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Herald and News: Klamath Falls, Oregon


Government decides on basis of dollar signs, not what's best

Published March 22, 2004 by LYNN BROCK, guest columnist

Lyn Brock and her husband have a farm in Bo-nanza where they raise hay, cattle, and horses. She has been a teacher for Klamath County schools and is an accountant.

We have government run amok. "Amok" - that's an interesting word. It is pronounced "a muck," and Webster's definition includes such phrases as "to lose control" and "to become undisciplined."

With spring just around the corner, Klamath basin farmers should be planning what to plant.  

With water rights on more than 30 wells uncertain and the Oregon Water Resources De-partment three years behind in making decisions on the certificates, most of those wells no longer have a permit.

The applicants had been told they should have a decision by December, then by the end of January, then the first part of February. Here it is March and still no word. Yet the state's Department of Energy is recommending a permit for an out-of-state industry to get its permit.

That permit is for Cob LLC to build an energy facility in Langell Valley. It applied two years ago. The 30 agricultural wells have been waiting for 10 years or more for certificates.

They could be one

Oregon water law is based on the priority of water use. The first to put a water source to beneficial use establishes the first priority for its use. If the deep, water-bearing zones and the more shallow, water-bearing zones are connected, then they are one aquifer.

If they are one aquifer, at least 30 other individuals hold water right certificates or permits with senior priority on that groundwater source. We know of no Oregon statute or administrative rule that authorizes a change in priority by conditioning the permit or certificate. If priority is now negotiable, it is available to the highest bidder, and the body of Oregon water law is meaningless.

Residents of Klamath Falls have other concerns, too. They already see their airshed contaminated by smoke and other particulate matter from the city's cogeneration plant. The giant plume of steam rising from that industrial facility adds an undesirable component to the view. The steam is created by evaporation of processed sewer water in the cooling tower  process. Theoretically, in my mind, this evaporative process should produce a distilled water vapor. Would that it were so.   

I wrote to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality:  "I'm wondering if you could send me some information. I'm wondering about the plume from the cogeneration plant in Klamath Falls. Theoretically, I would think the evaporative process should produce distilled water vapor. Of  course, I know the plume would also contain emissions from the gas combustion process.

"I am wondering if the evaporative process actually adds some other particulate matter to the plume from the processed waste water. Can you explain to me what the processed wastewater adds to the particulate matter in the plume?"

I received this brief response: "Any of the dissolved solids, such as salts and minerals which would be left behind after the water evaporates could be deposited off site and would be considered particulate."

So it isn't just steam going up in that plume and those small particles of matter are falling out of the sky and being "deposited" somewhere - on farms, rooftops, yards, gardens, in the lake.

Is it clean enough?

The DEQ has to look at our air in Klamath County and decide if it is clean enough to pollute further before it can decide whether to permit more industrial emissions. The DEQ would not permit the Cob plant if it could significantly impact the Klamath Falls "PM10" maintenance area, which regulates particulates of 10 microns or less.

Air quality in the Klamath Basin has steadily improved in the past decade. Improvements in control and process technology as well as the decrease in the use of wood stoves as home heating devices have all contributed to the better air quality now enjoyed in the Basin. Businesses and private citizens alike have worked hard to improve the airshed in Klamath County. The department recognizes this, and intends to maintain good air quality in the Basin by continuing the following:

  • The industrial permitting program.
  • Open burning letter permits and enforcement.
  • Following the carbon mon-oxide and PM10 maintenance plans.
  • Funds and technical assistance for the wood-burning advisories.

    This information comes from the Department of Environmental Quality memorandum of Dec. 22 dealing with the public hearing on the air contaminant discharge permit for the Cob energy facilities.

    My husband and I first lived in Klamath County in the late 1960s and early '70s. We were very young, and he was a college student. We had more energy than we had money. The home we bought didn't have a furnace. We replaced an old, inefficient, smoking oil heater with a nice wood-burning stove with fan and thermostat. We could usually get free firewood, and enjoyed the cozy, wood heat.    

    Those of you who are residents of Klamath Falls and have had a wood heater or fireplace have been limited or restricted from using wood heat. Now your airshed is clean, so the state allows an out-of-state industry to bring its industrial pollution to your clear, sunny skies. And you will still be restricted from use of your wood heat. That would make me angry.

    At a DEQ meeting last summer, we asked something like, "How do they determine allowable limits for emissions?" We were told that those limits are based on what is safe for a healthy adult. Of course, it was explained, it could be harmful to young children, the elderly and those with health conditions. And that makes me very angry, that our government does not protect the most vulnerable in our society.

    Yes, I think we have government run amok. It decides in favor of out-of-state industry instead of listening to the concerns of its own constituents. It makes decisions based on dollar signs rather than on the health and safety of the residents.    

    Not a done deal

    The cogeneration plant may be here to stay, but the Cob Energy Facility is not a done deal. The most important part of the legal process concerning its receiving a site permit is still before us.

    We need the help and support of all concerned citizens.

    If you have questions, or want to know where to find additional information, please call Lyn or Bill Brock at 545-1205, or Diana or Mario Giordano at 545-6206 .  

    Although we are often referred to as the "Stop the Cob" group, we are actually an Oregon nonprofit mutual benefit corporation named "Save Our Rural Oregon." This is an all-volunteer organization, and the support contributed by the public goes to pay legal expenses.

    The next step in the process of opposing the siting of this huge power plant is the contested case. It will be expensive to fight this siting, but if all concerned citizens will work with us, we are prepared to take it through contested case and on to the Oregon Supreme Court. If we don't work together to oppose this siting, construction could begin within one year.


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