Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
The agenda of the regular meeting of the Klamath Board of County Commissioners for January 18, 2005 included among a long list of items "In the matter of discussion and consideration of the COB power plant proposed enterprise zone agreement. Trey Senn, KCEDA." by Lyn Brock 1/18/05 Mr. Paul Turner, spokesperson for COB Energy Facility, began by saying that COB was only making a proposal and that they were not requesting the Board to vote on that proposal at today's meeting. He then presented a computer video presentation which began with a stylized depiction of the visibility of the proposed energy facility as seen by a bird flying from Bonanza up and over the hill to the COB site. The video suggested that the actual plant will not be visible from Bonanza. The bird would have to be something like 700 or 1200 or 2000 feet in the air above Bonanza before the facility would be visible. We could see the cooling towers in the depiction but the stacks which have been listed in prior application materials from COB at up to 200 feet high didn't appear to be included . He stated that water for power generation use would be 200 gallons per minute (plus 90 gallons per minute for irrigation during about seven months of the year). He added that power plants do not operate 100% of the time and this one is proposed to run 72% of the year , so its average use would be 36 gpm for a 575 MW facility or 72 gpm for an 1160 MW facility. Mr. Turner had some more interesting statistics : Seventy-two percent of 200 is 72 and thirty-six percent of 200 is 36. At least that is what he put up on the screen during his formal presentation. These are the kind of inaccuracies we continue to find in the COB material and if these details are incorrect, we believe other data which affects life and health and safety may also be incorrect . Mr. Turner stated that the emission control process reduces the emissions much as a catalytic converter on a car. We later questioned whether it reduces emissions or changes NOx to a different form. He says it reduces emissions and the "catalytic converter" containing precious metals is replaced periodically and hauled to a landfill. later, outside the meeting room, I asked whether the emissions didn't change forms and get emitted as a different chemical compound ... such as ammonium nitrate. He said that it didn't change forms and he couldn't answer my question as to how many tons of ammonium nitrate would be emitted. He said he didn't know, that we could probably find it in their materials. We wanted to discuss it with him and didn't have the COB books with us. Mr. Turner stated that this project would be a $671 million capital investment and then proceeded to explain how much they projected would be spent in the local economy and how many support jobs it would create. He talked about how the construction workers would bring their wives and families here. That didn't appear to be the case during construction of the CoGen. Our county didn't appear to receive benefit of a lot of spending from those workers. They lived in their travel trailers at local trailer parks, some in motels with weekly rates, and probably ate at convenience stores and fast food places. I would like to see the statistics on how much money that construction crew brought into our county. Most of them didn't bring their families. They sent much of their earnings home to support home and family. If they lived close enough to drive home on weekends, many of them did so. For a short two or three years, this construction project may bring new people into the area to fill those jobs and the support jobs such as fast food workers. Then we will have more people out of work and needing assistance. The few who might buy homes will be unemployed and unable to make house payments. Unable to sell their houses, will they stay here and unemployed or will they move on to another temporary construction site leaving their house vacant awaiting sale? Mr. Turner stated that their assessed property tax at normal assessed rate would be something like 7 million dollars a year and then reduced as the property depreciates. That is true of personal property and perhaps of the kind of equipment COB will have at their facility. MY property taxes are not reduced every year! I wish! So as their facility depreciates, will it look like the mill site in Dairy which has definitely depreciated since it was designated an enterprise zone? It now looks like a junkyard, an industrial dumpsite, and is an eyesore in an otherwise rural farm community. COB is now proposing to pay one half the amount of regularly assessed taxes ... something like 3.some million dollars ... instead of the formerly offered $1 million or $1.5 million in lieu of taxes. I believe the amount offered is still "in lieu of taxes" but Mr. Turner didn't make that clear in his presentation. As I understand it, "in lieu of taxes" would mean it would come directly to our county and the Commissioners would have the discretion as to how it should be spent. They would bypass the state process of allocating a large percentage to local schools. I would hope that a similar or larger amount would be spent on our old school buildings which are sadly in need of repair or replacement. COB is also proposing to give $300,000 a year to KCEDA for economic development. What do you call that? That isn't "in lieu of taxes." I heard people around me asking if that is a "bribe" or a "kickback." Commissioner Switzer suggested a date for a Public Hearing and after discussion it was moved and seconded and approved to have a Public Hearing to consider Enterprise Zone designation for the COB Energy Facility on February 1st, 2005 at 10 a.m. time certain. Mr. Turner was adamant that he HAS to have a decision by February 1st or therabouts. Why? Does he have a buyer? Commissioner Elliott brought up the question of whether COB would provide adequate full-time fire department in Bonanza to handle a fire of the magnitude that could occur in a gas fired power plant of this size. Concerning that and other questions, Mr. Turner stated he would have answers for the Board tomorrow. He would put this proposal in writing and submit it to our County Commissioners tomorrow. In discussing the size of this plant, asked something about this being the largest of its size, Mr. Turner stated that there is another of this size in Washington State. Later, after the meeting, when questioned, he stated that the plant is in Grays Harbor and is 1130 MW so it is close to the same size but, indeed, is not as big or bigger. Commissioner Brown stated, "You have brought us this proposal ..." then asked, "Is this an all or nothing proposal?" Turner discussed that other amounts had been offered in the past that weren't realistic or fair. So he just proposed that they compromise on fifty percent. This is an attempt at "mending the fences." He said they figured out how to "split the baby." I guess he has heard the story of the wisdom of King Solomon but didn't understand or learn the lesson. In the Bible, the real mother of the baby chose to give up her baby to the imposter mother rather than to have her child harmed. I would say to Mr. Turner that his plant may ruin lives or cause serious life threatening health conditions to children and other folks in our area. You should give up your fight for a tax break. If this huge generating plant is destined to be built, this for-profit corporation should pay its fair share of taxes. Maybe half of the taxes should be set aside to buy health insurance for nearby farm workers and residents to make available health care to those whose health is affected. At DEQ meeting, the man answering our questions, when asked, explained that the way criteria are set for maximum allowable levels of emissions is based on what is safe for a normal, healthy adult. So even if the COB Energy Facility stays within the state guidelines, their emissions could be harmful to infants, children, the elderly, and anyone with compromised health conditions. The commissioners would not allow questions or public comment. All our discussions with Mr. Turner were held after this agenda item while visiting in the hall. I really enjoyed Trey Senn's comments ... he's the front man for KCEDA who has worked so hard to attract this unattractive industry to our rural agricultural area. He referred to the $300,000 a year for KCEDA for which he'd like to take credit but said that if he did it would be "a way big not truth." Trey, you have such a way with words! The public hearing on the recommended order that was held in early November had a lot of statements that were not true made by COB's attorney and others including the State's Hearings Officer. COB's attorney stated that Klamath County is the least populated county in the state of Oregon when out of thirty-some counties it is actually thirteenth from the smallest or thirteenth from the largest depending on whether you are talking about actual population or about population density. He stated that Langell Valley is one of the least populated areas. I guess he hasn't done his homework and he hasn't driven through some of the real, real sparsely populated areas of Eastern Oregon where you can drive for ten miles in the middle of the day on a main highway and never meet another vehicle. COB's attorney stated that there are no residences within 1.7 miles of the COB site. Actually, there appear to be at least 12 homes shown within that distance in the COB materials. If DEQ is basing their studies on these facts (way big not truths, I guess Trey Senn would classify them, if he took an honest look at the data), they might be misinterpreting the effect emissions or noise levels could have on the human population. And remember that there is a school within 2.78 miles that has an enrollment of about 500 to 600 children. Not to worry! The county is going to get big bucks! Tomorrow... Turner promised to deliver this offer in writing to county commissioners tomorrow. Hopefully this will be made available to the public this week. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- by Lyn Brock who is a teacher, accountant, and farmer living near Bonanza and, along with many other residents of Klamath County, through their nonprofit organization "Save Our Rural Oregon," is opposing the construction of the COB Energy Facility in rural Langell Valley.
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