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County silence on Cob criticized

Klamath County Commissioners were blasted by a citizen in a public meeting Tuesday for missing a series of state deadlines to comment on the Cob Energy Facility.

Power plant opponent Lyn Brock criticized commissioners for missing the chance to comment on local regulations that could have been included in the state siting process of the power plant.

"You missed all the deadlines, took no responsibility, didn't sign the letter yourself, had (former planning department manager) Carl Shuck draft it the night before he left on vacation and didn't put it on county commissioners' letterhead," Brock said.

The points raised by Brock were conceded by all three county commissioners and a state official, but downplayed by commissioners John Elliott and Al Switzer, supporters of the project since 2001. Brock and Switzer argued over the Cob plant for 15 minutes at Tuesday's meeting.

Switzer has told the opponents of the Cob Energy Facility over and over again that the county has no say in the state's decision to site the power plant.

"I don't think I get a choice on the project," he said Tuesday.

Cathy Van Horn, the Oregon Department of Energy analyst who has worked as a liaison between Oregon's Energy Facility Siting Council, the power plant applicant and relevant state agencies, said city or county agencies are usually more involved in the state's siting process.

"What the council wants to know then is, 'OK local jurisdiction, what parts of your land use codes and ordinances apply to the application?' " Van Horn said. "And we call this the applicable substantive criteria, and we give them a date, because we've got to move this process along."

Van Horn said commissioners missed the date to state any specific county rules that might apply to the siting council. She added that the letter from the planning director was received at a later time, although the letter simply stated that the county had no issues with the plant.

"If the county doesn't provide the criteria, then the law provides for the siting council to apply the criteria or apply statewide planning goals," she said.

Missing the deadline was largely irrelevant, Switzer said, because the state board used many of the county's rules anyway.

"There are 50 to 75 pages of Klamath County's land use plan in the (Department of Energy's) order," he said.

Van Horn said the county still had the ability to act as a special advisory board to the siting council. However, because the county commissioners did not raise any current issues with the project, they were not included as a party in the contested case hearing, which is expected to be resolved in September.

In other projects, Van Horn said, she has seen local governments make specific requests of the state, such as road repair and land use requirements.

"Typically, we see a county or local jurisdiction come forward asking for certain types of conditions they'd like to see put in place," she said.

Switzer said instead of going through the state process, he has been working directly with Cob liaison Rob Trotta - although Rob Trotta was replaced as project spokesman just this last week. (See story, page A4.)

Switzer also said that as a result of conversations with Trotta, the facility went from a water-cooled plant to an air-cooled plant. Also, he said Trotta had discussed an agreement with county public works Director Stan Strickland to put up half a million dollars for any road repair from project construction. The road deal has not been finalized by the county at this point.

Commissioner Steve West, who has been involved in the contested case process as a private citizen, said he is appalled that commissioners missed their formal chance to help set the rules.

"The board of commissioners absolutely abdicated their responsibility as a special adviser to the Energy Facility Siting Council," he said. "I don't consider what was being done behind the scenes as a substitute for the siting process."


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