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Less pollution is still more than Langell Valley wants
Published October 22, 2003
By BROOK REINHARD
LORELLA - Oregon Department of Environmental Quality officials are responsible for monitoring power plants to determine how much pollution they produce. But Tuesday evening, instead of asking for pollution data, officials asked local residents to share their feelings about a proposed 1,160-megawatt power plant.
A state official said the plant would produce less pollution "than any other plant in Oregon," but residents of the Langell Valley said they have clean air they'd like to keep clean.
The Cob Energy Facility would burn natural gas to produce electricity. It would be about 30 miles east of Klamath Falls, a few miles south of Bonanza. The state's Energy Facility Siting Council is considering an application to allow it to be built.
Tuesday's meeting was a chance for environmental experts from the state to answer general questions about pollution and discuss how a new power plant would affect air quality.
While the siting council is supposed to be "one-stop shopping" that handles all aspects of siting a power plant, DEQ handles air quality permits separately because of federal guidelines.
"There's no mystery to it," said DEQ Senior Environmental Engineer Thane Jennings, adding that there are 1,400 businesses in Oregon with air quality permits. "The process is straightforward. It happens every day, all around the country."
Jennings wrote the proposed air contaminant discharge permit, a 60-page document that outlines how much pollution Cob could emit and how it would be regulated. In some cases, he mandated a lower pollution figure than the one offered by the Cob facility.
If the power plant is built, "Cob will emit less than any other plant in Oregon" because the technology keeps on getting more efficient, Jennings said.
Tuesday was a chance for the public to comment on the proposed permit. Everyone commenting during the meeting was tape recorded, and DEQ will compile the record from the meeting and from any written comments received by Oct. 27 and decide whether to issue a permit to the power plant.
DEQ will decide whether to issue a permit by factoring in two criteria: First, the plant and its equipment must operate efficiently, and second, the plant's emissions must stay below applicable state and federal standards.
"I'm not trying to sugarcoat this," Jennings said during the meeting.
He said afterwards while DEQ must make sure the plant doesn't exceed pollution levels, that doesn't mean zero risk.
"Within these standards, there are still people that could be affected," he said, adding that elderly people, small children or people with lung problems could be susceptible to higher pollution levels. "They're out there on the edge of the bell curve."
However, the air quality around Bonanza is probably good enough that there won't be much risk, Jennings said.
Meeting attendees said they did not want their air quality - or way of life - to change.
"Our air here is much more clean than Portland or Klamath Falls," said Stan Heidrich of Bonanza.
Bonnie Smith, who lives off Harpold Road southwest of Bonanza, said she was worried about the health risks of polluted air.
"Right now maybe five people go to the hospital with asthma per year," she said. "What's acceptable, 50? I've worked in the ER, I know those smoky days when people come in unable to breathe. Is that going to happen here?"
Written comments on the DEQ permit must be submitted by 5 p.m. Monday to be considered by the department. A permit could be approved or denied in as little as two months.
But the department's time line could be delayed or the entire hearing process restarted, Jennings said, if public comments raise new questions for DEQ or require the department to examine new factors relating to the power plant.
The Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council is required to issue a site certificate or deny Cob's site certificate by Jan. 31, which is nine months after the application was declared complete by the Oregon Department of Energy.
However, state law provides no penalties if a decision is not made by that time. Catherine Van Horn, a state analyst, said it's likely the council won't meet the deadline.
Six things must first happen before the council's decision is final:
To submit comments, send them to Bonnie Hough, 2146 N.E. Fourth St., Bend, Ore., 97701. People can fax in comments at (541) 388-8283, e-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (541) 388-6146 extension 223 for more information.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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