Robert Brachtenbach, author of the state Supreme Court ruling that precipitated the default of the Washington Public Power Supply System, died Friday at his home in Cottage Grove, Ore., of complications from cancer, according to published reports. He was 77.

Mr. Brachtenbach served on Washington’s high court from 1972 to 1994.

He was the author of the 1983 opinion that concluded, by a 7-to-1 vote, that participating local utilities lacked the authority to secure debt issued to build two nuclear power plants that the power system, known as WPPSS, had canceled before completion. 

WPPSS was a consortium of local power systems that had planned to build five nuclear plants, only one of which was completed. The state Supreme Court ruling led WPPSS to default on $2.25 billion in bonds that had been issued to build two of the plants, marking the largest default in the history of the municipal bond market up to that point.

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