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Last Chance to attend hearing regarding COB power plant

by Gail Hildreth,  Bonanza

H&N 1/11/04

On Thursday, January 22, 2004 Klamath County residents will have their only opportunity to participate in the final Oregon Department of Energy hearing regarding the construction of the California Oregon Border (COB) 1160 Megawatt gas fired electrical generating facility to be located east of Klamath Falls. All previously submitted oral testimony and letters are now permanently sealed and are unavailable to the ODE’s hearing officer. This officer will be conducting the first hearing at the Langell Valley Community Hall at 2pm and the second hearing at the Klamath County Fairgrounds at 7pm.

Anyone wishing to contest the placement of this behemoth plant must establish standing by testifying on that day, or by submitting written testimony to ODE on or before February 5, 2004. Only specific issues challenging the legality of constructing this plant will be heard by the hearings officer. Some of these include building the plant on Exclusive Farm Use (EFU) agricultural and forestry zoned land as well as air pollution, water rights, environmental, cultural, economic, and traffic related issues.

According to the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) at 3.10.5 the ODE is asking for exemptions to Goal 3 and 4 of the Klamath County Comprehensive Plan. These goals were specifically emplaced to prevent more than 12 acres of high value soil or 20 acres of less high value soil to be used for a power generation facility. Now the state is compromising the County’s written code for the benefit of this multi- billion dollar corporation,

Businesses and citizens alike have adhered to strict land use planning laws for many years. A rarely used law provides the ODE freedom to bypass those same laws that every other citizen and corporate entity in the state must obey. The ODE believes it has justification for these Goal 3 and 4 exemptions; many citizens feel otherwise. They wonder why People’s Energy should be allowed to use more than one hundred more acres of EFU and forestry zoned land than Goals 3&4 allow for this type of facility. They wonder why this site is mandated when another appropriately zoned site is already available near Klamath Falls that would not take any land out of agricultural use.

People’s Energy has stated that it anticipates power generated at the site will be transmitted to urban California. By law the electricity generated by this plant cannot preferentially benefit Klamath Basin residents. It can neither be used to help lower the electricity rates of local urban or rural consumers nor to lower the pumping costs of irrigators in the Klamath Basin. The Illinois Commerce Commission is presently investigating People’s Energy for alleged improper business arrangements, manipulation of its storage gas and consumer overcharging of $109.5 million during 2000-2001. This is the same company that wants to do business in Klamath County.

Citizens of Bonanza and Langell Valley held certain investment backed expectations when they purchased their properties. These expectations were secured by the strict land use planning laws regarding EFU land. Changing these land use laws after the fact for the benefit of a multi-national corporation will certainly diminish those expectations. Do our politicians and bureaucrats possess authority to create exemptions to the laws that they created? They would have us believe that they do, and that they will.

The Energy Facility Siting Council’s (EFSC) draft permit will allow COB to take as much as 130 acres of exclusive farm and forestry use land to build one of the largest facilities of this type in the United States. This massive industrial complex is designed to have nearly 25 acres under roof. The EIS states its proposed 200 foot smoke stacks will be visible from Highway 97. The land disturbances will involve 4.1 miles for the gas pipeline delivery system, 7.2 miles for the 38 tower triple transmission line, and

2.8 miles for the water supply pipeline. All of these industrial construction components will be made on, through, and over lands zoned for exclusive non-industrial use.

A multitude of errors or misstatements exist in the draft EIS publicly released in November 2003. This document contains so many inaccuracies that it should be a public embarrassment to the public and private agencies responsible for writing it. Unfortunately, the public comment period on this several hundred page document will not be heard until February 13, 2004, well after the ODE’s hearings on January 22.

The EIS section regarding local traffic constitutes an insult to the intelligence of rural residents. Baseline estimates of "normal" vehicular travel are set extremely high to minimize construction influence. The suggestion that 400 vehicle trips occur daily on West Langell Valley Road is particularly ludicrous. The EIS fails to address the potential for traffic problems during inclement weather, the insufficiency of the often shoulderless Highway 140 and alternate farm to market routes, nor the increased traffic danger to our families and friends. Apparently, potential loss of life in vehicular accidents resulting from the 23 month COB construction is a non-issue with COB.

Local politicians and labor officials say this plant will monetarily benefit the community. This statement is undoubtedly true. What they are not saying is that negative economic influences are also certain. The County "farm to market" roads that the construction effort must use were not constructed for large numbers of trucks hauling loads in excess of 80,000 GVW. They were not designed for thousands of excess light trucks nor for the peak traffic loads anticipated by the COB application. In fact statements tucked away in the multitude of volumes of the COB application specifically state they anticipate visible damage to the roadways resulting from the plant construction. Bridge and road repair could easily result in tens of million dollars in County expenditures. Will economic benefit for Klamath Falls during plant construction offset the expense to repair the damages?

I urge Klamath County politicians at the state and local levels to read the COB application and EIS statement to fully understand their meaning and implicit errors. COB and ODE must be required to include only documented and verifiable facts. As our representatives you owe this to your constituents. This facility has the potential to adversely affect a number of issues already confronting and limiting economic growth in the Klamath Basin. To compound these problems by failing to read and understand the complete application process is not acceptable. Informed decisions can only be made by keeping abreast of the COB application process as it develops. If necessary, please hire a qualified scientific firm to help you fully understand what is revealed in the documents, and equally important, what is left out of them. Omission of critical documentation is often used by entities seeking a quick approval. Once a facility of this magnitude is permitted there is no going back to undo the damage.

Nearly 600 pages of science and technology are represented in the most recent COB documents. The public will have about 90 days to read and review the information, maps, charts, designs and diagrams. The public will have 45 days to review the 318 page final ODE siting recommendation.

I have studied the thousands of pages of COB and ODE application documents. It is my opinion that the potential economic, water, air, and land use degradation that the COB facility may generate will greatly exceed any positives for this community that may be generated over the life of this huge, misplaced industrial complex.





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