Will Oregon’s Energy Council Allow a Fracked Gas Developer to Game the System?

A Columbia Riverkeeper investigation uncovered a fracked-gas company attempting to avoid Oregon’s hefty fee on carbon pollution for new power plants. In August 2020, the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) staff quietly gave the go-ahead for the Perennial Wind Chaser development to begin construction on a road to a 415 MW, gas-fired power plant near Umatilla, OR.

If built, Perennial would quickly become one of Oregon’s top five or six polluters, generating roughly 1 million tons of carbon pollution each year. By spending $250,000 on a road or other parts of the facility, Perennial would officially “begin construction” of the facility—and avoid the state’s new carbon fees.

Check out The Oregonian’s in-depth story, featuring Riverkeeper’s conservation director, Dan Serres.

The Details

Perennial’s sudden move to begin construction—and EFSC staff’s cooperation—would allow a major new climate polluter to avoid Oregon’s hefty fees on climate pollution. Here’s why EFSC must change course:

  1. The proposed Perennial fracked gas power plant does not have a permit from the Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ). In 2019, EFSC stated, "Perennial would not be able to commence facility construction without a valid DEQ permit” when it granted Perennial an extension on its deadline to begin construction until September 23, 2020. EFSC appears to be reneging on this clear-cut commitment by allowing construction to begin. Additionally, DEQ may never grant a permit for this large potential source of greenhouse gas pollution, creating the possibility of a “road to nowhere.” This is why Oregon's rules prohibit construction on one part of a facility (a road) until a developer has construction rights on all parts of the facility (such as the DEQ permit for the power plant itself).

  2. The plant does not have a power purchaser. Why start construction with no entity to sell power to?

  3. Perennial has not completed major pre-construction requirements. In May 2020, Perennial informed EFSC that it had been unable to complete necessary pre-construction surveys. And there are numerous other requirements that Perennial has apparently failed to meet, yet EFSC is poised to allow a “Phase 1” of construction, in clear conflict with the requirements of EFSC’s rules. Additionally, EFSC never described a “Phase 1” when it granted a site certificate for Perennial. However, it did state that Perennial must satisfy many conditions before construction could begin—and those conditions haven’t been fulfilled.

  4. DEQ paused its review of the Perennial project because Perennial may be drastically redesigning the power plant. Why start construction if plans—and permits—are still up in the air?

Bottomline: EFSC staff appear poised to allow a major new climate polluter to avoid Oregon’s hefty fees on carbon pollution.

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