Thumbs up to Energy Northwest for record-breaking year

Employees of Energy Northwest completed a stellar year at the nuclear power plant near Richland.

The Columbia Generating Station produced a record 9.34 million megawatt-hours of electricity in 2012.

It wasn't the only record to fall at the reactor last year, but it's a far cry from a record of a different sort set in 2011. That year, the plant the longest outage in its history -- about 175 days -- when a condenser replacement did not go as planned.

And that disappointing performance came on the heels of an Institute of Nuclear Power Operations analysis in 2010 that rated the plant as one of two in the nation most in need of operational and staff performance improvement.

That finding followed six un-planned shutdowns in late 2008 through November 2009.

But since then, the reactor has had no unplanned shutdowns.

Last year, the reactor ran continuously, other than a planned 10-day maintenance outage in May.

Full disclosure -- Herald editorial board reader representative Michael Paoli works for Energy Northwest.

But it didn't take his prodding to catch our attention. The plant produces almost 10 percent of the electricity generated in Washington. Its operations are not only crucial to the Tri-Cities but also the entire Northwest.

A banner year like 2012 makes its own case for recognition.

Taking taxpayers to the cleaners

Thumbs down to the seven Democrats and 12 Republicans in the Legislature who requested and received compensation totaling more than $5,600 for dry cleaning in the past two years, according to The Associated Press.

It's not a lot of money, but we don't see how the lawmakers justify the expense in the face of the state's protracted budget crisis.

It's especially a sticky wicket for staunch conservatives on the list, like state Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, who billed the state about $480 for dry cleaning, according to the AP.

Klippert said he'd do his own laundry if he could, but living arrangements in Olympia left him without the use of a washer and dryer.

His explanation ignores the existence of coin operated laundries, but at least it fits this statement in the Washington State Republican Party platform: "We believe that government should do for individuals only those things they cannot do for themselves."

But we still don't see how the 12 Republicans square the perk with the POG concept their party wants the Legislature to use as a basis for budget decisions.

The acronym stands for "priorities of government" not "press our garments."

Carried away

Thumbs down to Mike Brown, owner of B&G Farms for failing to prevent what the state describes as extreme soil erosion on Brown's farmland in Grant County.

A heavy storm July 20 sent a large amount of soil down the hill and into Lower Crab Creek north of Royal City, covering the road, smothering fish habitat and polluting the creek with mud, according to the Washington Department of Ecology.

Brown's attorney told the Royal Register newspaper that the erosion was caused by extreme weather, not Brown's farming practices.

The downpour brought than two inches of rain within 20 minutes.

We'd be more sympathetic to that argument if Brown hadn't signed a settlement agreement in 2004 requiring the use of best management farming practices to avoid erosion.

In addition, Ecology issued a legal order in 2008, with a penalty of $9,000, to compel B&G Farms to improve the condition of the soil and incorporate anti-erosion farming practices after another erosion event at the same place.

We're seeing a pattern here, and it's not a weather pattern.