Portland General Electric’s (PGE) Gas Plant Expansion Plans

Oregonian: PGE Will Suspend Its Permitting for New Fracked Gas Plants at Boardman

In a clear sign that PGE is feeling enormous pressure to re-think its rush to build additional fracked gas power plants at the Carty Generating Station near Boardman, PGE announced it will suspend the permitting process for two proposed gas plants at Carty.

The article acknowledges region-wide opposition to PGE’s fracked gas plans. PGE had requested permits from the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) and Oregon DEQ for the two additional fracked gas power plants, as well as authorization from the Oregon Public Utilities Commission to commit ratepayer dollars to new fracked gas power. We will watch closely to see if all application processes related to the Carty Generating Station are promptly suspended.

While this is a huge step in stopping new fracked gas power in the Northwest, the fight isn't over. For starters, we need a big showing at Monday's Public Utility Commission (PUC) hearing to ensure that the Commission rejects PGE’s plans to add more fracked gas to the energy grid.

  • WHAT: Rally and Public Hearing before the Public Utility Commission
  • WHEN: Monday, May 15, 2017; Rally at 5:00 p.m., public hearing from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
  • WHERE: Rally at Chapman Park, SW 4th and Main Street, Portland. Public Hearing: Portland Building, 1120 SW 5TH Ave, Portland, OR.

Earlier this month, Riverkeeper and allied groups filed comments with the PUC requesting an investigation into PGE’s already-built fracked gas-fired power plant at the Carty Generating Station. Our comments highlight how a PGE sub-contractor alleges that the utility cut corners in rushing to build the existing Carty facility. We also alert the PUC that PGE now seeks permission from Oregon DEQ to increase its pollution at the existing power plant. Learn more about PGE’s troubling track record at the Carty Generating Station and Monday’s Public Utility Commission hearing here. PGE’s problems at the first Carty power plant demonstrate why adding two more gas plants at the Carty Generating Station is a terrible idea for ratepayers and the environment.

Encouraging, today the staff for the PUC recommended that the Commission reject PGE’s request for additional fracked gas-fired “dispatchable” capacity in its five-year action plan. Skeptical of PGE’s plans, the PUC staff wrote, “Staff has grown increasingly concerned that current changes in electricity sector dynamics as well as future changes completely unknown mean that locking in a 35-year resource poses significant and unaddressed risk to customers.” The PUC staff summarized, “Staff recommends that the Commission not acknowledge PGE’s Action Plan item to issue an RFP for dispatchable capacity.” PGE was considering whether to meet these capacity demands by adding more gas-fired power at the Carty Generating Station, and today PGE appears to have “suspended” this option.

Today’s announcement from PGE comes in the midst of a regional groundswell of opposition to fracked gas power. Both EFSC and the Oregon PUC have received a record number of comments in opposition to PGE’s fracked gas power plants.

Keep it up, folks! We’re making an impact! See you on Monday!

May 8, 2017

PGE Under Scrutiny

According to a complaint filed with the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services Building Codes Division, PGE failed to complete necessary inspections of high-pressure, high-temperature equipment inside its new power plant, which the complaint says poses “potential life-safety issues for plant employees.”  NewJac Inc., an Indiana-based pipe fabricator involved in providing piping for the new Carty gas plant, filed the complaint on January 6, 2017. NewJac suggests that PGE’s rush to operate Carty may have been driven by PGE’s reported urgency to meet an August 1, 2016, startup deadline. By beginning operations prior to August 1, PGE was able to bill ratepayers for costs associated with the new facility.

NewJac’s complaint raises serious questions about PGE’s rush to build new gas-fired power plants in Oregon. These questions include:

  • Did PGE put workers, ratepayer funds, and the environment at risk by rushing to place the Carty Generating Station into service without adequate inspections?
  • Is the Carty Generating Station safe to operate?
  • Will ratepayers foot the bill for problems created by PGE’s rush to operate the Carty plant?

In response to these issues, Riverkeeper is urging the State of Oregon to take the following steps:

  • Investigate whether to revoke PGE’s authorization to operate Carty Unit 1 (i.e., the existing gas plant, located near Boardman, Oregon).
  • Halt permitting of PGE’s proposed expansion of Carty and permitting for increased pollution levels at Unit 1 of the Carty Generating Station.
  • Initiate an investigation and hold PGE accountable.

See the full complaint letters here:

Cost Overruns and Pollution at PGE’s Carty Gas Power Plant

PGE’s problems at the Carty gas plant raises serious concerns about its proposals to add two more fracked gas-fired power plants at the site near Boardman. Already, the Carty Generating Station emits more air pollution that PGE projected. Late last year, PGE asked Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to modify its air pollution permit and allow the company to add 156,000 pounds of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to Oregon’s air. The existing Carty plant came in more than $100 million over budget, a cost that PGE may ask ratepayers to absorb.