March 2024 Newsletter – Legislative recaps, Conference panelists, and transmission planning 


Keynote speaker and panelists at our Clean & Affordable Energy Conference! 

We’re excited to announce our keynote speaker and panelists at our upcoming Clean & Affordable Energy Conference on May 7 in Boise. We hope to see you there! 

Keynote speaker: Shannon Wheeler, Chairman, Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee 

Shannon F. Wheeler, notable for his leadership within the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee since 2016 and as the Executive Producer of “Covenant of the Salmon People,” stands at the forefront of advocacy for the Nez Perce Tribe. This 60-minute documentary highlights the Tribe’s ancient vow to protect the Chinook salmon, vital to their culture and sustenance, now threatened by dam-induced river changes and climate impacts. Wheeler’s journey from a young entrepreneur to a pivotal Tribal leader underscores his commitment to economic development, natural resource management, and cultural preservation. Facing the critical challenge of salmon extinction, the documentary raises urgent questions about the Federal Government’s role in dam breaching to save this cornerstone species, reflecting Wheeler’s deep dedication to his heritage and the environmental stewardship of the Nez Perce Tribe. 

We’re also looking forward to hearing from panelists in our three panel discussions: 

Panel 1: Affordable, reliable energy services and Columbia basin salmon recovery 

  • Shannon Wheeler, Chairman, Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee 
  • Anna Lising, Senior Climate Advisor, WA State Office of the Governor 
  • Jeremiah Baumann, Senior Advisor, Director of Policy and Implementation, Office of the Secretary, USDOE 

Panel 2: Ensuring electricity markets and transmission expansion benefits Northwest communities 

  • Kyle Unruh, Montana & Idaho Policy Manager, Renewable Northwest 
  • Crystal Ball, Executive Director, Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee
  • Donald Williams, Principal, From the Light Consulting 
  • Connor Reiten, Vice President of Government Affairs, PNGC Power 

Panel 3: Protecting consumers and communities as the region decarbonizes 

  • Courtney White, Managing Director, Clean Energy Opportunities of Idaho 
  • Lara Ettenson, Strategist, Western Equitable Infrastructure Solutions, Natural Resource Defense Council 
  • Brad Heusinkveld, Energy Policy Associate, Idaho Conservation League 
  • Anahí Segovia Rodriguez, Energy Justice Coordinator, Verde

In the States, on the Ground


Washington’s “short” session ended on March 7. Despite the abbreviated timeline, a flurry of bills created a busy year for advocates and legislators in Olympia.   

This year, the Coalition focused its advocacy on decarbonizing the energy sector, implementing the new Transportation Electrification Strategy, and solar consumer protections. Some wins included: 

  • Supporting Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) implementation of state climate policies through robust planning, decarbonization programs, and regulatory tools to support clean energy development. (HB 1589) 
  • Funding from the Climate Commitment Act to speed the transition to all-electric school buses, starting with the communities most impacted by air pollution and with the oldest, most polluting diesel buses (HB 1368) 
  • Strengthening distributed solar industry standards and increasing transparency and disclosures in solar contracts to ensure good experiences for solar customers (HB 2156) 
  • Technical changes that facilitate potential linkage with the California-Québec carbon markets in the coming years. Analysis must first show that Washington’s carbon market would continue to make progress towards its original goals: directly benefiting overburdened communities and achieving the state’s climate goals (SB 6058) 

Additional wins were in updates to the Operating and Capital budgets, with funding for an Energy Navigator to access new energy incentives and rebates, air quality monitoring in schools, and community EV charging infrastructure, among others.

Along with this year’s advances, some bills failed to clear the legislature. These include implementing recommendations in the Transportation Electrification Strategy, better integrating environmental justice into major new projects, and increasing access to community solar. We look forward to continuing to advocate for these policies in future legislative sessions. For more details on Washington’s legislative session, check out our full summary here


The Oregon legislature wrapped up earlier this month on March 8. It was a quieter year for energy issues, as much of this session’s focus was on Gov. Kotek’s major housing bill. However, there were a few wins for energy and climate to note. 

The mammoth potential for offshore wind in Oregon requires a policy framework to ensure communities have a seat at the table of proposed developments. HB 4080 is a step in that direction, providing more guidelines around land-use, supply chains, and labor. The bill also says offshore wind developers should consult with Tribal Nations, fishing groups, and other impacted communities – which should be the first step in any new project to ensure its appropriately sited. 

Battery storage is essential to decarbonizing our energy system, harnessing solar and wind energy to meet demand whenever it’s needed. HB 4015 provides more options for siting and permitting standalone battery storage projects, allowing developers to site projects through the state’s Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC). This minor statutory change helps streamline the process for battery storage siting that we need to meet Oregon’s climate targets, while also ensuring projects are appropriately sited. 

The state also passed HB 4083 that directs the Oregon Investment Council and the State Treasurer to divest from coal mining and energy companies in the state’s Public Employee Retirement System, which currently amounts to $1 billion.


Originally intended to end March 22, a high volume of bills and budget negotiations have extended Idaho’s legislative session into April. NWEC does not work in the Idaho legislature, however some of our member organizations do. Below is a report from our allies in Boise on a few bills they opposed with climate and clean energy implications.  

The legislature moved to stymie proactive planning for electric vehicle charging infrastructure with HB 662, which prevents cities from requiring EV charging wiring for new construction. HB 534 amends the state fuel tax code, adding a one cent per kilowatt hour electric vehicle fuel tax for commercial vehicles, which is equal to the current motor fuel tax. The bill also requires charging providers to send monthly reports to the state tax commission with how much electricity they sell to commercial vehicles. In the transportation vein HB 729 requires all highway revenue to prioritize motor vehicles, effectively limiting investments in more efficient, multimodal options like biking, transit, or pedestrian infrastructure. 

Finally, in Senate Joint Memorial 103, the legislature symbolically affirmed its opposition to any dam breaching on the Columbia-Snake River system, despite their connection to ongoing salmon and steelhead decline. 


Northwestern Energy (NWE) filed a compliance filing listing out preliminary details of their stakeholder engagement processes, including demand-side management (DSM) and low-income (LI) advisory groups. The Coalition successfully advocated in NWE’s last rate case that the temporary DSM advisory group be made permanent. The filing gets the ball rolling in the right direction, but the lack of details is frustrating. Along with DSM and LI advisory groups, NWE envisions two stakeholder groups for its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) process – one more technical Electric Technical Advisory Committee and one more “grassroots” for the public. The Coalition will continue to advocate that both groups be accessible to the public. 


Last October, the Western Power Pool launched an effort bringing together utilities, regulators, grid operators, and advocates around “a West-wide effort to develop an actionable transmission plan to support the needs of the future energy grid.” Known as the Western Transmission Expansion Coalition (WestTEC), this group reached a milestone this March and announced members of its Steering Committee, Regional Engagement Committee, and Technical Taskforce to analyze Western transmission needs and develop recommendations. Importantly, WestTEC intends to develop a longer, 20-year transmission plan that will help the region meet growing electric load and integration of new clean energy resources. Stay tuned for updates as the Coalition is on the Regional Engagement Committee and will be very active on the technical taskforce.

Coalition Staff’s Favorite Flowers!

Will Gehrke, Senior Technical Analyst

This beautiful northwest native flower, the foothill shooting star, can be found in my backyard, nestled under my oak tree. When I see these stunning blooms, I know that spring has officially arrived. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of seeing the natural world wake up after a long and dreary winter.

Lauren McCloy, Policy Director

I love all sunflowers, by my favorite sunflower is arrowleaf balsamroot, which is a widespread member of the aster family that grows in the inland Western US and Canada. It blooms in May in my yard. The bees love it and it smells like chocolate!

Charlee Thompson, Policy Associate 

My favorite flower is a pink and yellow plumeria. I like to take walks around my Grandma’s neighborhood in Hawai’i and pick up the fresh ones that have fallen to the ground. Then we stick them in the car and they become sweet air fresheners.

Beth Brooks, Development Director

Hands down, Trillium is my favorite flower. It has to be the absolute right conditions for them to flourish but there is nothing quite as magical as stumbling across them in the forest. Nestled under trees, they are beautifully balanced, a trio of leaves and petals. Always a delight, harbinger of spring in the Northwest.

Jeff Bissonnette, Contractor

I’m a big fan of daphne. Starting to smell the flowers is the first sure sign of spring for me.

Fred Heutte, Senior Policy Associate

Crocuses – the first sign of spring in my yard. This year they showed up almost a month ago.

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