Allen (who received the Coalition’s Doug Still Memorial Community Organizing Award at our Dec. 3 Awards Gala).

A few utility officials asked the Council to replace its strong energy efficiency goal with a target range – a change that clean energy forces must rebuff going forward.


Idaho Conservation League’s Ben Otto, Sierra Club’s Zack Waterman, Ken Miller of the Snake River Alliance and the IRU leaders played crucial roles in generating turnout and preparing activists to testify.


Idaho Council member Jim Yost was present.


On the same night, the Seattle-area hearing brought the first two weeks’ events to a close. About 60 people trekked out to Sea-Tac’s airport Hilton Hotel; 34 testified, every one of them lauding the draft plan’s focus on energy efficiency and demand response but collectively pushing for strong climate action, including faster coal phase-outs and less rather than more reliance on natural gas, much more development of renewable energy and attention to the plight of Columbia Basin wild salmon species that the hydropower system — particularly the four lower Snake River dams in eastern Washington — has pushed to brink of extinction.


Joseph Bogaard of Save Our  wild Salmon calls for analysis of dam removal at Sea-Tac hearing.

Joseph Bogaard of Save Our
wild Salmon calls for analysis of dam removal at Sea-Tac hearing.

Sierra Club activists were out in force, along with Save Our wild Salmon supporters, Washington Environmental Council leaders, communities of color spokespersons and members of the faith community. Seattle City Light power management director Wayne Morter spoke in favor of using existing gas plants more but against building new ones. Renewable Northwest’s Kelly Hall highlighted errors in the Council’s analysis of higher renewable portfolio standards, with Climate Solutions’ Elizabeth Willmott noting the modeling flaws the led the Council to dis new renewables beyond existing state standards.
Northwest SEED’s Jaimes Valdez, who was a 4 Under Forty clean energy leaders honoree at the Coalition’s Dec. 3 Awards Gala, urged the Council to consider the benefits of a more customer-focused system that recognizes the increased resiliency that comes with distributed renewable energy resources. SOS executive director Joseph Bogaard assured the Council that our region can have both clean energy and abundant wild salmon, and cited the Coalition’s recent study on the affordability of replacing the power of the lower Snake River dams.
Coalition executive director Nancy Hirshspoke for the Coalition, hitting all the points noted above and warning against replacing the draft plan’s 4,500-average-megawatt energy efficiency target with a target range. Sierra Club’s Doug Howell pressed the point, casting the range concept as an invitation to gaming the system.

Washington Council members Karier and Rockefeller attended the session.



Events in Portland on Dec. 15 and Eugene the next night concluded the public hearings.

About 70 people attending the Portland hearing, and about 20 testified. Much of the testimony focused on climate change issues, including damage to human health. Many speakers called for moving the region beyond coal and gas.


Groups of four sat in front of the Council to testify on the draft 7th Plan in Portland. Coalition policy director Wendy Gertlitz sits on the far right.

Cameron Yourkowski of Renewable Northwest asked the Council to do a low-carbon grid study to evaluate how renewables can meet system-wide capacity and energy needs. Coalition policy director Wendy Gerlitz criticized the Council’s analysis of a 35% renewable portfolio scenario, which simply overlays new renewables on top of increased gas-fired generation, needlessly boosting costs and continuing greenhouse gas emissions.
Michael Dean of the Public Power Council argued for a range on energy efficiency to give utilities greater flexibility. Gerlitz responded that the Council has historically and consistently underestimated energy efficiency savings in regional power plans.Eugene ending the hearing process. The window for written public comments closed on Dec. 18. The Council has tentatively scheduled approval of the final 7th Plan for its February 2016 meeting.

To view Council transcripts of the hearings, go here.