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Friends file suit to protect Gorge air quality

Troutdale Energy Center received permit from DEQ

Friends of the Columbia Gorge has filed a lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality over an air pollution permit the state agency issued earlier this year for the proposed Troutdale Energy Center at the former Reynolds Aluminum site in Troutdale.

The lawsuit alleges that DEQ violated state, interstate and federal laws, rules and policies in issuing the permit and fails to protect air quality in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

DEQ issued the permit in March for a proposed 652-megawatt natural gas power plant to be sited approximately 500 feet from the national scenic boundary next to the Sandy River in Troutdale.

Troutdale Energy Center, a subsidiary of New-York based Development Partners Group, applied for a site permit through the Oregon Department of Energy in July 2012.

Nathan Baker, attorney at Friends of the Columbia Gorge, said there are several “parent” entities higher than the TEC, but the ultimate company behind the proposal is Energy Investors Funds based in Needham, Mass.

According to Friends of the Gorge, the DEQ permit allows the facility to emit up to 227 tons per year of nitrogen oxides, 198 tons per year of particulate matter, and 11.5 tons per year of hazardous air pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene and various other pollutants.

In May, Friends of the Gorge and the U.S. Forest Service jointly petitioned the DEQ for reconsideration of the permit.

DEQ denied the petition on June 30, maintaining the issuance of the “Air Contaminant Discharge Permit” is compliant with applicable standards and laws, and the facility’s impacts would be regulated under the permit.

Friends and the Forest Service argue the gas-fired power plant would harm air quality in the Gorge.

On Aug. 28, Friends of the Columbia Gorge filed a petition for judicial review in Multnomah County Circuit Court challenging the permit by asking the circuit court to reverse or remand DEQ’s decision.

In the petition for judicial review, Friends said pollution from the project would cause haze, smog and acid rain harmful to plants, fungi, lichen, aquatic animals and ecosystems in the Gorge.

An independent analysis of the project conducted by the U.S. Forest Service concluded that during summer months, the power plant would cause ‘plume blight,’ which would mar views from Crown Point and the Vista House.

“By issuing a permit for this project, DEQ has violated its legal mandate to protect and enhance air quality in the scenic area,” Baker said.

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