Maia Bellon, director of the Washington Department of Ecology for seven years and a state employee for 25 years, is stepping down from the post at the end of this year. Bellon said in a statement she plans to take some time off and then use her law degree to begin a private practice focusing on environmental law and policy. Under her watch, Ecology in 2017 implemented Gov. Jay Inslee's Clean Air Rule aimed at capping carbon emissions. The rule is currently on hold while the state's Supreme Court considers Ecology's appeal of a Thurston County Superior Court order striking down most of its provisions.

Washington Rep. Jeff Morris announced Nov. 27 he will step down from the Legislature, effective Jan. 6, 2020, after serving for 23 years. According to a statement posted on his website, he has accepted a position with Schneider Electric, based near Paris with offices on Mercer Island, Wash., and is leaving because he "cannot serve in this new role and as a part-time citizen legislator at the same time." Morris said Schneider—which develops smart grid, decarbonization and artificial intelligence technology—is a good match because "[c]reating a more reliable clean energy infrastructure has been my profession outside of the Legislature and my passion in it." His energy-related legislative accomplishments include a precursor to the state's current net-metering law; "first-in-the-nation" requirements for carbon mitigation from fossil-fuel power generation; and mandating considering carbon risk in utility integrated resource planning.

The Montana PSC on Dec. 3 approved QF contract terms for Caithness Beaver Creek’s two proposed 60 MW wind farms, each with 20 MW of battery storage, in Stillwater County [D2019.6.34]. The vote came after a drawn-out fight between NorthWestern Energy and the New York-based developer that included challenges filed with FERC [D2018.8.52]. The PSC approved a rate of $38.41/MWh and a 20-year contract, less than the 25 years and $49.10/MWh Caithness wanted. The commission has not yet issued a final order.

Jill Smail, the U.S. Department of State's chief negotiator for the Columbia River Treaty, will hold a town hall meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Dec. 16 at the U.S. Federal Building Auditorium, 825 Jadwin Ave. in Richland, Wash. U.S. government representatives will provide an overview of negotiations with Canada to modernize the 1964 treaty. Attendees are advised to bring a government-issued photo identification for security screening. Call-in details will be available at the website.

The TransAlta Centralia Coal Transition program has awarded $99,060 to the Tumwater School District to help build a 34 kW solar photovoltaic array at Peter G. Schmidt Elementary. The grant will be leveraged with funding from the Washington Department of Commerce Energy Efficiency program and the school district. The system is expected to save more than 42 MWh per year, representing 6 percent of the school's overall annual energy use.

The Oregon PUC on Dec. 3 approved Pacific Power's plan to reduce meter reading fees from $36 to $10 for smart meter opt-out customers. But it declined the utility's request to eliminate the triannual meter reading option for opt-out customers and directed Pacific Power to reduce the cost of that option from $9 to $3 per month. In November 2018, the commission requested alternatives to Pacific Power's recommended $36 monthly meter reading fee for all smart meter opt-out customers. A pilot program was approved by the commission in March 2019 that decreased the number of meter reads to three annually for smart meter opt-out customers, reducing the monthly meter reading fee from $36 to $9. The new rates became effective Dec. 4.

Chelan County PUD commissioners unanimously approved the district’s $440 million 2020 budget at their Dec. 2 meeting. The budget includes nearly $170 million for capital projects, including equipment upgrades at Rock Island Dam, repairs at Rocky Reach Dam and improvements to facilities at both dams. The district expects income to fall by about $20 million compared to 2019, largely due to lower wholesale energy prices.