Reps. Dye and Klicker warn governor’s sectional vetoes to energy facility siting bill will be devastating to Eastern Washington’s future landscape

Rep. Mary Dye and Rep. Mark Klicker say Gov. Jay Inslee’s veto of significant sections in a clean energy facility siting measure Friday will have devastating consequences on the future landscape of Eastern Washington communities and farmland.

House Bill 1812, signed late Friday afternoon by Inslee, establishes the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) as an independent agency separate from the Utilities and Transportation Commission. However, the governor vetoed sections 19, 20, 21 and 22 — provisions Dye and Klicker were able to add to the bill through an amendment that would have given rural stakeholders more input and a broader long-term picture in the siting review of wind and solar projects.

“We worked in good faith with our Democratic colleagues across the aisle through some very intense negotiations to insert this important amendment into the bill. To say that we are beyond disappointed with the governor’s vetoes is an understatement,” said Dye, R-Pomeroy.

Dye’s Amendment 1812, that became part of the sections vetoed by Gov. Inslee, called for a study of the costs and benefits of energy projects expected to be sited in rural communities over the next 30 years, and for a legislative task force to consider the study. The concept was originally introduced as part of Klicker’s House Bill 1871. Both Klicker’s bill and the subsequent amendment arose out of concerns that Washington is being divided into clean energy producing counties and clean energy consuming counties as most of the burden of siting large-scale wind and solar farms is falling solely on a few of the less populous counties.

“We wanted to ensure that rural communities would have the opportunity to see what’s at stake for the total build-out on the rural aesthetic, not just the visual impact of individual solar and wind farms that are sited here and there. It is critical for our rural communities and local landowners, especially those in Eastern Washington, to see the ‘big picture’ of what 30 years of siting utility-scale wind and solar would do to Washington’s rural landscape,” added Dye. “Now that the governor has vetoed these sections, it opens the flood gates for big out-of-state energy corporations to swoop into these small, rural economically-disadvantaged communities and offer leases at a fraction of the value of the agricultural land to struggling farmers and landowners. It’s absolutely devastating to our Eastern Washington farmlands.”

“Those who are living where the green energy is being sited know that the jobs and tax-base impacts have been more salesmanship than substance,” said Klicker, R-Walla Walla. “We asked for a study to show the true costs and benefits, and the governor’s vetoes show we were right to be skeptical. If there was going to be good news about jobs and taxes from these projects, the governor surely would have wanted that documented.”

“The big out-of-state energy companies will provide just enough jobs to construct the projects, and when that construction is finished, there will be no long-term employment — just wind machines and solar panels surrounding our rural communities,” Dye noted.

Without the amendment, Dye and Klicker say rural stakeholders will have no input in the project siting review. Additionally, had the governor retained the amendment, the Joint Committee on Energy Supply and Energy Conservation would have been required to review forms of economic development assistance, mitigation payments, and viewshed impairment payments that counties not hosting their per capita share of alternative energy resources should provide to counties that host more than their per capita share.

“The governor missed a historic opportunity to build a broader consensus around his clean energy strategy. The Democratic chairs of the environment committees in the House and Senate saw the value in addressing rural concerns, but the governor did not,” said Dye. “The governor’s strategy amounts to a hasty build-out of clean energy to serve the Puget Sound without any burden of siting massive windfarms in the Puget Sound viewshed. Instead, these facilities will all be sited in our rural counties that have no need for the energy and are already served by clean, affordable hydroelectricity.”

“This is a huge loss for people in rural Washington,” added Klicker. “It would have been great to receive a report with a forecast of what the full build-out of wind and solar facilities over the next 30 years would look like for rural counties. But the governor’s decision today means that won’t happen.”

The bill would have also required the Washington State Department of Commerce to present a forecast where all alternative energy projects would be sited over the entire period of the clean-energy transition. The review and report would have looked at the level of monetary impact to the landscape and how that visual impact should affect payments or other forms of economic development assistance for viewshed impairment.

“We want to thank the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, the Yakima County Farm Bureau, and the many elected leaders who spoke out for a better study of what the next 30 years of siting wind farms, solar farms, and transmission corridors in rural Washington would mean for their views, culture and tourism,” added Dye. “It’s a shame the governor played politics and removed what would have been a significant step in the right direction for everyone involved.”

House Bill 1812 is scheduled to take effect on June 30, 2022.


Washington State House Republican Communications