>A long, complicated review process will now begin
The application is in, and now the most crucial process in Cogentrix's bid to construct a 980-megawatt power plant near Grizzly Mountain begins.
On Friday, the Oregon Office of Energy received the North Carolina-based company's much anticipated 1,500-page document at 4:59 p.m.
"As we have stated from the very beginning, we are developing a project in Jefferson County that everyone will one day point to with pride," Frank Erwin, Cogentrix's vice president of development, said in a statement released by The Gallatin Group, a Bend-based public relations firm. "Not only does it create jobs in Central Oregon when they are needed most, it will do so in a manner that responsibly and efficiently manages environmental matters, particularly local water resources."
The application for the natural-gas fired electricity generating plant near the existing Bonneville Power Administration's transmission substation will soon be available for public review at the Jefferson County Library as well as libraries in Crook and Deschutes counties.
Now, supporters say, the real facts related to the power plant will come to light.
A complicated process begins
Cogentrix's application for a site certificate on the 33-acre parcel 12 miles southeast of Madras must first begin a four- to six-month process of review by the Oregon Office of Energy for completeness before it is submitted to the Energy Facility Siting Council, said Diana Enright, a spokesperson for the state agency. The office currently has 55 days left to notify Cogentrix whether its application is complete.
If it is found complete, the office of energy will eventually issue a "draft proposed order," which includes findings of fact, recommended conclusions on compliance with the Energy Facility Siting Council's siting standards and recommended site certificate conditions for construction, operation and retirement of the facility.
"It's kind of a back and forth process that can take a few months," Enright said.
A public hearing will take place once the draft proposed order is issued, at which time persons in opposition to the plant can state their concerns to the council.
After the public hearing, the EFSC meets to review the draft proposed order. Based on the comments of the EFSC, public testimony and consultation with other governmental agencies, the office of energy then issues a proposed order along with a notice of contested case.
Under Oregon law, the EFSC must appoint an independent hearing officer to conduct a contested case hearing. Aside from the applicant and the Oregon Office of Energy, anyone wanting to participate in the contested case must request party status from the hearing officer.
The hearing process includes the presentation of evidence, rebuttal, cross-examination, rights to discovery and appeal -- on issues only pertinent to the scope of the council's jurisdiction.
Following the hearing, the hearing officer issues a proposed order to the Energy Facility Siting Council.
The council then decides whether or not to issue a site certificate. It's decision is issued in the form of a "final order." That decision can then be appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court, which has direct jurisdiction over the council.
Sizing up the council
The whole process could take nine months before the council either accepts or rejects Cogentrix's bid for a site certificate.
The Energy Facility Siting Council was established in 1975 by the Oregon Legislature to ensure that large energy facilities are located, built and operated in ways that protect the environment, public health and safety.
Council members geographically represent the entire state. Karen Green of Bend represents Central Oregon and also serves as the chair.
If the EFSC issues Cogentrix a site certificate, state and local jurisdictions will be bound by the council's decision and be required to issue permits, licenses and certificates for construction of the facility. The EFSC would also monitor the Grizzly Power Project's operation if the facility is constructed.
But to be approved, Cogentrix must meet the council's rigid siting standards. These standards, according the the Oregon Office of Energy's Web site, ask three fundamental questions:
Does the applicant have the appropriate abilities to build this energy facility? Is the site suitable? Would the facility have adverse impacts on the environment and the community?
There are 16 specific siting standards that can be reviewed in more detail on the Oregon Office of Energy's Web site at www.energy.state.or.us. But briefly, these standards cover the following topics:
- Organizational, Managerial and Technical Expertise.
- A Structural Standard.
- Soil Protection.
- Land Use.
- Protected Areas.
- Financial Assurance.
- Fish and Wildlife Habitat.
- Threatened and Endangered Species.
- Scenic and Aesthetic Values.
- Historic, Cultural and Archaeological Resources.
- Socioeconomic Impacts.
- Waste Minimization.
- Need Standard for Nongenerating Facilities.
Proponents, opponents dig in
Both supporters and opponents of the power plant, which has the potential to provide electricity for the needs of 500,000 people, have accused the other side of spreading misinformation.
Supporters say opponents are basing their criticism on emotion, not facts, while opponents say Cogentrix has continued to change its story.
But with the submission of Cogentrix's application, more concrete facts surrounding the power plant will emerge.
"It would be good to have some fact finding meetings where they could really debate the water and air issues," said Wayne Fording, President of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. "I'd like to hear facts from both sides and maybe what a third party said -- what's real and what's not."
The Office of Energy has tentatively scheduled a public information meeting on the proposal for Jan. 14.
Nevertheless, opponents were quick to get their hands on a copy of the application given to them by an office of energy official Saturday and held a town hall-type yesterday evening.
Tammy Devine, a 509-J School District bus driver who lives one mile from the proposed facility and is the co-chair of the opposition group Friends of Central Oregon, said they are having a Portland lawyer review the massive document along with University of Oregon law students and an official with the U.S. Forest Service to find its flaws.
Cogentrix and local officials continue to tout the facility for the 400 construction and 35 permanent jobs it will create, its water mitigation strategy and the overall economic impact they say will boost the local economy.
Madras and Jefferson County officials have offered Cogentrix a five-year tax break to draw it to the area. The company could potentially pay nearly $100 million in state and local taxes over a 30-year period and the jobs created will create an estimated $1.8-2 million payroll to residents that will inject it into the Tri-Counties.
By the third quarter of 2004, Cogentrix officials hope to have their facility online. Erwin has said the company hopes to have its permits in hand by the third quarter of next year.
"Now every party can study the design of the proposal and hopefully we'll get some constructive feedback," Erwin said.