The future of two large power projects in Oregon was unclear after the state’s highest court said the process by which they got permission to build was invalid.
Oregon Supreme Court justices, in a 6-0 opinion Aug. 1, held the 2017 rules that the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council used to grant site certificates to developers are invalid because the council failed to adopt a written method of tracking the success of the rules.
The court also held that the rules, which the council said underwent a “wholesale re-write” in 2017, exceeded the council’s statutory authority by narrowing the scope of judicial review of its decisions on whether to grant a permit.
A coalition of nine conservation groups brought the case against the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council claiming the 2017 permit approval rules “were designed to shut the public out of the decisionmaking process in many ways,” senior staff attorney Nathan Baker of Friends of the Columbia Gorge told Bloomberg Environment.
Wind Farm at Risk?
The court did not specifically say what its decision means for permits granted after the council’s 2017 changes.
But Baker claims the ruling means the permits for a proposed wind farm project and a proposed natural gas power plant have now expired.
However, Todd Cornett, assistant director for Energy Facility Siting at the Oregon Department of Energy, said in an Aug. 1 email: “We are still reviewing the Oregon Supreme Court’s ruling to determine how it will affect amendments in process and proposed amendments for energy facilities.”
The projects are the Summit Ridge Wind Farm and the Perennial Wind Chaser Station.
The Summit Ridge Wind Farm would sit on 11,000 acres overlooking the Deschutes River. It would have up to 72 wind turbines with a peak generating capacity of 194.4 megawatts.
The Perennial Wind Chaser Station is a natural gas power plant that would have up to four turbines with a maximum capacity of 415 megawatts.
“Because Summit Ridge and Perennial have not yet been built, the issue is whether construction deadlines should be extended,” Baker said. Projects have three years to begin construction after receiving site certificates and both have passed that deadline, he said.
Matt Dallas of Pattern Energy Group, the developer of Summit Ridge, declined to comment in an Aug. 1 email.
Perennial Power, the developer of the Wind chaser natural gas facility, did not respond to email requests for comment Aug. 1.
The case is Friends of the Columbia Gorge v. Energy Facility Siting Council, Or. en banc, S065478, opinion filed 8/1/19
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