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House panel hears Cob foes


Published May 16, 2004


The state House Interim Committee on Land Review met in Klamath Falls on Friday afternoon and heard local citizens' opinions on land use issues, especially the proposed Cob Energy Facility.

Bill Garrard, southern Klamath County's state representative, is the chairman of the committee, and up for re-election Tuesday.

"Your comments are valuable," Garrard said Friday. "Your comments are the reason we're here."

Roughly a dozen people testified about the proposed 1,130-megawatt plant, which would be built in the rural Langell Valley, roughly 25 miles from Klamath Falls.

David Stewart-Smith, assistant director for the Oregon Department of Energy's energy resources division, kicked off testimony by explaining his reasons for granting department approval for the plant, which would require an exception to Oregon's land use laws because the plant would be situated on exclusive farm use-zoned land.

"This is a good place," he said. "There are other good places (in the region) where power plants will be needed."

Rep. Vicki Berger of Salem asked Stewart-Smith if he knew how much land would have to be used to site the plant.

The assistant director said he wasn't really sure, and guessed at 60 to 70 acres.

"Probably some of the folks in the back of the room could answer that question better than myself," he said, as power plant opponents whispered and shook their heads at his statement.

The company proposing the plant has said about 300 acres would be needed for all aspects of the facility.

Stewart-Smith said the decision about the facility will be made by the seven-member, governor-appointed Energy Facility Siting Council, probably in September.

Klamath County Commissioner Steve West, the first project opponent to speak, denounced the statewide process for siting power plants.

"With all due respect to Director Smith, this process is flawed," said West. "It's terribly flawed."

"In this process, we've created a patrician class of industry it is the only industry, to my knowledge, that can choose to skirt local land use planning."

He also criticized the siting council. Information on the group is supposed to be posted on the Department of Energy's Web site, but West said he could find very little about the group. A similar Herald and News effort eight months ago to find information on the group came up with very little information, and a Department of Energy spokeswoman would not give out contact information for any of the council's members.

"The siting council, to the majority of the people who live in the county, is a black hole," he said.

Other opponents testified as well, including Gail Whitsett, who said the Department of Energy was not following state land use planning because it had included incorrect information on seismic activity. She said there was a 10-mile long seismic fault near the power plant's suggested location, and added evidence pointed to far more recent - and nearby - seismic activity, than information included by the department.

The land use committee will use testimony from the meeting as it considers Oregon's land use planning laws and whether legislation needs to be amended.


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