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Initial state review of Cob plant delayed

published Dec. 24, 2003

Public hearings on the proposed power plant will probably begin in January


The Oregon Department of Energy will issue an initial recommendation on the fate of a proposed power plant near Bonanza by the end of the month, an energy facility analyst said Tuesday.

Cathy Van Horn, a department staffer who has been working on Cob Energy Facility's siting application, had originally planned to release a proposed draft order on the 1130-megawatt plant before Christmas. She attributed the delay to the department's workload.

"It needed a lot of input by a lot of people," she said. "It was as good as a process as it could be. In something that complex, you want to make sure you're not missing anything."

The draft proposed order advises the state's Energy Facility Siting Council on whether to approve the Cob Energy Facility. But the document, which will be more than 200 pages long when it is released next week, is hardly etched in stone, and the seven-member siting council is not bound to follow the order.

After the proposed order is released, there are still a number of procedural hoops before the council can decide the fate of the plant. The process includes:

n Public hearings: Held in Klamath Falls and Lorella, a small community to the east of Bonanza. Hearings will probably take place in late January.

n Energy Facility Siting Council's first reading : The council will consider the draft proposed order and any public comments made at the January public hearings. Council members can comment on the project at this time, but won't make a final decision.

n Proposed order: Prepared by Van Horn and the department after considering comments on the draft proposed order by the public and by the siting council.

n Contested Case: Presided over by a state hearings officer, this forum is a chance for opponents of the plant to challenge the application in a legal environment.

n The decision: Council members make their decision.

Van Horn said people need to continue to comment on the project for their concerns to be recognized. All comments made so far have been considered in the draft proposed order, she said. For people to take part in the contested case, or give feedback the department can use in preparing a proposed order, they must comment in writing or in person at the January public hearings.

The council will probably make a decision in the spring. Under state siting rules, applications have a gestation period of nine months, from the time the department declares them complete. The Cob application was declared complete in April, so under state rules it needs to be decided by the end of January.

There is little chance that timeline will be met. There are no sanctions for missing the deadline.

Van Horn said the largest delay to the project was due to the two water-related amendments filed by Cob. She said the department allowed longer comment periods for the amendments than is usually given because of the level of public interest in the project.

"I can't imagine how (opponents) would have felt if we'd rushed that process through instead of taking public comments in doing that analysis," she said.

People who want more information about preparing written or oral comments for the public hearing can contact Van Horn at (503) 378-4041.





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