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Cogentrix given laundry list of items determined incomplete

DEQ says Cogentrix's proposed emissions are higher than allowed
News Editor
   Feb. 6, 2002 -- Cogentrix, the power company that has submitted applications to build a 980-megawatt power plant 14 miles south of Madras on Ramms Road, received notices from two agencies last week informing the North Carolina-based company that its proposal is incomplete.
   The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality sent a Jan. 31 letter to Cogentrix stating that its Air Contaminant Discharge Permit application was "generally complete" but deficient because the utility company had "not demonstrated the ability of the proposed source to comply with all the applicable requirements of the Department."
   Meanwhile, the Oregon Office of Energy sent a Jan. 28 preliminary completeness memo to Cogentrix detailing a laundry list of items that needed to be clarified and expanded in its 1,500-page application to the Energy Facility Siting Council for a site certificate.
   Yet Cogentrix and state agency officials were quick to point out that the latest notices were all part of the "back and forth process" that comes with applications of this magnitude.
   Catherine Vanhorn, an energy facility analyst with the Office of Energy, described the notice from her agency as, "Not unusual. let's put it that way."
   "We've never had an application that's been complete on the first try because they're so complex," she said.
   The DEQ notice states that the visibility impact of Cogentrix's ACD permit was "unacceptable" based on the FLAG document, known as the Federal Land Managers' Air Quality Related Values Work Group Phase I.
   Peter Brewer, Air Quality Manager for DEQ's Eastern Region, said he believed Cogentrix was anticipating his agency's notice.
   "They showed potential impacts that were greater than DEQ policy and Federal Land Managers' policies that meant there'd be a change in the visual range or visibility above our standard," Brewer said. "Sometimes it doesn't take a whole lot to do it. We're asking them to take a look at it and get back to us."
   Frank Erwin, a Cogentrix Vice President of Development, said both agencies "obviously have some information we need to share with them."
   "They have additional info they're asking for and we're working on providing that information to them," he said. "All we do is answer them by mail or talk about what we did and why. If we need to do extra work we'll do it to answer their questions."
   The 6-page memo to Cogentrix from the Office of Energy asks for several copies of related permit applications and asks for clarification and more information from the power company on several points, including, among others, the following:
   • Clarification regarding whether the proposed energy facility is confined to 32.8 acres of the 333 acres Cogentrix has under option.
   • An explanation as to why it would be adequate to evaluate long-term impacts on desert soils based on a single soil-monitoring effort to be undertaken one year after construction of the plant.
   • An explanation of the impact, if any, increased humidity could have on nearby soils.
   • More complete water mitigation plans. The notice states that the proposed water mitigation plans are so far inefficient.
   • Clarification on several items of information regarding the zero discharge system, including how evaporation ponds will be sealed to prevent leakage and how solids will be removed and their chemical composition.
   • More information regarding potential noise impacts. The memo states the information so far is not adequate and that measuring methods are sometimes unclear, calculations are not provided and descriptions of measurement locations are missing, including those at the proposed well site.
   • Correct information regarding discrepancies of ownership and distances of property and homes to the proposed facility.
   Jef Freeman, Cogentrix Vice President of Corporate Communications, called the notices of incomplete items a "healthy part of the application process."
   "I hope one thing that is not lost in the whole process is that the process is working," Freeman said. "We are getting a number of requests for additional information and we're going to give it to them. I don't consider any of this activity indicative of deficiencies of the project."
   Said Erwin: "It's like the first bet in a card game, you don't know how far down we're going with this."
   On a related note, Erwin said Cogentrix was currently evaluating the economic viability of its 12 plants under development in light of changing economic winds in the power-generating industry but none of the projects have been put on hold.
   Cogentrix wholly or partly owns 30 power producing plants in 14 states. If built, its Jefferson County natural gas fired plant would be the company's largest.
   "We have found that there is still an interest in the market for this project and we are going forward with the development process," Erwin said. "The market has considerably softened but who knows what's going to happen tomorrow."