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 Herald and News

Court upholds ruling on Cob

Published September 30, 2005 by ANGELA TORRETTA H&N Staff Writer

A move to block a new supersized gas-fired power plant from being built on rural land in the Langell Valley was struck down Thursday by the state's highest court.

Opponents of the Cob power plant are out of options after the Oregon Supreme Court upheld a decision by a state panel to allow the plant to be sited outside of Bonanza.
Peoples Energy of Chicago created an outcry among farmers and irrigators in the valley when it announced it had plans to build a 1,160-megawatt gas-fired plant about three miles southeast of Bonanza.
Farming-rights groups appealed the 2004 decision, but members of opposition groups say they aren't surprised by the court's decision.
"Every time you talk money and government, you're on the losing end of it," said farmer Bill Brock.
Bill Brock and his wife, Lyn Brock, are members of Save Our Rural Oregon, one of the groups contesting the decision.
The Brocks' group, along with the irrigators' group, Water For Life, argued the Cob Energy Facility was illegally sited on land zoned exclusively for farm use. They also claim that proper tests for seismic activity weren't conducted before the council made its decision, and the state council ignored water-permitting laws in Oregon.

 

Cob spokesman Paul Turner said it was a good decision by the court.

"We've felt all along that we were in the right in terms of the state's authority and the siting council's authority to issue the permit."
All appeals to decisions made by the five-member energy siting council are automatically expedited to the Supreme Court, which is required to make a decision within six months.
Despite the approval from the Supreme Court, the fate of the plant is still in the air.

Turner said having the appeal done with will make it much easier to market power to customers on the West Coast.
"I've always had to caveat my discussions," with power buyers, he said Thursday. He believes the future of the plant will be easier to determine now that Cob doesn't have a pending legal decision.
 

At this point the plant may only be built at half size, or may not be built at all, depending on the demand for power.
Also still in the works is an economic incentive package the county and city have used to entice Cob backers.

Those details are still being hammering out, but will grant Cob tax breaks in return for cash payments to the county.
Turner said he hopes to finalize that deal in late October.

Peoples Energy also hasn't ruled out the idea of selling the permit to another power plant developer.
State Sen. Doug Whitsett is a member of Water For Life and has been a strong opponent of the plant. He said if the plant is built it will alter the rural way of life residents in the area enjoy.
"It's going to change the landscape forever," he said.
Whitsett proposed a bill during the last legislative session that would have limited the authority of the state siting council and put more power into the hands of local government. The bill didn't make it through the House of Representatives.
The county's economic development director, Trey Senn, has pushed for the power plant, saying it will help the county's financial health.
He had been monitoring the court closely, watching for a decision, and said the court's ruling wasn't a surprise to him.
He, like Turner, didn't know whether the plant would become a reality or not.
"Whether it will ever be built is something that is not in my tea leaves," he said

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