Conservation Groups Challenge New Rules That Cut Oregonians Out of Energy Siting Decisions

Conservation Groups Challenge New Rules That Cut Oregonians Out of Energy Siting Decisions
Portland General Electric's Carty Generating Station in Boardman, OR. (photographer: Michael Durham)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Nine conservation groups file appeal in Oregon Supreme Court challenging energy council’s new power plant siting rules 

Contacts:  Nathan Baker, Senior Staff Attorney, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, (503) 241-3762  x101;  Dan Serres, Conservation Director, Columbia Riverkeeper, (503) 890-2441
PORTLAND, OR - Today a coalition of nine conservation organizations, led by Friends of the Columbia Gorge, filed an appeal in the Oregon Supreme Court challenging rules recently adopted by the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) that dramatically curtail transparency and public participation in permitting decisions for large power plants throughout Oregon. 
Adopted by EFSC in October, the new rules change the procedures for amending permits for large power plants. In adopting these new rules, EFSC disregarded extensive public comments calling for more transparency and public participation opportunities. Instead, the new rules hide agency decisions to expand power plants from the public, unlawfully delegate important decisions to Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) staff, and illegally modify judicial review procedures for challenging EFSC decisions. 
"These new rules are severely flawed and unlawful," said Nathan Baker, senior staff attorney for Friends of the Columbia Gorge. "In a shocking form of administrative doublespeak, EFSC and ODOE claimed that the new rules will increase public participation. Yet, the actual language of these rules does the exact opposite, creating a curtain of secrecy around agency decisions and cutting Oregon’s communities out of the decision-making processes for large power plants," Baker added.
According to an analysis by coalition attorneys, the new rules include a number of hurdles designed to block citizens from challenging proposed power plant expansions. Similarly, the rules unlawfully allow ODOE staff to decide on a case-by-case basis which applications get public hearings and which applications are eligible to be formally contested before EFSC. In the appeal filed today in the Oregon Supreme Court, the petitioners ask the court to declare the entire rulemaking package void, which will revert EFSC’s rules to their status prior to October 2017.
“Oregonians are increasingly engaging in the effort to clean up our energy system, but EFSC’s new rules for site certificate amendments will frustrate this public involvement,” said Dan Serres, conservation director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “With few exceptions, the rules favor developers of new energy projects by allowing new power plants and pipelines to be permitted as ‘amendments’ and by curtailing public review opportunities.”
“For years, PGE has been attempting to misuse the site certificate amendment process to nearly triple the size of its fracked gas power plant, the Carty Generating Station, near Boardman,” said Michael Lang, conservation director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge. “These new rules could allow pollution-causing projects like the proposed Carty expansion to sail through the Department of Energy behind a veil of secrecy and further harm already poor air quality in the Columbia River Gorge,” Lang added.
The petitioners in the appeal are a coalition of nine conservation and community groups representing more than 20,000 members and supporters from across the State of Oregon. The nine organizations are Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Oregon Natural Desert Association, Oregon Wild, Hood River Valley Residents Committee, Columbia Riverkeeper, WildLands Defense, Greater Hells Canyon Council, and Oregon Coast Alliance. 

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