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Siting council hears long arguments on Cob plant

A state panel that will decide the fate of the proposed Cob Energy Facility near Bonanza heard lengthy arguments from attorneys on both sides of the issue during a hearing Wednesday at the Klamath County Fairgrounds.

The Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council was scheduled to decide today whether to approve a permit for construction of the power plant, but there was some talk Wednesday of postponing the decision.

Tim McMahan, an attorney for Chicago-based Peoples Energy drew criticism from the audience when he characterized the Langell Valley area near Bonanza as the least populated region in a sparsely populated county.

A member of the audience that included several farmers and ranchers shouted "Oh, baloney!" before being gaveled down by Siting Council Chairwoman Karen Green.


Ed Sullivan, an attorney for anti-Cob organization Save Our Rural Oregon, accused McMahan of building an argument based on the "boondocks exception" to siting rules.

McMahan later apologized and said that, after reading through his notes, he should have called the Langell Valley not the least populated, but "one" of the least populated areas of the county.

The Siting Council listened to eight hours of recommendations and arguments for and against the proposed 1,150-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant that would be located about three miles southeast of Bonanza, or 21 miles east of downtown Klamath Falls.

Most of the discussion Wednesday was related to legal matters, with attorneys doing most of the talking for Peoples Energy, Save Our Rural Oregon and Water For Life, a group representing irrigators.

About 30 people watched the proceedings, many staying for the full eight hours. Although the meeting was open to the public, there was no time allotted for public comment.

Twenty minutes before the meeting ended at 9 p.m., Sullivan moved to strike reports and findings that he said were presented to him only two days before this week's hearing began.

The council tabled Sullivan's motion request, and said they would return to it in today's session.

Wednesday's meeting was devoted to land use issues, and the council listened to recommendations from state hearings officer Virginia Gustafson and conferred with lawyers from the Department of Justice as they discussed complex land use laws.

Peoples Energy's primary reason for putting the plant near Bonanza is that the site has a unique "constellation" of utilities - gas lines, easy connection to the regional power grid, and a water well.

Lyn Brock, a member of Save Our Rural Oregon, disagreed.

"What is unique?" Brock asked, questioning if the Langell valley was the only place in the whole country that had this combination of utilities.

Oregon Department of Justice lawyer Richard Whitman agreed that there were other locations that could be used, and that shouldn't be Cob's main argument for using the site near Bonanza.






Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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