Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Utilities’ Category

Sewer District swindled, suspect ex-worker had prior felonies

by Matt Rosenberg June 12th, 2013

A new state auditor’s fraud investigation report says a former employee of the Valley View Sewer District serving Burien, Seatac and Tukwila actually embezzled more than double what the district, police and prosecutors had thought. But what the new report doesn’t say is that hidden away from public view, the employee, Andrea Ceceil Drane, is already being prosecuted for felony theft in the case – and that before she was hired by the district in early 2011 she’d already been sentenced to three years in a “work ethic camp” for nine counts of felony theft in a 2002 embezzlement of an estimated $125,000 belonging to another, private sector South End employer of hers. Valley View serves 8,000 sewage treatment customers in the three cities and unincorporated South King County.

State details $352,000 public fraud in Lake Forest Park

by Matt Rosenberg February 20th, 2013

The former Office Administrator of a sleepy public water district in a Seattle bedroom suburb allegedly embezzled at least $352,641 from taxpayer coffers from mid-2004 to early 2011 through misuse of multiple credit cards, unwarranted reimbursements and a mostly-fake payroller scheme involving three of her children, whom she also enrolled as beneficiaries in a state retirement system for public workers. Those findings and more about the Lake Forest Park Water District are detailed in a fraud report issued Tuesday by Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley. The former Office Administrator is identified by the auditor’s office as Jackee Zweekhorst. Zweekhorst, 40, of Bothell, was one of two higher-level employees for the district but reported only to an inattentive three-member board of supervisors. She kept the financial records under lock and key and effectively had no oversight, according to the fraud report.

Coal train EIS scoping hearing in Seattle Thurs. – speak out!

by Matt Rosenberg December 13th, 2012

A public hearing will be held Thursday at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle to seek comment on how best to assess environmental impacts of a proposed freight train route to a terminal at Cherry Point north of Bellingham that would facilitate a range of international exports including coal to China. The Dec. 13 Seattle hearing will run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 800 Convention Place, Ballroom 6F, with doors opening at 3 p.m. There will be 150 two-minute slots for comment at the hearing, and other opportunities online.

Fossil fuels will still dominate U.S. energy usage in 2040

by Matt Rosenberg December 6th, 2012

In 2040 almost four-fifths of the energy the United States uses will be from the fossil fuels of oil, coal or natural gas. That’s just a bit less than last year but natural gas – seen by some as greener than oil or coal – will play a larger role in that mix, and coal and oil less. And by 2040 more than a tenth of the nation’s energy supply will come from renewables such as hydropower, wind, solar, biomass and geothermal power, and wave motion. That would be a good dollop more than the eight percent share for renewables in 2011.

These are some of recent facts and future projections in the baseline or “reference case” case scenario for the Annual Energy Outlook 2013 Early Release presented in a a Washington, D.C. briefing yesterday by Adam Sieminski, the head of the U.S. Energy Department’s data and forecasting unit, called the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Global vehicle penetration, sliced three different ways

by Matt Rosenberg October 28th, 2012

Data visualizations derived from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators show that while North America far outpaces other major global regions in vehicles per 1,000 people, that gap compared to the developing world is declining. And perhaps more revealing: several developing global regions have more vehicles per kilometers of roadway than North America. Surface transportation of course is just one sector of the energy economy. Growing global energy demands in coming decades for surface transportation, plus other consumer, commercial and institutional uses, and manufacturing, accent the bracing challenge of developing competitively-priced green energy on a vast scale in order to limit climate change.

The World Bank has posted a wide array of World Development Indicators to Google Public Data Explorer, so that users can easily build their own charts, graphs and visualizations. Picking just three among dozens of data depictions across different World Development Indicators, let’s look at global vehicle penetration, by global region, and measured three different ways. The first is passenger vehicles per 1,000 people (not including two-wheelers). North America has almost 2.5 times more than the next closest competitor, but has been declining in recent years; while on the rise are the Europe/Central Asia region, Latin America/Caribbean, and East Asia/Pacific. This chart will likely look quite different in 2020, and even more so in 2030, as the gap between North America and the rest of the world continues to narrow.

Adding in buses and freight vehicles, this next graph looks at motor vehicles per 1,000 people. The gap between North America and other continents is even wider.

However, the measurement of motor vehicles (no two-wheelers) per kilometer of built roads is quite different. Though the data set has a few gaps, it is fairly striking that in the one year so far in which data exists for the Middle East and North Africa (2008), it leads the pack. By this metric, North America ranks third among the major global regions used in the World Development Indicators, behind Middle East/North Africa, and Europe/Central Asia. Data for Latin America/Caribbean is limited to only 2004, so can’t really be factored in. East Asia and Pacific is sharply rising. Europe/Central Asia and South Asia are also rising, North America is declining.

As more road infrastructure is built in developing nations, motor vehicles per kilometer of roadway will likely continue to grow in the developing world. This in turn has a strong probability of increasing greenhouse gas emissions from the surface transportation sector, unless net-green alternative fuels can be produced and sold on a wide scale. North America of course, with its huge number of vehicles overall, faces a related environmental challenge.

Against a backdrop of strong global concern about climate change, the data suggest we can expect even more effort will be focused on developing affordable green vehicles powered by electricity or biofuels; and that scrutiny will intensify of how electricity is produced for transportation and other purposes. In the developing world especially, will coal continue to dominate, or will cleaner, greener alternative energy sources actually gain a substantial foothold?

RELATED: “Global Energy Use and Carbon Emissions, 2005-2035,” Public Data Ferret.


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Report: Asia prime turf for American wood pellets

by John Stang July 30th, 2012

The Asian wood pellet market is growing, and the the United States and Canada are poised to be a prime source for it, according to a second-quarter 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pacific Northwest Research Station. “The West Coast is in a strong position to supply Asia with wood pellets, drawing on both timber supply and proximity to Asian markets,” the report said.

China, Japan and South Korea have large demands for wood pellets for home heating and for mixing with coal in power plants. The primary use for wood pellets in Asia is co-firing at coal-power plants. “Therefore, business development should include….coal power plants that have an interest in increasing their renewable energy output,” the report said. This demand meshes with the Obama administration’s goal of doubling exports from $1 trillion to $2 trillion by 2015 – enough to create a cabinet level post to pursue that target, the report said.

Snoqualmie dam project OK was fair, appeals court says

by Matt Rosenberg June 27th, 2012

Despite strong community opposition tied to related downstream flooding risks, Puget Sound Energy is now even more firmly in the clear to further widen the Snoqualmie River, lower a dam and keep operating its Snoqualmie Falls hydro-electric power plant, according to a ruling issued Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth District. The decision Tuesday affirms an earlier ruling in the Seattle-based U.S. District Court by Judge John Coughenour.

State seeks bids on more probes for geothermal energy

by Henry Apfel May 25th, 2012

The State of Washington’s Department of Natural Resources is seeking bidders for drilling exploratory geothermal boreholes in Skamania and Klickitat counties at up to five of six targeted sites that have passed environmental muster: Swift Creek, Northwood and Wind River in Skamania County; and Laurel, Outlet Creek, and Box Canyon Quarry in Klickitat County. (Coordinates table; map.) Each borehole would be six inches in diameter and reach a depth of 700 feet, although the drilling would not require construction of new roads or other major infrastructure alterations. Their purpose would be to determine the extent of geothermal energy at the sites, rather than to generate power. The winning bid will likely be selected the week of June 4th, and drilling of the new probes is scheduled to begin as soon as the first or second week of July, said DNR Procurement Coordinator Melanie Williams.

Regional public utility districts and private energy companies produce energy in Washington, but the state regulates the industry and in the case of geothermal, helps take stock of resource potential. Higher-temperature sites are the most preferable. Following is a mapped visualization of geothermal energy exploration to date in Washington, created by Public Data Ferret.