The Bellevue City Council unanimously approved an ordinance at its Dec. 2 meeting that officially approves Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) application for a conditional-use permit for the south Bellevue segment of its $150 million-plus Energize Eastside (EE) project.
Councilmember Jennifer Robertson was recused from the proceeding.
EE will bring the construction of a 16-mile power line that runs through Renton, Newcastle, Bellevue and Redmond. According to PSE, the project aims to better serve peak energy demand in the region.
“This is an unusual situation where the council is acting essentially as an appellate court,” Mayor John Chelminiak said, noting that the matter is considered a quasi-judicial proceeding.
By approving the ordinance, the council is also rejecting five appeals made to the hearing examiner’s June approval of PSE’s request for the permit. Appellants — one of whom is the Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy (CENSE) — claimed PSE hadn’t provided a sufficient amount of evidence to show that the power line is a necessity, among other concerns.
At its Nov. 14 special meeting, the Bellevue City Council backed the hearing examiner’s initial approval, and agreed that enough material and substantial evidence were supporting the June decision. The new ordinance, according to city attorney Kathy Gerla, denies the appeals of the appellants on the basis that they have failed to meet their burden to prove that the hearing examiner’s conclusion wasn’t supported by enough evidence.
In response to the Bellevue City Council’s ordinance, CENSE is planning to appeal the city’s decision to King County Superior Court. The group has 21 days, starting with the date of the ordinance’s passage, to file. The nonprofit’s president, Don Marsh, said that regardless of the outcome, CENSE will keep pushing.
“Whether the King County Superior Court rules in favor of CENSE or in favor of the city and PSE, it’s probable that that will be appealed to the state court of appeals,” he said.
Marsh said that through the appeals, CENSE is hoping to get more data and further analysis on the project as well as provide more transparency as to why the project is being divided into two parts. When Newcastle and Renton start the permitting process, CENSE members also plan to appear at public hearings regarding the project.
CENSE — with another activist group, Citizens for Sane Eastside Energy (CSEE), who were among the appellants in the Bellevue decision — has worked for longer than six years voicing its opposition to EE.
“We are looking at modern solutions,” Marsh said. “We are studying modern solutions that include some energy storage, some smart policies like demand response that adjust how electricity is used during these peak demand situations that motivate the need for the project. We think in an era where a lot of people are concerned about the environmental impacts of our energy use we really should be looking at energy efficiency and smart technology to address our needs instead of overbuilding capacity with a very expensive and harmful project like Energize Eastside. It’s a really last century solution to energy use.”
For the full conversation, watch the Dec. 2 city council meeting recording online (https://bit.ly/2DYimMp).