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Herald and News: Klamath Falls, Oregon


County commissioners shortchanged those who wanted to be involved on energy plant

Published September 22, 2004

By Margaret Tenold

Guest columnist

I must address the Sept. 16 commentary from guest columnist Michael W. Grainey, director of the Oregon Department of Energy. 

Specifically, I am concerned with his statement, "The (Herald and News) article said that Klamath County missed a deadline for providing input into the state siting review. What wasn't said was that even though it was after the deadline, the Oregon Department of Energy received all the information it needed from the county to complete its work."

It later states, . . . "We have heard from Klamath County officials and we continue to work with them."

I recently receive the department's recommended order "in the matter of the application for a site certificate for the COB Energy Facility, before the Energy Facility Siting Council of the State of Oregon" dated Sept. 15.

Its author is Virginia L. Gustafson, hearing officer for the Department of Energy in the contested case hearing.

Page 14 of this 64-page document states: "One January 23, 2002, the council appointed the Klamath County Board of Commissioners as the special advisory group for the COB Energy Facility.

"Pursuant to ORS 469.504(5), the department requested that the special advisory group recommend applicable substantive criteria to be applied in this review of the COB Energy Facility. As called for in the statute, the department set a deadline for recommendations from the county board of commissioners. The board did not make recommendations to the Department concerning the applicable substantive criteria for the COB Energy Facility." At the footnote below, at 6, "The department received comments from the Klamath County planning director, dated May 15, 2003.

"These comments were received after the deadline set by the department, and did not purport to be comments of the special advisory group. The comments were helpful to the department in determining whether COB had identified and analyzed all of the applicable local substantive criteria, and were reviewed by staff along with other materials from the county."

Because the commissioners did not make the necessary recommendations to the department, the council was able to use any of the three approaches set forth in state law.

The bottom line here, as has become very clear to me during the contested case proceeding, is that because of the lack of timely input from the county commissioners, Klamath County residents were deprived of the support of their representatives and were essentially hung out to dry.

Any later input past deadlines does little to protect the interests of the people who have been active and vocal during this whole process during three years. This goes for the opponents as well as the proponents of this facility.

We were not represented on a timely basis. The process must grind forward, and any later material, however well considered, cannot enter into the decisions made concerning the three approaches, which had already been made.

The process was taking a turn against the people of Langell Valley, before the commissioners acted tardily. This cannot be undone with Johnny-come-lately input.  

We who have been active in this whole process have been shortchanged.

The Department of Energy has its hands tied regarding the statutes and deadlines of the whole process. It cannot make adjustments after the fact. It cannot change the logical progression of A, then B. The statutes must be followed to the letter, and once the valid, timely input was not present, it had to be ignored at that juncture in the past, and the process moved forward. We all lose. The department lost the input it could have used to better protect the citizens of Klamath County. We lost our full and true representation.

The author

Margaret Tenold, who lives in Bonanza, is a licensed real estate broker, previously practicing in California, and is now involved in property management.





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