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Rockefeller appointed to Northwest Power and Conservation Council, will leave Senate

Sen. Phil Rockefeller ... leaving Senate for the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. - Office of Sen. Phil Rockefeller
Sen. Phil Rockefeller ... leaving Senate for the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.
— image credit: Office of Sen. Phil Rockefeller

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire on Wednesday appointed Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. His appointment is effective July 1 and continues through Jan. 15, 2014.

Rockefeller announced he will leave the Senate at the end of June. Northwest Power and Conservation Council members are considered full-time and work from offices in or near their homes. Salaries vary from state to state; Rockefeller's predecessor, Dick Wallace, receives $95,000 a year and health benefits, NPCC Information Officer John Harrison said. Council members from each of the four Northwest states —  Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington — serve by appointment from their governor.

Wallace announced earlier this year that he would be leaving the council.

Rockefeller’s departure will have a domino effect in 23rd District politics. Kitsap County Elections Manager Delores Gilmore said the Kitsap County Democratic Central Committee will choose three candidates for Rockefeller’s Senate seat; the Board of County Commissioners will make the appointment.

Should Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo or Rep. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge be appointed, the same process will be repeated to appoint a successor in the House.

“I hate to see him go. He’s been tremendously effective,” said Michael Arnold, chairman of the Kitsap County Democrats Central Committee. “He’s been very much involved in energy and conservation, and at the forefront of discussion of those issues. That’s really huge in the Pacific Northwest, with both Puget Sound and Hood Canal in dire straits ecologically.”

“Phil is one of the most intelligent and thoughtful lawmakers that I have worked with,” Gregoire said in a press release. “Additionally, he has worked tirelessly to safeguard, enhance and maintain our environment so that future Washingtonians may enjoy the natural beauty our state offers. His appointment to this council will allow him the opportunity to continue to serve as both an environmental steward and leader.”

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council was created by Congress and approved by the legislatures of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington in order to give them a stronger voice in shaping fundamental natural resources — specifically, ensuring the electricity generated in the Columbian River Basin by the hydroelectric dams does not endanger local populations of fish and wildlife.

“Dick provided tremendous leadership to the council, and I thank him for his service on the board the last several years,” Gregoire said. “I wish him only the best.”

Rockefeller has served as assistant majority floor leader of the Senate and as chairman of the Senate Environment, Water and Energy Committee since 2005. In 2007, Rockefeller was voted Legislator of the Year for outstanding environmental leadership by the Washington League of Conservation Voters for his work on “Save Puget Sound” legislation. During the past legislative session, Rockefeller spearheaded landmark legislation to help transition Washington state off of coal power.

Rockefeller is a member of the Early Learning & K-12 Education, Ways and Means, Rules Committees and the Joint Committee on Energy Supply and Energy Conservation. He is a former officer of the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, a former board member of the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Council, Bainbridge Performing Arts, and the Bainbridge Public Library.

Rockefeller earned his undergraduate degree from Yale and a law degree from Harvard Law School.

“I first want to thank the constituents of the 23rd District for giving me the opportunity to serve them for 13 wonderful years,” Rockefeller said in a press release. “Their support and creative ideas motivated me to move forward with a number of initiatives to help our district and state. Serving in the Legislature has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. I’ll always be grateful to the voters back home who made this possible.

“I also want to thank Gov. Gregoire for her offer, which I am pleased to accept, to be one of two Northwest Power and Conservation Council members for Washington.”

His office listed the following highlights from his career in the Legislature:

— Leading the debate on review and repeal of tax preferences and exemptions.

— Transitioning Washington away from coal energy production by 2025.

— Creating the Puget Sound Partnership.

— Dedicating federal stimulus funds to residential and commercial energy retrofits.

— Enacting the College Bound Scholarship.

— Funding a statewide Skills Centers system.

— Adopting clean car emission standards for Washington.

— Leading the Senate floor debate on banning toxic children’s products.

— Securing funding for: Peninsula Community Health Services,   Kitsap Mental Health Services, Kitsap Community Resources,  Olympic College.

— Garnering approval for Olympic College’s four-year nursing degree program.

— Creating Derelict Vessel Removal Program.

Rockefeller said there is still a lot of work to do and hopes his colleagues will move forward on the following issues:

— Reviewing and eliminating unjustified tax preferences.

— Preparing for the disruptive impacts of climate change.

— Promoting energy efficiency and a clean energy economy.

— Reforming and updating Washington’s water laws.

— Continuing the long-term recovery of Puget Sound

Among its duties, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council develops a regional power plan and a fish and wildlife program to balance the Northwest's energy needs and mitigate environmental impacts of power generation. The council’s 2011 budget is $10 million. The council is funded by Bonneville Power Administration but is independent of Bonneville.

Among the council's tasks:

1. Develop a 20-year electric power plan that will guarantee adequate and reliable energy at the lowest economic and environmental cost to the Northwest.

2. Develop a program to protect and rebuild fish and wildlife populations affected by hydropower development in the Columbia River Basin.

3. Educate and involve the public in the council’s decision-making processes.

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