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New Spokane City Council casts first 4-3 votes

The new majority of the Spokane City Council flexed its muscles twice on Monday in the first 4-3 votes of the year.

Both votes rejected nonbinding efforts to back a state Senate bill designating energy produced at the city’s Waste-to-Energy Plant as renewable.

But council members who cast no votes say they generally support the legislation and were reacting to what they say was a rushed vote with no public notice.

The city has been pushing state officials for years to designate the energy produced at the incinerator as renewable. Energy labeled renewable can garner higher prices, and energy produced at the Waste-to-Energy Plant used to have the renewable classification. The proposal has been in the city’s official lobbying agenda the last few years, including the one that was unanimously approved by the council late last year.

The new 4-3 majority – council members Ben Stuckart, Candace Mumm, Jon Snyder and Amber Waldref – rejected a plea from Councilman Steve Salvatori to rush a vote on a nonbinding resolution supporting the Senate bill. The legislation, introduced by state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, will get a hearing in Olympia on Thursday.

Because the City Council nonbinding resolution wasn’t introduced until today, it didn’t appear on the council’s agenda and needed five votes to be considered.

Power Council predicts adequate supply despite low river flows

The electricity supply in the Northwest will remain adequate this spring and summer despite low runoff levels in the Columbia River Basin, where hydroelectric dams provide more than half of the region’s electricity, an analysis by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council shows.

“Low flows will reduce hydropower generation below normal, but there is no danger of a serious curtailment to electricity service, according to our analysis,” Council Chairman Bruce Measure said in a press statement today. “The power available from generating plants, including hydropower dams, wind turbines, and power plants that burn fossil fuels, is more than adequate to meet the anticipated demand for electricity this year.”

The precipitation since last October is 79 percent of normal, and snowpack is 73 percent of normal, in the Columbia basin, reports the Northwest River Forecast Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A year ago, the basin’s snowpack was 91 percent of normal.

Based on snow and rainfall to date, the forecast for runoff through the end of August is much lower than normal — just 65 percent of average measured at The Dalles Dam. If that estimate proves accurate, this would be the second-lowest runoff year since 1992.