City council reverses direction, funds EBCC State Supreme Court appeal

In a surprising turnaround at the Bellevue city council meeting Tuesday evening, the council voted 4-2 to support funding an appeal to the Washington Supreme Court.

The appeal was proposed by the East Bellevue Community Council after that body lost its case in the King County Court of Appeals to Puget Sound Energy.

The community council is challenging the ruling on a Puget Sound Energy project focused on elevated high voltage transmission lines on a route through its jurisdiction. The project is a 2.9-mile long high-voltage power line intended to shore up electrical reliability between the Lake Hills and Phantom Lake substations.

The East Bellevue Community Council believes the route selected for the project an unnecessarily complicated one which cuts through its jurisdiction on an urban boulevard. Bill Capron, community council chair, said it still had a good case.

“If they city denies our funding, they take the place of the state Supreme Court,” he said. “We only wanted $7,000. I know every tax dollar matters, but when governments stop putting zeroes behind numbers because thousands are so inconsequential, we don’t think that’s much to ask for.”

The community council initially won the case in the court of Judge William Downing, where the jurisdiction of that council was affirmed. It subsequently lost the case on appeal.

Capron asked the council to consider granting the legal funding, as the community council’s legal counsel stated she could not accept crowd-funded money.

“We would do that if we could, but that’s not an option for us,” he said.

Last week, the Bellevue city council voted 4-2 to put a resolution on Tuesday’s agenda which would have stated the appeals funding was not a necessary expense.

In the week between, city staff drafted up two resolutions, one denying the funding as unnecessary and one approving it as necessary, just in case council decided to approve funding. Mayor John Stokes and Councilmember Lynne Robinson changed their votes.

The appeal itself would cost approximately $7,000 even to prepare and file, and an additional $20,000 should the court accept the case for review — far from a guarantee.

Deputy Mayor John Chelminiak was not happy with the changes tides on the council.

“There is no other option. It’s very clear in the report from [Engineering consulting firm Exponent] that the concept of looping does not solve the issue,” he said.

Citizens had proposed looping back high voltage lines through existing power substations to better protect the grid in lieu of the Lake Hills project. Exponent recommended three lines going to each substation, while the substation in question currently has one.

“That’s the resiliency we need in a major storm,” Chelminiak said. “It’s a critical health and safety situation. I’m going to vote no tonight. I’m not going to vote to waste money.”

Councilmember Kevin Wallace was the other vote denying the funding.

Capron has reached out to legal counsel Kathleen Haggard to prepare the briefs. The community council has until March 3 to file the briefs.