- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 17, 2001

California hasnt seen a net increase in energy production in the last 20 years, and Gov. Gray Davis is battling President George W. Bush over the energy prices the lack of power has created. At the same time, Americans everywhere are watching the cost of energy rise, making energy policy part of Washingtons daily rhetoric. The close-up look at California and the rest of the nation now has Americans realizing that they wont escape the energy mess anytime soon.
California hasnt built a new power plant in 12 years, and the lack of production is catching up with the entire West. The lack of power plant construction wasnt entirely an oversight, but more an environmental issue. As Mr. Bush has pointed out, energy production and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive. Still, the differing schools of thought come into play whenever talk of a new power plant comes into play.
Consider Sumas, Wash., which is so close to Canada a child could walk there. That is precisely why Canadians dont want a state-of-the-art 660-megawatt electrical power generating facility built in the town of 996. Sumas is snuggled in the Northwest corner of Washington State, and the town already has one power plant. National Energy Systems Corp. (NESCO) has proposed building a second one, Sumas Energy 2 (SE2), next door. But just like in California, this process has created a circus-like atmosphere of not-in-my-back-yard chants.
While Canadians and some Washingtonians argued with citizens and city officials over the environmental costs of a new power plant in an already fragile airshed just east of Vancouver, B.C., a nine-member Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) was appointed by the state to review the process and make a recommendation to Washington Gov. Gary Locke. Pollution concerns were to be weighed with the need for more energy and more tax revenue. The result was a politically charged international debate over the need for a power plant in Sumas. The underlying scare was that this plants power would help neither Washington nor Canada, but would be sold on the open market most likely to California.
After environmental impact statements came back saying the plant "would not pose an adverse effect" to the area, things looked bright for NESCO and SE2. But then the winds shifted. The chairman of the EFSEC, Deborah Ross, announced on Feb. 21 that "the environmental costs outweigh the energy benefits." The unanimous decision seemed to stem from one thing. "Sumas Energy 2 has not shown it will have a direct energy benefit to the region," Miss Ross said. In other words, the airshed and the people who would have lived nearest the new SE2 power plant would not have been served by it.
NESCO is still fighting to keep EFSECs recommendation from reaching the governors desk, ostensibly by trying to kow-tow to environmentalists. In the end, this ordeal has done more harm than good.

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