Public weighs in on Brown’s bills to support jobs in clean energy

Washington already has a one-stop process for locating major energy facilities; Sen. Sharon Brown has come up with a way to speed the process along and get to the job-creation part sooner.

Today the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee held a public hearing on a measure that would streamline the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council’s siting and permitting application process – a move that Brown, the bill’s sponsor, says will help create new clean-energy jobs.

“Many of our state’s largest clean-energy economic-development projects must go through EFSEC before they can begin creating jobs,” said  Brown, R-Kennewick. “This bill speeds up that process and removes unnecessary delays and barriers to growth.”

In 2015 the Legislature directed EFSEC to study the best way to streamline its siting and licensing process.

One of the study’s key findings is that the early-stage land-use hearing that is currently part of the process serves little if any independently valuable purpose; the current process is duplicative, given that – even without it – the public still has several opportunities to weigh-in throughout the process. The report recommends that the unnecessary hearing at the beginning of the application process be eliminated.

Senate Bill 6224 would do just that, establishing expedited processes for EFSEC and reducing the steps in the general application review and approval process.

“I feel strongly that studies should not just on a shelf,” said Brown, who chairs the Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee.

“The projects under EFSEC jurisdiction are some of the biggest economic-development drivers in our state. In order to get new projects underway in a timely fashion, and secure the great, high-paying jobs that these projects bring, it is essential that the Legislature move quickly to act on the study’s recommendations.”

Brown highlighted the need for the bill, as it relates to the development of small modular reactors – an issue on which she has led the Legislature for the last two years.

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“I am very encouraged by the findings of the EFSEC study, which demonstrates how SMR technology can be advanced in our state,” said Brown. “Washington can and should be a leader in the clean-energy field; we should strive to be an attractive location for those in development, production and commercialization of SMR technology.

“Removing the permitting delays for new technologies, such as SMRs, and promoting the growth of the nuclear industry in Washington, could mean thousands of good-paying, family-wage jobs in construction, manufacturing and other related high-tech fields.”

Earlier this week the Senate Higher Education Committee held a public hearing on another Brown bill aimed at promoting clean-energy jobs. Senate Bill 6218 would create a Clean Energy Education Program, to be administered by the director of the Washington State University Extension Energy Program. The clean energy program would consist of a series of workshops focusing on a variety of clean-energy technologies, open to voluntary participation by eligible students.

“We have more than 20,000 unfilled STEM-related jobs in this state alone,” said Brown, referring to science, technology, engineering and math. “This bill is about educating kids about the opportunities for a career in clean energy. We’re not picking one technology over another, but are taking an all-of-the-above approach

conca“Many of these jobs start out at $85,000 per year and don’t require an advanced degree.”

Dr. James Conca, an adjunct professor at WSU-Tri-Cities and a columnist with Forbes magazine (pictured left), also testified before the committee in favor of SB 6218.

“[Per capita] we have one of the lowest carbon footprints and highest standards of living in the world,” Conca said. “We really are leaders in both energy and technology. But to support our high-tech industries we have unfortunately had to import a lot of people.

“We need to get qualified workers from our own schools. It is really critical that we get professionals in the industry into high schools and get teachers and students excited about these fields. This bill does that,” Conca told panel members.