The Bellevue City Council voted Monday to approve Puget Sound Energy’s permit to build a portion of a proposed 16-mile power line called the “Energize Eastside” project, which had been challenged in the Eastside city by organized opposition groups.
The Bellevue hearing examiner had previously ruled in favor of Puget Sound Energy, approving its conditional-use permit for the south Bellevue section of the $150 million-plus project. The utility hopes to build a new substation and add 3.3 miles of 230-kilovolt lines in the area, which would be one portion of the high-voltage lines running from Redmond to Renton.
Two opposition groups and three residents filed appeals of the hearing examiner’s decision. City Council members voted 6-0 — with Councilmember Jennifer Robertson abstaining — to deny those appeals.
The two groups, the Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Energy (CENSE) and Citizens for Sane Eastside Energy (CSEE), have spent thousands of dollars over six years fighting the project, which they say is unnecessary and potentially dangerous. CENSE President Don Marsh said the group plans to file an appeal in King County Superior Court within the next three weeks.
“CENSE and other citizen organizations will try to get a better outcome in the courts if that is the only avenue left for justice,” Marsh said.
The group is optimistic about its long-term prospects, Marsh added, but “the path is long and costly” for volunteers and supporters. Members also plan to present their data at public hearings next year in Newcastle and Renton, which will also have to approve permits for the sections of the power line in each city.
The Bellevue hearing examiner ruled in June that the 15,000-page record included ample information and evidence that the project is needed to serve the region’s growing population.
“Hoping for warmer winters and cooler summers, or speculating about future battery options, or the generosity of a neighboring utility to help in a pinch, is not enough,” the examiner wrote in response to the opposition groups’ claims that the demand projections are overblown and that there are better alternative-energy methods.
The proposed line would run along an existing path of power lines, with upgraded transmission lines on new steel monopoles that are taller than the wooden H-frames built decades ago.
Opponents have cited the potential danger in building the line close to the Olympic pipeline, which transports millions of gallons of gas. In 1999, an Olympic gas pipeline in Bellingham ruptured and caused an explosion, killing three people. One of the conditions of Bellevue’s permit approval is that Puget Sound Energy develop a pipeline-safety plan with Olympic.