New twists and turns for PSE’s transmission lines

Since late 2013, Somerset has led the challenge to PSE’s so-called “Energize Eastside” project. We were the first neighborhood to question the need, safety, and environmental cost of replacing 18 miles of existing 115,000-volt transmission lines with massive poles and wires carrying 230,000 volts.

As described in the last issue of the Sun, PSE changed its original proposal which routed two lines through Somerset.  The current proposal would run one line where the existing transmission lines are, but on larger metal poles.  The second line would criss-cross Newport Way, impacting neighbors living on the lower part of the hill.  See “Willow 2 is a safety risk” section below.

Somerset is not the only neighborhood where PSE has recently changed its plan. PSE has now proposed bizarre “bypass routes” to avoid the jurisdiction of the East Bellevue Community Council, the elected body which rejected a smaller transmission line along 148th Avenue.  That project would have destroyed 300 trees while providing a negligible improvement in the reliability of electrical service. See “Wandering routes” section below.

CENSE (Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy) continues to encourage Eastside cities to require PSE to invest in reliable, modern technology and policy solutions that are safer, greener, and less expensive than the outdated current proposal.  Hundreds of U.S. communities like ours have been successfully using these “non-wire” solutions for years or even decades. We can deploy them here as well.  Read more on in the “Better solutions” section below.

CENSE is implementing the technical, political, and legal strategies needed to change Energize Eastside and align it with our environmental goals and smart, technology-enabled approach to solving problems.  Each dollar contributed to CENSE by residents and business owners is prudently invested to achieve a safer, greener and more cost-effective way to power Eastside growth. See “News from Newcastle” section below.

What’s next? The evaluation of PSE’s proposal, including the ongoing Environmental Impact Study, will continue into next year, with final decisions by each of the Eastside’s city councils likely to occur in the second or third quarter of 2017.  Citizens must continue to ask their elected representatives to stand up for their communities and reject building permits for PSE’s project.

See how you can help on our What You Can Do page.

Willow 2 is a safety risk

PSE uses the names of trees for its various route options, which is ironic considering that PSE’s proposal would destroy up to 8,000 trees by the company’s own estimate.  “Willow 2” is PSE’s name for their “preferred route” that splits the transmission lines into two legs, as illustrated in the map on the Energize Eastside website:

Willow 2 routes impact both upper and lower Somerset

The western route along Newport Way would remove dozens of beautiful, mature trees, and the transmission line would zigzag over the street several times.  Our neighborhood would become less inviting and green and more industrial.

The eastern route would climb over Somerset hill on thick metal poles 60 to 75 feet tall.  Although shorter than PSE’s initial proposal, these poles would be imposing.  But worse than the aesthetic impact, the high voltage wires would be too close to the Olympic pipeline that runs underneath, according to a nationally known safety consultant, DNV-GL.  The magnetic field generated by the wires would increase corrosion in the pipeline.  According to safety experts, a breach caused by corrosion could lead to a disastrous fire involving dozens of homes.

The two pipelines, 40 and 60 years old, carry millions of gallons of jet fuel and gasoline to the Portland and Seatac airports every day.  One of these pipelines exploded in Bellingham in 1999, killing three children.  Five years later, another accident in Renton sent firemen to the hospital.

Wandering routes

Residents of Bellevue were stunned when PSE announced two new “bypass routes” during the final hours of the public comment period for the Environmental Impact Study. Responding to public outcry on the last minute change, the City of Bellevue reopened the comment period for an additional four weeks during the month of July, delaying the project by at least two months.

Either route would add over four miles of new poles and wires through parts of Bellevue that are currently uncluttered by transmission lines. Many additional trees would be removed from the Kelsey Creek greenbelt and Wilburton Hill Park.

Why is PSE doing this? The company says they are concerned about scheduling delays that could be imposed by the East Bellevue Community Council, which previously rejected a smaller transmission line and saved 300 trees along our park-like 148th Avenue.

The bypass routes are shown in purple and red on this map from the Energize Eastside website:

These routes would impact the city’s revitalization plans for the Wilburton area of downtown and planned development in the Spring District. The damage to Bellevue’s reputation as a “City in a Park” and as a forward-thinking hub of technological innovation would be substantial.

bypass routes

“Bypass routes” would add over 4 miles of new poles and wires

Better solutions

In July, PSE agreed with Governor Inslee and the Sierra Club (among others) to shut down two of the dirtiest coal-fired electricity generators in the country. It’s a big win for the environment, but those generators supply approximately a quarter of the electricity consumed by PSE’s customers. How will PSE replace that capacity?

The “Seventh Power Plan” published by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council recommends modern solutions such as Demand Response, Distributed Generation, and Energy Storage instead of building new power plants. These strategies have proven reliability and economic advantages. PSE has engaged a consultant company called Navigant to help them incorporate these technologies into their grid.


Over 130 medium and large US cities rely on Demand Response technology

Over 130 medium and large US cities rely on Demand Response technology
There’s just one problem. PSE analyzed the need for Energize Eastside many years before they made decisions about the coal plants and modern technologies. These significant changes and the wide adoption of newer technology require new analysis to be sure that a huge transmission line is still needed

With smart 21st-century solutions, we can safely power Eastside growth with lower cost and less environmental damage, while preserving the beauty of the Eastside for future generations.

News from Newcastle

The city of Newcastle would be severely impacted by Energize Eastside. Two transmission lines and two Olympic pipelines are already squeezed into a narrow corridor barely 100 feet wide between houses. PSE may need to condemn dozens of homes to make room for safe separation of the power lines and pipelines.

The Newcastle city council placed a six-month moratorium on the project to rewrite safety regulations concerning the utility corridor. Although the new regulations mandate a reasonable separation for safety, PSE could still file for an exemption.

Neighbors raise funds for CENSE at a Newcastle event

Sue Stronk and Lori Elworth, two neighbors who live on either side of the corridor, organized a successful fundraiser for CENSE.  Their efforts brought in nearly $20,000 of new donations.

Everyone enjoyed the evening with wine and desserts provided by the gracious hosts.

CENSE must raise significant funds during the coming year to hire legal and technical experts that will be necessary as the fight moves into courtrooms.  If you would like to organize a fundraiser for neighbors on your block, CENSE can provide a kit with all the materials, including invitations and thank-you cards, a slide show presentation, and a well-informed speaker.  This is how our community can effectively respond to a multi-billion-dollar corporation with a huge advertising budget and political influence.  Contact John Merrill ( for more information about hosting your own event.

September 1st, 2016|