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Herald and News
Court upholds ruling on Cob
September 30, 2005 by ANGELA TORRETTA H&N Staff
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
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
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
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 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
"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
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
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
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