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Court's power plant decision fails on real issues

The author
Bill Brock of Bonanza is a 1973 graduate of Oregon Institute of Technology and has worked as a communications specialist for a major Northwest power marketer. He has been active in opposing the Cob power plant and represents Save Our Rural Oregon.

October 4, 2005 By BILL BROCK Guest columnist

Reading Oregon Supreme Court decision about the Cob power plant proposal near Bonanza left a sour taste in my mouth.

The decision appears to be a compilation of two writing styles: one being some member of the court, because in a number of places the first person is used and the style is singular. In other places, the writing is almost identical to that of Stoel Rives, the Portland law firm representing Peoples Energy and, in this case, the Oregon state Energy Department.

Three major issues were raised by Save Our Rural Oregon:

  • Exceptions to land use planning.
  • Geologic and seismic standards.
  • Water rights.

    In order to placate the Oregon Energy Department, the court contends that the Energy Facilities Siting Council can pick and choose the unconnected parts of Oregon Law that promote its intended conclusion - a piece from this law, a piece from that law and neither is a valid use when the entire law is considered.

    The court uses its best political doubletalk in an attempt to confuse the reader and promote the court's conclusion. This even in cases when the court concedes that the law was wrongly interpreted by the Siting Council.

    Save Our Rural Oregon's legal advice has been that in order to place this monster in a rural exclusive farm use area that exceptions to statewide land use planning goals 3 and 4 were needed.

    These exceptions specifically require actions and procedures which were not, or could not be, accomplished.

    Using the Oregon Energy Department's own path of twisted thought, the court mitigates us into submission.

    Using the all-illusive term "mitigation," all forms of adverse impact is trivialized.

    We will mitigate for the pollution, the air pollution, the noise pollution, the light pollution, and, above all, we will mitigate for the loss of your rural lifestyle. And then the court states that this facility is required in our valley because Peoples Energy says it has to go here.

    In a very brief and terse paragraph, our concerns with the possibility of a major earthquake are dismissed.

    We are told that Peoples Energy can build this facility to withstand any earthquake.

    I don't care about the facility - it's the gas pipeline I am worried about. This pipeline will cross a 2,000-foot high fault.

    I've seen the devastation that a ruptured natural gas pipeline can cause. But in all this, the State Supreme Court said the Oregon Energy Department should not require Peoples Energy to follow state law and complete required geologic and seismic studies before being issued a permit to build.

    For me, the trivializing of the water right issue is most troubling.

    The court concurs with the Energy Department that water rights are now a commodity and can now be traded for money. With more than 30 Langell Valley permit applications in limbo, the court and the state has bypassed state law and granted a water right for money.

    Is it no wonder why people cannot trust government and its courts.

    In a state where overzealous legislators greatly expand social programs, where state agencies and courts clamor to replace lost tax revenue with fees and government-funded development incentives (huge tax breaks in lieu of a few future tax dollars), why do I expect honesty and integrity?

    Go figure.

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