Letters to the Editor for March 8, 2016

Life saving programs need to be protected

I write you today as our Sens. Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell and their colleagues in Congress craft the federal government’s budget for fiscal year 2017. As they do so, I encourage them to protect cost-effective, life-saving programs that fight diseases like HIV/AIDS, tackle hunger, and help the world’s poor pull themselves out of poverty for good, all for less than 1 percent of the federal budget.

I am fortunate that I, like most of us in Camas and Vancouver, don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from, or if I can get my children medicine when they have an illness. But millions around the world aren’t so fortunate. I have witnessed this firsthand on my trips to volunteer in African orphanages and at refugee camps in other parts of the world. Many people might not know, but less than 1 percent of the budget saves lives around the world and where you live should not determine whether you live or die.

The facts show extreme poverty has already been cut in half and can be virtually eliminated by 2030. We’ve come too far in the fight against extreme poverty to turn back now. So Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and your colleagues, I ask you to please protect life-saving programs – like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and our nutrition aid, as the budget process moves forward.

Christopher Roberts, Camas

Brunell needs a reality check

Don Brunell’s recent opinion piece, “Answer not entirely blowin’ in the wind,” questions whether we will be able to construct enough new renewable electricity facilities to match demand and support a thriving economy. Unfortunately, both his assumptions and statements require a healthy reality check.

Mr. Brunell, retired president of the Association of Washington Business, questions,”…how much [wind energy] can we reasonably produce to meet our nation’s growing electrical demands?” He summarizes a litany of purported obstacles to constructing new energy facilities and concludes: “The bottom line is, our nation needs electricity from all sources. The key is to continue to make all energy sources more environmentally friendly and affordable.”

In reality, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the multi-state agency responsible for planning for the region’s long-term electricity needs, recently released its Seventh Northwest Power Plan that explains exactly how to ensure that we will have reliable and economical power for the next 20 years. The answer is by implementing energy efficiency and demand response resources, along with existing natural gas-fired generation, to meet all of our anticipated energy needs.

The power plan amply demonstrates the reality that we do not need electricity from all sources to meet our projected regional needs over the next 20 years. Rather, the plan is to focus on conservation and efficiency. Further, if new electricity plants become necessary in the future, they must first demonstrate that they can be constructed in an environmentally safe and responsible manner.

Mr. Brunell’s description of controversial wind facilities also misses the mark. He claims “protesters tried to stop even the small family-owned Whistling Ridge project on wind-swept, logged-over timberland near Bingen. The 50-turbine project was tucked behind the hills and out of the visual impact area of the Columbia River Gorge. Only a handful of residents would see a few wind turbines when looking out their back windows. That project is in limbo.”

In actuality, the Whistling Ridge project, proposed by SDS Lumber Company was to be located along scenic ridgelines in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge. In fact, the 426 foot industrial wind turbines would be highly visible from hundreds of homes as well as multiple public vantage points in Washington and Oregon that are traveled by millions of visitors every year. Mr. Brunell neglected to mention that the project’s tremendous scenic impacts were the main reason why Gov. Gregoire denied permission to build nearly one-third of the proposed wind turbines. The Bonneville Power Administration’s recent decision to allow the proposed project (which would be constructed in habitat for northern spotted owls and other sensitive bird species) to connect to the energy grid is currently under appeal for failing to fully disclose the project’s environmental impacts. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area should not be sacrificed for unneeded projects like Whistling Ridge.

Ultimately, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council is charting a wise course for our energy future. We do not need “electricity from all sources” and we are not in desperate need for additional sites for new wind energy facilities. We will meet our economic and energy needs through conservation, efficiency, and continuing to hold the energy industry to high standards for siting new energy facilities.

Keith Brown, board member, Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Skamania County resident