House panel approves trio of Brown bills tied to energy and jobs

Economic-development committee endorses nuclear-education program, training for clean-energy jobs

Today the House Technology and Economic Development Committee voted to advance three measures sponsored by state Sen. Sharon Brown, including her signature pro-jobs bill – the Community Prosperity and Revitalization (CPR) Act.

“I have focused this session on looking for bipartisan solutions that support the needs of families for good-paying jobs and reliable, abundant and affordable energy,” noted Brown, R-Kennewick. “The bills voted out of the House Trade and Economic Development Committee today would help position the state to attract high-paying clean-energy jobs in the nuclear industry; help introduce our students to nuclear science, engineering and other STEM-related jobs; reduce some of the barriers to job creation in some of our most distressed areas; and lower the cost of energy by recognizing more clean, renewable hydropower generated by incremental-efficiency improvements.

“I am pleased that the committee recognized that jobs and clean energy are not partisan issues and decided to keep these important bills moving forward this session.”

Senate Bill 5111, the CPR Act, passed in the Senate 30-19 last month with broad support from employers, cities and labor.

“The goal of the CPR Act is to help resuscitate some of our local economies – especially those in rural and economically depressed urban areas,” said Brown. “The bill is focused on creating jobs in our state by encouraging economic development and making sure large-scale projects with large economic benefits get through the permitting process faster, and it would do so without changing the regulatory requirements.”

As advanced by the House committee, Brown’s legislation would establish a legislative task force to examine the creation of a single siting agency empowered to implement a process to expedite the permitting of large manufacturing, energy and transportation facilities that are of statewide economic significance.

Senate Bill 5113 would direct the state Department of Commerce to coordinate the manufacturing of small modular reactors (SMRs) in the state to meet future energy, environmental and energy-security needs. SMRs are about one-third the size of traditional nuclear plants, with each producing less than 300 megawatts and generating enough electricity to power approximately 230,000 homes.

As amended today, SB 5113 would recognize the importance of the advancement of new technologies, particularly in the clean-technology sector, as an aspect of Washington’s economic development. The new bill language also notes that commercialization and deployment of SMR technologies has been identified by the federal government as a means to meet clean-energy targets and as a key element in its nuclear-energy research and development roadmap.

SB 5113 also was amended by the committee to incorporate facets of Brown’s proposal for a nuclear-education program (Senate Bill 5093). The amendment directs the Department of Commerce to work with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop recommendations for a clean-energy education program that would include training for jobs related to SMR development and manufacturing.

“Washington needs to be a part of the national conversation on small modular reactors,” said Brown. “SB 5113 brings Washington into that conversation and takes a significant step toward recognizing the important role that nuclear power, SMRs and other emerging clean-energy technologies will have in an all-of-the above state energy strategy.”

The House technology committee also endorsed Senate Bill 5094 – Brown’s legislation to allow incremental electricity produced as a result of efficiency improvements to hydropower to qualify as “renewable” under the state’s 2006 energy-independence act. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by two Republicans and two Democrats, passed in the Senate 29-20 last month.

Efficiency changes made to hydro projects allow more electricity to be produced from the same amount of water without any new diversions or impoundments. However, the law created by Initiative 937 (Washington’s renewable energy mandate) only recognizes projects owned by a qualified utility. Under Brown’s bill this recognition would be extended to hydro-efficiency improvements marketed by the federal Bonneville Power Administration.

“This is a basic issue of fairness,” said Brown. “Those communities who purchase their power generation from the BPA have already paid once for incremental improvements to hydropower facilities, but they don’t receive credit for those costs.

“Instead they are forced to go out and purchase more costly power (usually) from out of state – power that they don’t need.

“While this hurts all Washingtonians, it is particularly painful for the elderly, minorities and the poor, who all tend to pay a greater percentage of their income toward energy costs.”