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90 attend COB meeting in Lorella
by Lyn Brock 1/27/05

A meeting was held at 2 p.m. today, January 26, 2005 at the community hall in Lorella, about 12 miles east of Bonanza.  It was a Town Hall meeting with all three Klamath County Commissioners present and perhaps 90 folks from the surrounding area.  The meeting was planned and led by our new Commissioner Bill Brown who, himself, grew up in Langell Valley, and by Walt Smith, long time resident and farmer in west Langell Valley.  Their guest was Paul Turner, spokesperson for COB LLC, applicants for site certificate for the proposed COB Energy Facility, an 1160 MW gas fired electric generating facility.  Lorella isn't exactly downtown Chicago, the home of Peoples Energy Resources Corporation, the parent company of COB LLC.  The electronic equipment brought to the meeting would not amplify the speakers voices, but hopefully, as required for the Town Hall meeting, was recording the audio.  Also, the equipment would not project the power point presentation Mr. Turner had presented eight days ago at the weekly County Commissioners meeting.  So Mr. Turner talked the audience through the planned presentation, he with a color copy on paper of his slide show and the audience with black and white handouts. 

The attendees asked informed questions, voicing their concerns about the impact this huge power plant could have on their rural agricultural way of life.  No one spoke in favor of the power plant except Commissioners Switzer and Elliott who sat near each other in a back corner of the building.  The main subject of today's meeting was the proposal by COB to pay a sum of money in lieu of taxes in exchange for the granting of an Enterprise Zone by the Klamath County Commissioners and the Klamath Falls City Council.  If assessed real property taxes in the usual manner, this proposed power plant would pay approximately $71 million in their first fifteen years.  The company is offering to pay half that amount in lieu of taxes, an offer which is designed to keep the money here in Klamath County with the County Commissioners having the power to make decisions as to how that money would be spent.

Questions that were asked covered such topics as the following:  Will the Bonanza school receive money for needed improvements?  When will COB start planning with the local fire department so it will have the training necessary for taking on additional responsibilities? (Evidently the Bonanza, Chiloquin, Keno, and Klamath Falls fire departments do not have equipment or training to fight large natural gas fires or major electrical fires.) How will the emissions of ammonium nitrate affect organic farming in this area?  Does COB's Proposal stating that they can contest the amount of property taxes determined to otherwise be assessed mean that annual contribution they are offering could be tied up in court battles for years?  How will individuals with damaged water rights be mitigated without spending large sums of money and years in legal battles?  How far away will residents smell the emissions from the plant? ... hear the noise from the turbines?  Where in Oregon statutes is the recharge of a groundwater aquifer authorized (referring to one mitigation possibility of pumping water from the deeper aquifer to add to the shallower aquifer if needed)?  Many, many of the questions went unanswered.  And the Commissioners' time ran out before all the questions were asked. 

One lady stated that if this is a profitable venture then this corporation should be able to pay their assessed taxes.  A man asked questions as to how the money would be spent and, when told they couldn't answer that question, he said he couldn't give his opinion without the facts and, with good reason, he walked out! 

A statement from Roger Hamilton, who was not able to attend, was presented and discussed, "
At the risk of sounding like a broken record my only comment is that the draft final order (pages 148 and 149) states clearly that the Hearings Officer rules out any link between the EFSC standards and state energy policy. Therefore, our allegation that COB would violate Oregon's CO2 reduction policy, with a strategy to develop at least an equivalent amount of renewable energy as the COB plant will produce, is moot. This means that a combined COB output of 81 million tons of CO2 over 30 years (15 million tons in excess of the standard), as represented in the tables on pages 134 and 135, is of no concern to the siting council. This contradicts the evidence that additional greenhouse gas emissions   (CO2 in particular) will persistently contribute to drought and reduced hydroelectric production hundreds of years into the future. You would have to plant almost 1500 square miles of trees to absorb that much carbon on an annual basis, a ten-mile wide strip running from Klamath Falls to Eugene. The draft order also rules out considering any COB impact on natural gas prices (natural gas accounts for 80 to 90% of nitrogen fertilizer cost according to USDOE). And it explicitly rules out considering any COB impact on competitive transmission access. So it leaves us with little to nothing  to contest on the issue of energy economics or the environment."  Roger is a past Klamath County Commissioner and served as Energy Advisor to Governor Kitzhaber.  He owns a ranch at the edge of Langell Valley and is currently working on projects involving alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power.  Paul Turner discussed his efforts or desires to have some of the CO2 mitigation done right here in Langell Valley. 

It seems that residents of this rural agricultural area are tired of hearing about mitigation and, instead, desire assurance that their elected officials are protecting their way of life and their means of making a livlihood.

Lyn Brock
Bonanza, Oregon


 
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