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Comments to the Oregon Department of Energy and the Oregon Facility Siting Council on the COB Energy Facility Draft Proposed Order
My name is Roger Hamilton. I have owned and assisted other family members in the operation of a family farm and ranch in Langell Valley at 511 Gerber Rd., Bonanza, OR since 1972. I was a Klamath County Commissioner from 1993 to 2001 and an Oregon Public Utility Commissioner from 1992 to 2001. I was Governor Kitzhaberís energy and salmon advisor from 2001 to 2003. I offer these comments in opposition to the Oregon Department of Energy recommendation to approve the proposed COB facility. These comments supplement oral comments made at a public hearing at the Lorella Community Hall on Janauary 22, 2004. They specifically address the two council standards on land use and carbon dioxide.
I commented previously that I am more concerned with what the Council cannot consider under its jurisdiction that what it can consider. Page 7 of the proposed order lists the issues that you cannot consider including tax exemptions, air emissions, property values, the financial success of the facility, the preservation of the rural way of life in Langell Valley, and the need for power. Unfortunately and ironically, these issues are at the core of much of the community opposition expressed at your meetings and hearings, including my own objections. This fact speaks volumes to the current weakness of the siting process in Oregon, and the lack of effective long-range energy planning in our state and at the national level.
Land Use Standard
On page 220 of the proposed order you state that an exception to Goal 3 should be approved because the proposed use is "locationally" dependent on existing resources: the groundwater well, the natural gas pipeline, and the electric transmission line and substation. This argument is specious. As logical as it sounds, it avoids the issue that so many impacted residents have raised in public comment. That issue may be stated in a simple question: compared to what other alternatives and why here? The order expressly evades the issue by reference to the rule exception to alternative site evaluation for energy facilities. But there is no question in the minds of impacted residents that there are multiple alternative sites in the Malin, Merrill, and Tulelake area that would better accommodate the proposed \facility, would be closer to the substation, the transmission line, and the gas pipeline, have excellent air shed ventilation, and a better opportunity for cogeneration with agricultural processing facilities for potatoes or sugar beets. The salient fact that Langell Valley is a closed basin with very poor ventilation has been skirted by the limitations of the councilís jurisdiction. While oral comments at a number of meetings and hearings have made this point over and over, there is scant reference to this fact in the text of the proposed order.
On page 221 reference is made to Regional Transmission System support and its critical need for new capacity as a reason for approval. The argument is not supported in the text of the order. And I find this contradictory to the councilís specific reference on page 7 to its lack of jurisdiction over need for power. The Regional Transmission System is under federal jurisdiction, and the lines in question are federally owned by the Bonneville Power Administration. Another point of irony is that the proposed order declines Council jurisdiction with respect to the need for a power generation facility, but implicitly assumes jurisdiction for a need for transmission facility support without offering any facts to support this contention. A fact, quite to the contrary of the orderís assumption, is that large generating units of the scale of the COB have been known to destabilize the electricity grid when they experience unanticipated outages.
Finally, on page 223 of the proposed order the drafters fail to deal adequately with Social impacts of the COB. This suggests a tin ear to the comments and testimony offered by Langell Valley residents who feel that their quality of life and the value set that motivates them to settle and maintain their residency in this place is threatened by the COB. The proposed order dismisses the issue of social impacts with reference to "scenic, cultural, historical, archaeological, or recreational resources," and "community services" that in no way define the core values that are expressed by the project opponents. These "resources" are lists of specific objects or features that the land-use plan is designed to "protect," but the sum of these objects and features in no way substitute for the hearts and minds of the majority of individuals who live and work in Langell Valley. While not easy to quantify, these attitudes certainly must constitute a qualifying measurement of social impact.
Carbon Dioxide Standard
Page 94 of the proposed order provides a table quantifying the CO2 standard for the COB facility. The table projects total CO2 emissions over 30 years to be 160,626 million pounds over 30 years, with a 15.349 million ton excess to be offset with $13,634 million.
This is all well and good, but does not address the basic issue of why we are building more gas plants that create more CO2 emissions.
I have addressed the question at length in previous comments, and consistent with your admonition that need for power and the financial viability of the plant is not in your jurisdiction I will refrain from further comment. But compliance with Oregonís CO2 standard is jurisdictional to the Council and this leaves the door open to comment on the stateís climate change policy. There is no question in my mind that this plant is inconsistent with that policy.
On September 22, 2003 Oregon Governor Kulongoski joined the governors of California and Washington in a joint declaration to direct their staffs, including staff of the Oregon Department of Energy, to develop policies and cooperate regionally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce reliance on fossil fuels as a "hedge against the economic impact from oil and natural gas spikes, " and "keep our energy dollars invested at home instead of exporting them overseas to oil and gas suppliers." The statement includes references to the "adverse consequences of global warming on the economy, health, and environment of the west coast states." It also refers to the economic benefits of regional investments in emerging renewable technology, and the associated reduction of "emissions that cause smog, soot, haze and toxic air pollution." The joint declaration specifically calls for "removing barriers to and encouraging the development of renewable electricity generation resources and technologies."
Associated materials released with this statement list Oregon accomplishments to address global warming including an Oregon Benchmark to hold CO2 emissions at 1990 levels.
Will siting an 1160 MW gas plant in southern Oregon help meet these goals? Will it help renewable technologies like wind, solar, or geothermal, all blessedly abundant in Klamath County, gain access to the electricity grid and compete for customers? Based on a table also released with the joint declaration by Oregon DOE ("Inventory of Oregon Carbon Dioxide Emissions), in 1990 electrical utilities and natural gas facilities in the state accounted for 51%: of total CO2 emissions from all sources. In 2000 that portion increased to 57% of all sources. Using the 2000 statewide level of 34.9 tons of CO2, and comparing a 2.7 million ton annual carbon loading from the COB table, the COB alone would have accounted for 8% of electricity and natural gas related CO2 emissions in the state. How is this projection consistent with the western coastal state governorís strategy on climate change and the energy policy of the state of Oregon?
We have a policy that addresses the siting of the COB, that would challenge the proposed order and defeat it. What is absent is the institutional and legal framework to implement that policy. I urge the members of the Council to rise to the occasion, exercise their good judgment as officers of the state, act in the public interest and in the interest of the residents of Langell Valley, and consistently with state environmental and energy policy, and reverse the staff recommendation to approve the COB facility. Members of the affected community have virtually no resources to make their argument in opposition to COB relative to the resources of the power developers. The county commissions deferred to you to make the land use decision. The decision is yours and yours alone.
Thank you for this opportunity to voice my opposition to the proposed order.
511 Brookside Dr.
Eugene, OR 97405
February 5, 2004
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