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Final public hearing on proposed 42-megawatt facility scheduled for Jan. 31
by SARA HOTTMAN, Herald and News 1/10/12
The Oregon Department of Energy on Monday recommended approval of a biomass energy facility on Highway 66 between Klamath Falls and Keno.

The department issued what is called a draft proposed order that recommends the state Energy Facility Siting Council approve the project with conditions. A public hearing is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m., Jan. 31 at Oregon Institute of Technology.

Klamath Falls Bioenerg y, subsidiary to Bellevue, Wash.-based Northwest Energy Systems Co. LLC, wants to build a 42-megawatt biomass plant, which would burn wood waste from forests to create electricity.

According to the ODE’s proposed order, the company’s proposal complies with Oregon statutory requirements and statewide planning goals. “Both U.S. senators, our congressmen, and the governor came out in support of it,” said Trey Senn, director of the Klamath County Economic Development Association. “It’s a huge investment — the biggest we’ve had in Klamath since, interestingly enough, the (cogeneration) plant, another power generation plant.”

Klamath Falls Bioenergy officials in a press release said the biomass plant would create 329 construction jobs, worth $30.3 million, and 192 permanent jobs, equivalent to $12 million annual payroll.

But at public meetings residents near the proposed site, 25 acres off Highway 66 between Klamath Falls and Keno, have opposed the plant out of concern for pollution, noise and traffic.

“ Why ( Northwest Energy Systems) chose the lowest elevation to build a big smokestack is beyond me,” Shannon Totten, a nearby resident, said at a public meeting in May 2010. “Why can’t the project be off to the east where it’s not so heavily populated?”

In its draft proposed order, state energy officials reviewed impacts on nature, recreation, and the public, and concluded the biomass facility would comply with all standards.

“It’s in an industrial zone, that’s been an industrial zone for 30 or 40 years,” said Senn, who is on the Energy Facility Siting Council but recused himself from this decision out of possible conflict of interest.

“At the Oregon Business Council meeting the governor specifically mentioned biomass plants as a tremendous opportunity for rural counties for economic development,” he said. “This is huge for Klamath County.”

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