For Washington to Meet Clean Energy Goals, Governor Inslee Must Guide Projects to Optimal Locations

For Washington to Meet Clean Energy Goals, Governor Inslee Must Guide Projects to Optimal Locations

Conservation Northwest / May 29, 2024 / News Releases, Protecting Wildlands, Sagelands

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Governor Jay Inslee has rejected the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) recommendations regarding the Horse Heaven Solar and Wind Development project. Despite the council’s extensive three-year effort, which involved scientific research, input from Tribes and local governments, and public feedback, Governor Inslee is giving the council just three months to revise its previous recommendation.

The council’s initial recommendation aimed to significantly reduce the project’s size to mitigate potential harm to endangered species and cultural resources that are important for local Tribes. However, Governor Inslee is now urging EFSEC to backtrack on its recommendation and propose mitigation measures instead of reducing the project, which would affect critical habitats for protected species such as ferruginous hawks, greater sage-grouse, pygmy rabbits, pronghorn antelope, and more.

Mitch Friedman, Executive Director of Conservation Northwest, expressed concern over Governor Inslee’s action, stating, “The Governor’s heavy-handed approach not only neglects wildlife but also jeopardizes our clean energy future by inviting backlash.”

Governor Inslee’s focus on achieving energy goals in the state at any cost disregards the availability of excellent tools for better siting of utility-scale solar developments in the Columbia Plateau. For instance, Washington State University has developed solar siting maps, funded by the legislature, identifying where solar development project proposals would have the least conflict.

This mapping process identifies 1.5 million acres as low conflict for environmental concerns and low to moderate conflict for farm and ranchland concerns, which is ample land for solar developers to research and identify acceptable sites in consultation with Tribes.

Solar and wind development companies will, rightfully so, always look to develop where they can get the best return for their investment. Unfortunately, this is not always the best location from everyone’s different viewpoints. If nothing changes in our state, and we continue with little to no consideration for the obvious negative environmental and cultural effects of solar and wind development in the wrong places, future generations will be saddled with the task of undoing our mistakes and asking, “Why didn’t they just do this right in the first place?”

Media contact: Andrea Wolf, Communications Director,, 206-970-1430


Grouse in Washington sagelands. Photo: Ferdi Businger