The Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe took the city of Seattle to task in a class-action lawsuit filed Friday on behalf of its members and the public, stating the electric utility’s green power claims are misleading and hurting the tribe.

The lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court seeks an injunction restraining Seattle City Light from advertising itself as a fish-friendly, green and environmentally responsible utility until Seattle provides fish passage at its three Skagit River dams.

“Until that happens, they are not as green as they say they are,” said Nino Maltos, chairman of the tribe. “We believe it is a form of greenwashing. They are deceiving the public, they are not being honest and straight up.”

More than 80% of City Light’s energy comes from hydropower, which does not directly emit climate-warming carbon dioxide.

The city of Seattle is in the midst of a multiyear re-licensing process for its three hydroelectric dams on the Skagit River. The tribe insists the utility can’t claim its dams are green as long as they block salmon passage on the region’s premier salmon river.

The tribe filed the suit in King County Superior Court, alleging Seattle City Light’s slogan of “Nation’s Greenest Utility” is untruthful.


Julie Moore, spokeswoman for Seattle City Light, said the utility won’t comment on litigation. However, she said the utility is committed to studying the viability of fish passage at the dams during the re-licensing process.

The city operates the Skagit dams today under a 1995 license agreed to with multiple partners, including the tribe, Moore stated in an email. The re-licensing process underway “gives us the opportunity to update the research and determine what additional measures may be necessary to protect fish moving forward. This includes looking at fish passage.”

The utility has a green power certification from the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, Moore noted, adding City Light was the first large utility to earn that recognition.

Maltos said the utility’s power certification isn’t good enough because Skagit River salmon are still in decline.

Native wild Chinook salmon, steelhead and resident bull trout within the Skagit River drainage all are threatened with extinction and are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.