Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Bill Brock presented to Bill Garrard's "House
Interim Committee on Land Use" May 14, 2004, a
speech followed by Power Distribution Problems in
the Northwest, and A PROPOSAL FOR CONSIDERATION BY
THE OREGON STATE LEGISLATURE
My name is Bill Brock. My wife and I live and farm in Langell Valley. I am presently employed by the largest power marketer in the northwest, as a Power System Control Specialist.
I would like to thank the House Interim Committee on Land Use Review and representative Garrard for providing this opportunity to speak to you about our local land use concerns.
Langell Valley is a relatively isolated farming community, made up primarily of field crop farms and livestock ranches. I recognized the beauty of this valley 30 years ago as a student at Oregon Institute of Technology. I saw the value of family farms and the safety that a close knit community provides. I moved away, as many young people do, to make my fortune in the big city, always dreaming of a time when I could return and own a piece of land in this basin. That career in the city was a way to return to the Klamath Basin and fulfill those earlier dreams. I was fortunate enough to return in 1997 and purchase that dream farm. I thought that I could remain here as long as I wanted and not have to worry about those annoyances that plague city life. The land was zoned Exclusive Farm Use, you could not build a house on less than 80 acres. You were free to do the things that farmers do and not worry about the neighbors complaining about the dust or the smell. No one was going to build a gas refinery or other large industrial facility next door. I believed these were guaranteed by land use rulings and legislative statute.
It would seem that the joke is on me.
For the past 2 years I have spent many hours trying to find out how the state of Oregon could interpret land use statutes in a way that contradicts the intent of the law. I have found that the original intent of Senate bill 100 was to place a protective barrier around Oregon farm land. From the day that Senate Bill 100 was signed in 1973, there has been a collective attack, by legislative statute revision, on the intent of that bill. Today we face what may just be the death of actual state land use protections. Those were the protections that I was convinced would protect me from political and corporate corruption. It would seem that whatever you want to do on Exclusive Farm Use land in Oregon, you could if you delved deep enough into the statutes. Statutes exist that contradict another, interpretations that defy common sense, and wording so cryptic that even lawyers can not agree on its meaning. It would appear that anyone with enough money and lobbyists could get a wanted statute revised or amended and the general public would be none the wiser.
Now into Langell Valley comes what is know as a foreign power company, Peoples Energy of Chicago, (in the power business any company that does not provide services in an area is know as a foreign power company), this company wants to build one of the nations largest gas-fired generating facilities right here in our valley, a truly heavy industrial use on land zoned for Exclusive Farm Use. The purpose for siting this behemoth in Langell Valley is that the intended recipient of the power produced is in California. California has stringent environmental and operational requirements and Oregon does not. It would cost quite a lot more to build this plant closer to where it may be needed. Never mind the proponents supposed resource requirement that the facility be placed here, there are at least 10 locations closer to the intended load which provide all the needed resources and all are zoned for this type of facility.
What appears like support for this facility by political leaders on the left side of the state for a few dollars in state cash flow, looks to us like complete disregard for rural constituents and their chosen life style on the right side of the state. Will it be worth writing off a few hundred rural residents when election time rolls around?
Will the loss of confidence in government be worth the short term gain in dollars?
May 14, 2004
As you know, this county has a huge problem with decisions made solely by government bureaucrats. Will the decision to pick, choose and interpret only those statutes that support the exceptions needed to site this monster in Langell Valley be another wedge between effective government and those people that chose to live and work in Langell Valley and the Klamath Basin?
As the nation charged headlong into electricity deregulation in the 1990s, Oregon secretly modified its Energy Facility Siting Authority to a market based model via legislative revision of statutes. Only those closely associated with the legislature knew that Oregon was being pressured to let the market determine the future energy decisions in the state. As we know now, deregulation of the electricity market is only a pipe dream. Witness the fiasco in California during 2001 and 2002. As a matter of fact, nothing is actually deregulated, only re-regulated so that those in the industry can syphon a few more dollars out of the market.
I say this as one who is closely associated with the energy market and its participants on a daily basis.
So how did Oregon force deregulation? By rewriting ORS 469 and other applicable energy statutes. Oregon has essentially thrown away its ability to decide whether or not the building of an energy facility is in the best interest of the state and its citizens.
By rewriting the statutes that regulate the Energy Facility Siting Authority, the legislature has compromised the statewide land use planning goals adopted by the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC). Oregon’s own published energy policy contradicts the law as it exists today.
Between 1995 and 1997 the legislature altered the nature and composition of the standards governing Energy Facility Siting Council determinations, giving the council the ability to circumvent state land use goals and zoning requirements by including provisions that make those land use decisions by using only Energy Facility Siting Council standards.
I urge you to return to the legislature and force a moratorium on the issuance of energy facility site certificates until state land use policy, state energy policy and the voiced desires of the citizens of the state of Oregon are truly in agreement.
I can and will provide detailed and specific citations of state statutes that I believe are contrary to state policy and legislative intent if asked to do so.
That concludes my oral testimony, I will summit this testimony in writing along with a proposal for legislation to address our concerns and a discussion about why the siting of facilities such as this threatens the stability and reliability of the northwest power system.
Thank you for your time. I will answer any questions you may have.
31100 Horsefly Lane
Bonanza, Oregon 97623
Power Distribution Problems in the Northwest
The following discussion will show why siting large energy facilities far from their intended load will cause instability to and reduced reliability with the northwest power distribution system.
The northwest electricity distribution system has grown from one of individual power lines moving power from dams on the Columbia River to the major metropolitan areas into a network of overloaded lines and misunderstood protection mechanisms that now threaten the distribution of that precious power. The unsupported notion that the market should determine where power generation is located is disputed by not only the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission but also Oregon’s own published energy policy.
Background for making informed decisions concerning the real reasons that the nation has experienced huge power outages has, in the past, been hidden by the technical explanation that seem only an attempt to place the cause on nothing in particular and everything in general. There appears to be a problem with accountability with those that provide power and the power distribution systems throughout this nation. Every few years, starting in the early 1960s, the power industry has attempted to address the cause of major power outages with increased system protection. System protection is a technical term for the hardware that monitors the power system and makes decisions about what to do when a problem occurs. Each time a major power outage occurs, system protection is called upon to minimize the problem. It has been a failure. Regulation and hardware can not repair a basic flaw in the system. That flaw is the concept that a large connected primary network of power sources and loads can be managed for minimum disruption.
Take the lowly spider and its primary method of food collection, the web. The spider’s web is constructed to telegraph the capture of any unsuspecting insect that may become ensnared, directly to the spider that is lurking in a secret place just off the grid. In an odd sort of way the nation’s power grid is just like the spider’s web. Any problem in the grid, however small, is telegraphed throughout the grid. The premise has been that as soon as we capture a disturbance we take action to minimize its affect to our portion of the grid. It just doesn’t work that way. There have been seven major power outages in the past 40 years and each time industry has assured us that it will never happen again. Today the power industry relies on a procedure known as islanding. This procedure is designed to isolate the problem area and let the rest of the system operate normally. As they say, " herein lies the problem". Today the northwest is connected, as is all the nation, by a very long and overloaded power distribution system. Power distribution is overloaded because we continue to maintain the idea that industry will do what is necessary to provide its primary product: electricity. This idea is patently incorrect. Industry has only its investors to satisfy and will go to great lengths to increase its "bottom line". The answer is not in more distribution, that is more power lines, the answer is in placing power generation close to the load centers and using the distribution system as an alternate source and not a primary source of power. This concept is not new and is promoted and published by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and is our own Oregon power policy.
Power Distribution Problems continued.
What follows is a semi-technical discussion of what happens during a typical major power outage. Take for example the August 10, 1996 power disturbance that caused the lights to go out over much of southern California and parts of Arizona. The cause of this disturbance was an overloaded power line that sagged into a tree in northwest Oregon. This somewhat small disturbance caused the separation of the major northwest southwest connection. The result of this separation caused a domino effect of erratic voltage swings and protection equipment operations, all of which only made the problem much worse.
This is what happened August 10, 1996:
A power line carrying an excessive amount of power quite a long distance shorted to ground when the heat generated by that current caused the line to sag and arc to a nearby tree . Protection equipment sensed this massive current to ground and removed the short from the system. The system was balanced prior to this occurrence, but now the line was open. The excess generation remaining caused the system voltage to rise dramatically. Other protection equipment rushed in to reduce the generation. The voltage then went too low. Generation was commanded to increase. We had a series of events that will ultimately cause power system to separate all the way to Texas. Here we return to the spiders web analogy. The system is strung so tight and generation is so far away from load that even a minor disturbance causes enormous consequences. The lights go out for millions of people. This is not an isolated incident. Seven major power outages in the last 40 years were caused by very similar events. Does it look like we have learned from our experiences? I think not.
No amount of regulation or protection equipment will remove the continued threat of future power outage as long as we operate the system as it is now configured. The solution is quite obvious and has been articulated each time an outage has occurred. Place any future generation close to the load centers, and use the existing high voltage distribution network as a backup for localized outages.
The primary reason for the preceding discussion is an attempt to dissuade placement of a very large gas-fired power generating facility in the middle of a 300 mile long and currently overloaded power line. People Energy of Chicago has proposed a behemoth of a power plant be built in a pristine farming community on the Oregon-California border. A recently constructed power generating facility in the Klamath basin has already caused the power rate payers of the northwest to incur increased cost by requiring the Bonneville Power Administration to spend multiple millions of dollars for voltage control equipment at the Captain Jack Substation in an attempt to offset introduction of generation in the middle of this long transmission line. Another generator in the Klamath Basin will only exacerbate an existing problem.
The solution is clear. Power generation needs to be built close to the load centers. Future innovation in power generation is now removing the need for large centrally located generation. Fuel cell technology, wind generation and micro turbines are fast becoming the answer to tomorrow’s power needs. We must follow the lead of federal and state policy makers by addressing tomorrow’s needs with generation near the load and innovative new localized generation technology.
A PROPOSAL FOR CONSIDERATION BY THE OREGON STATE
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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