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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Washington Supreme Court Rules Attorney General Must Represent Lands Commissioner

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State’s appeal of controversial Methow powerline plan will now move forward

The Washington Supreme Court ruled today that Attorney General Rob McKenna must represent Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark in an appeal of a lower court ruling. The Okanogan Public Utility District (PUD) filed the lawsuit against the State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in an attempt to take control of a wide band of Washington’s public land in the Methow Valley for a new power transmission line.

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Sep 01, 2011

OLYMPIA – The Washington Supreme Court ruled today that Attorney General Rob McKenna must represent Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark in an appeal of a lower court ruling. The Okanogan Public Utility District (PUD) filed the lawsuit against the State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in an attempt to take control of a wide band of Washington’s public land in the Methow Valley for a new power transmission line. 

“The Commissioner is attempting to defend the state’s trust lands from harmful and poorly conceived development,” said Dave Werntz, Science and Conservation Director at Conservation Northwest. “We’re pleased that the Commissioner will have his day in court.”

The proposed powerline is 26 miles long and 100 feet wide, crossing 12 miles of DNR land and requiring the construction and maintenance of over 20 miles of new road. The line and road network would cut through the largest contiguous block of State-owned shrub-steppe habitat in the Methow Valley, fragmenting wildlife habitat, degrading range lands, increasing fire risk, eroding soils, and damaging fisheries. The powerline could be constructed and maintained within the existing powerline corridor along State highways with fewer impacts and lower overall cost. 

The case began about two years ago when the Okanogan PUD initiated a lawsuit against DNR amidst discussions about the PUD’s easement request. Attorney General McKenna initially represented DNR in opposition to the lawsuit, but after an Okanogan County Superior Court ruled that the PUD could condemn State trust lands, the Attorney General refused to represent Commissioner  Goldmark in an appeal. State law prevents Commissioner Goldmark from hiring outside Counsel. As a result, Commissioner Goldmark was forced to take the unprecedented step of suing Attorney General McKenna to resolve the dispute.

“It is unfortunate that Attorney General McKenna took the law into his own hands and refused to defend DNR, his client state agency that is supposed to protect sensitive public lands,” said Mark Lawler, National Forest Committee Chair for Sierra Club’s Washington Chapter. “The people elected the Attorney General to represent state interests, including state agencies, and to uphold the interests of the public. The people elected Goldmark to manage and protect public lands. The Attorney General should not be in the position of deciding whether or not Commissioner Goldmark, or any agency leader, is worthy of representation.”

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