Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and B.C. Premier John Horgan and former Tacoma mayor Marilyn Strickland discuss ‘clean grid’ project at the Cascadia conference, Seattle, Oct. 3, 2019. (B.C. government)

Building up joint electric grid next, John Horgan and Jay Inslee say

Cascadia conference moves beyond high-speed rail

B.C. and Washington state are moving ahead with plans to increase electrical grid connections across the border in the Cascadia region, Premier John Horgan and Gov. Jay Inslee say.

Horgan and Inslee announced the “clean grid initiative” Thursday at the annual Cascadia Innovation Corridor conference in Seattle. A working group to coordinate B.C. Hydro and Washington utilities will prepare for a “clean grid summit” to be held in 2020.

Both leaders agreed that having abundant hydroelectric power to serve as backup gives them more opportunity to develop intermittent sources such as solar power.

Horgan and Inslee also reiterated their support for a high-speed rail corridor linking Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.

“This is the most rapidly growing area of North America, our province and our state,” Inslee told reporters after the conference. “We have no choice but to increase the carrying capacity of our transportation system, particularly north-south. We can’t build another 42 lanes next to the I-5.”

At the 2018 conference, B.C. contributed $300,000 towards a business case study of a high-speed rail link between Vancouver, Seattle and Portland.

The study was submitted to the Washington state legislature in July, with a conclusion that an ultra-high-speed transportation system “could be viable” for the Pacific Northwest region.

The study examines corridor options, possible station areas and potential ridership, as well as governing structures to administer the line across state and international borders, and financing alternatives.

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Environmental protection has been a theme for the annual Cascadia Innovation Corridor conference, with joint efforts to improve salmon habitat and protect southern resident killer whales that inhabit coastal waters off B.C. and U.S. states.

Inslee has joined Horgan in opposition to expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline, which was built in the 1950s. It is still the only pipeline supplying crude oil to Washington state’s refineries at Cherry Point near Blaine, March Point near Anacortes, and Ferndale.

Shell’s March Point complex began operations in 1958 with only Trans Mountain crude from Alberta, but in recent years the state gets nearly half its oil via daily tankers from Valdez, Alaska through the Salish Sea.

Oil train traffic to Washington started in 2012 and has risen rapidly. Volatile light crude from North Dakota’s Bakken shale oil deposits, the same product loaded on a train that exploded and killed 47 people in Lac Mégantic, Quebec in 2013, accounts for much of Washington’s oil by rail.


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