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Author Topic: Developer Abandons Controversial Troutdale Energy Project  (Read 2735 times)
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« on: January 27, 2016, 06:11:11 AM »

Developer Abandons Controversial Troutdale Energy Project
Environmental and pilots groups applaud the decision



Photo from: http://sandyriver.org/power-plant-still-looms-on-sandys-horizon/
 
For immediate release

Contact:  Nathan Baker, Staff Attorney

January 26, 2016                                                  

 
Troutdale, Oregon: Today, Troutdale Energy Center, LLC (TEC), a subsidiary of Ares Management, L.P., formally abandoned its plans for the controversial Troutdale Energy Center, a 701-megawatt gas power plant that was proposed at a site sandwiched between the Troutdale Airport and the mouth of the Sandy River, which serves as the western boundary of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
 
“The abandonment of this proposal is proof that it lacked merit from the start,” said Nathan Baker, staff attorney for Friends of the Columbia Gorge. “In terms of resource impacts, this is one of the worst sites in the State of Oregon to build a large power plant. The site is literally at the gateway to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which already suffers from significant air pollution problems.”
 
By letter dated January 26, 2016, TEC developer Willard Ladd notified the Oregon Department of Energy that the company “hereby withdraws its Application for Site Certificate for theTroutdale Energy Center . . . from further consideration by the [Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council] and the [Oregon Department of Energy].”
 
The proposed Troutdale power plant had been highly controversial and embattled from the start. TEC first proposed in a competitive bid to sell the project’s power to Portland General Electric (PGE), but in 2013 PGE rejected TEC’s bid, leaving it as an orphaned project with no power buyer. TEC nevertheless persisted in pursuing a siting permit from the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) as well as air and water pollution permits from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
 
In 2014, a broad coalition of environmental organizations, pilots groups, government agencies, and local citizens intervened in EFSC’s contested case to oppose the controversial project. The intervenors included Friends of the Columbia Gorge, the Oregon Pilots Association, the national organization Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the U.S. Forest Service, Interlachen Inc. (the homeowners association for Blue and Fairview Lakes), and Corbett, Oregon resident A. Michael Dianich. Other opponents to the project included the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council.
 
The parties in the contested case raised a variety of concerns, including air pollution impacts to the National Scenic Area, safety impacts to aviation operations at the Troutdale Airport caused by the project’s thermal plumes, aquifer impacts from water intake to cool the project, and noise and scenic impacts to the adjacent 40-Mile Loop trail, Sandy River, and Sandy River Delta.
 
EFSC’s contested case process lasted more than two years. At the time of TEC’s withdrawal, the parties were awaiting the hearing officer to schedule a hearing so that TEC’s expert witnesses could be cross-examined.
 
Meanwhile, Friends of the Columbia Gorge was litigating at the Oregon Court of Appeals a challenge to the DEQ’s air pollution permit for the project. The DEQ permit allowed 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.
 
If the TEC project had been built, it likely would have replaced PGE’s coal-fired power plant in Boardman, Oregon as the single largest stationary source of air pollution in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. In a 2011 settlement agreement with Friends and other parties, PGE agreed to shut down its coal-fired plant in Boardman no later than December 31, 2020.
 
“The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is already suffering from air pollution that obscures scenic views and harms plant habitat,” said Michael Lang, conservation director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge.  “A major new source of pollution at the gateway to the Gorge would have only worsened those impacts.”
 
During the energy siting process, the U.S. Forest Service advised state agencies that air pollution from the TEC facility would harm visibility and cause nitrogen deposition in the Gorge. Visibility impacts would occur in the form of haze, as well as distinct air pollution plumes that would be visible from important viewing areas, such as Crown Point, during summer months. Acid deposition caused by the facility would have also harmed Gorge ecosystems.
 
The TEC proposal also severely threatened aviation safety. A Federal Aviation Administration-approved modeling program showed that thermal plumes from the proposed Troutdale Energy Center (TEC) would create a one in one hundred risk of severe turbulence for the light aircraft that predominately use the Troutdale Airport, which likely would have resulted in fatal accidents. Thermal plumes caused by the gas plant would have exceeded the FAA’s target level of safety for light general aviation aircraft, business jets, and narrow-body jets. The hazard for business jets and narrow-body jets would extend into Portland International airspace.
 
The Oregon State Aviation Board, the airport tower manager at Troutdale, and organizations representing private pilots all warned for several years of the aviation hazards that would have been created by the project’s thermal plumes, but the Port of Portland and the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) ignored the warnings. Instead, the Port and ODOE relied on a flawed analysis prepared by the developer of the project. The Port of Portland entered into an agreement with TEC to allow the project to move forward on port-owned land, and ODOE formally endorsed the project in 2013.
 
Mary Rosenblum, president of the Oregon Pilots Association (OPA) and member of the Oregon State Aviation Board, stated that “The aviation risk modeling results exceeded our worst fears. If the TEC power plant were constructed, we would have had to advise all pilots to avoid the northern flight pattern at Troutdale or risk a fatal accident. Such severe risks are obviously unacceptable. We do not understand why the Port of Portland and ODOE both ignored the Department of Aviation’s opposition to this project. The Port of Portland should now focus on a more appropriate use for the project site.”
 
The power plant would also have been located within seventy feet of the regional 40-Mile Loop trail. Noise from the facility would have made it difficult for trail users to communicate, creating an unnecessary safety risk of accidents between cyclists and pedestrians. The project’s noise would have also harmed noise sensitive wildlife species in the surrounding area, including at the Sandy River, Sandy River Delta, and Sundial Island.
 
“Canceling this project is the right decision,” said Steve Wise, executive director of the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council. “This is a great day for the ecological health of the Sandy River, the Columbia River Gorge, and metro Portland’s air quality and energy future.”
 
“Gorge residents and visitors alike will be able to breathe easier with the abandonment of this massive source of air pollution,” said Michael Lang, conservation director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge. “But now that the threat of this poorly planned project has ended, we call on the Oregon DEQ, Columbia River Gorge Commission, and U.S. Forest Service to clarify and strengthen the rules that protect air quality in the National Scenic Area to ensure that large pollution sources like this will not harm the Gorge.”
 
Troutdale Energy Center, LLC, is a subsidiary of the Massachusetts-based Energy Investors Funds (EIF). Just six years ago, a massive explosion occurred at another EIF-backed natural gas plant, the “Kleen Energy Systems” power station in Middletown, Connecticut. The Kleen Energy explosion killed six people and injured dozens. In response, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration levied its third-highest workplace-safety fines ever issued in response to a single incident. On January 1, 2015, EIF was acquired by Los Angeles-based Ares Management, L.P.

***
 
 
Nathan Baker, Staff Attorney
Friends of the Columbia Gorge
nathan@gorgefriends.org
522 SW 5th Ave., Suite 720
Portland, OR  97204-2100
(503) 241-3762  x101
 
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