Under the close scrutiny of PSE vice-president Andy Wappler, the Bellevue City Council unanimously rejected residents’ appeals against PSE’s Energize Eastside project on Thursday night. After Mayor Chelminiak explained that the council must defer to the judgment of the Hearing Examiner, each council member repeated, “I concur,” in rather dispassionate and cursory statements. The meeting was adjourned in less than half an hour.
“This outcome was beyond surprising,” said CENSE president Don Marsh after the meeting. “The decision, the lack of discussion, and the lock-step verbiage were unusual, given what we know about our council.”
Last month, Deputy Mayor Lynne Robinson asked PSE if the legal record contained actual data about the Eastside’s peak demand for electricity. PSE’s lead lawyer waffled in her answer. Robinson didn’t say whether she had found data to support or counter PSE’s claims.
Councilmember Janice Zahn has been especially focused on good data and analysis during her service on the council. She mentioned neither in her statement rejecting the appeals.
Two nights earlier, former mayor John Stokes was eloquent as he encouraged Bellevue to reach higher and lead the country in its environmental goals. He was especially excited about the possibility of turning Bellevue’s waste stream into energy. All of that was forgotten on Thursday evening.
Councilmembers Conrad Lee and Jared Nieuwenhuis have been strong defenders of neighborhoods in the past. Neither mentioned the overwhelming negative response and safety concerns of neighborhoods contained in the voluminous record of this project. Jennifer Robertson recused herself weeks ago due to a conflict of interest with her family business and PSE.
The council has now reached a conclusion at odds with its stated goals of protecting our tree canopy, reducing emissions, and using smart technology to moderate energy use and increase reliability.
We have many options to respond. The CENSE board will approve an aggressive multi-pronged path to victory next week. Stay tuned!