Anatomy of a Victory
The Fall of a Proposed Fracked Gas Power Plant in Eastern Oregon
This August, Perennial Power Holdings LLC quietly asked the State of Oregon to terminate a permit for a fracked gas power plant proposed near Hermiston. Perennial had barely broken ground on its facility, despite getting a permit back in 2015. Let’s take a look at how you, Columbia Riverkeeper, and our allies kept this fracked gas power plant from spewing pollution into our air and damaging our climate.
First and foremost, you spoke up and took action! Thousands of people signed comment letters and repeatedly told the State of Oregon that Perennial—and fracked gas— should not be part of our energy future. This groundswell of opposition kept Oregon’s elected leaders accountable and kept the pressure on the company and regulators. Columbia Riverkeeper shone a spotlight on poor government oversight. When the Oregon Department of Energy bent its own rules to keep Perennial’s project alive (and allow the company to avoid paying Oregon millions of dollars for greenhouse gas mitigation), Columbia Riverkeeper helped break the story in an important Oregon Public Broadcasting story
We also challenged Perennial’s misguided fossil fuel proposal in court. Columbia Riverkeeper and Friends of the Columbia Gorge, represented by in-house counsel as well as Crag Law Center and Karl Anuta, sued the Oregon Department of Energy for illegally extending Perennial’s permit. Columbia Riverkeeper, represented by in-house counsel and the law firm Kampmeier and Knutsen, also sued Perennial for illegally beginning road construction without necessary Clean Water Act permits.
The Perennial fracked gas power plant victory was also a result of our region’s broader transition away from fossil fuels and toward more renewable sources of energy, which is being driven by so many people, businesses, and organizations. Clean, renewable sources of energy like wind and solar—coupled with tougher regulations on fossil fuels—have fundamentally changed the energy market in the Pacific Northwest. In the eight years after receiving a permit, Perennial could never find a buyer for electricity made by burning fracked gas.
What does it all mean for Oregon and our climate? We’ve defeated what would have been one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters in Oregon. Over its 30-year lifecycle, the Perennial plant would have emitted at least 30 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution. This fracked gas plant also would have emitted up to 59 tons of particulate matter, 19 tons of sulfur dioxide, 111 tons of nitrogen oxides, 213 tons of carbon monoxide, 34 tons of volatile organic compounds, and six tons of sulfuric acid mist every year. Whether you are concerned about Oregon meeting its climate goals, air quality in Hermiston, or both, this is a big deal.
Finally, the cancellation of Perennial’s permit marks the beginning of a new era of energy production in Oregon. A law that took effect in September 2021 bans new and expanded power plants that burn natural gas or other fossil fuels in Oregon; Perennial’s permit was the last remaining gas-fired power plant permitted under the old law. Defeating Perennial means that Oregon can now turn toward building a clean, renewable future.
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