Appealing parties to make case against the energy company

Pilots groups, conservationists and local residents have petitioned a New-York based energy company’s proposal to build a gas-fired power plant in Troutdale, citing threats to pilot safety, air quality, recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, and scenery in the Columbia River Gorge.

Michael Lang, Conservation Director at Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, calls the developer’s proposal to build the power plant next to the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area and the Troutdale Airport “terrible land-use planning.”

“This is really about an unneeded, unnecessary power plant being located in the absolute wrong place, on the boundary of a protected area and adjacent to the airport,” Lang told The Outlook.

A pre-hearing conference for the contested Troutdale Energy Center case has been scheduled from 1-4 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, at the Fairview-Columbia Library, 1520 N.E. Village St., Fairview.

Oregon Pilots Association’s main concern is the thermal plumes from the 175-foot main stack, which it said would be a hazard to pilots who use the Troutdale Airport.

“Pilots cannot fly high enough to avoid such a plume because of the overlying airspace for the Portland Airport,” OPA president Mary Rosenblum said.

Many pilots who use the Troutdale Airport are students or inexperienced pilots.

“An upset at a low altitude could result in a spin that leads to a fatal crash,” Rosenblum said. “Locating this type of plant here completely ignores public safety. This type of plant should never be built beneath an airport’s airspace,” she said.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is in opposition to the Troutdale Energy Center’s proposed siting as a matter of air safety.

It maintains the Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of completing a study on the effects of exhaust plumes to determine safe placement of energy facilities near airports and the Troutdale project should be halted until the study is complete.

The U.S. Forest Service is concerned the project will impact air quality and scenery in the Gorge at no economic benefit to the area.

Lynn Burditt, U.S. Forest Service National Scenic Area Manager, wrote in a September 2013 letter to the energy siting council, “Due to the close proximity of the facility and careful consideration of the project documentation and analyses, the USDA Forest Service maintains there are two significant adverse impacts associated with this facility and no clear indication of economic benfit to the Scenic Area that couldn’t be achieved if the project was located elsewhere.”

Developers must get approval from the Energy Facility Siting Council, the governor-appointed state regulatory agency that will decide on the case before the Oregon Department of Energy can issue a site permit to build the plant.

Salem attorney J. Kevin Shuba will act as hearing officer for the case.

The three-hour conference on Wednesday is a preliminary meeting, which will lay out the schedule for appealing parties and how evidence will be submitted.

At the end of the process, Shuba will make a recommendation to the Energy Facility Siting Council, which will then make a final decision on the contested case.

Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, the Oregon Pilots Association, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, as well as the Columbia River Gorge Commission, the U.S. Forest Service, Interlachen Neighborhood Association and local residents are among those who object to the project and are appealing the developer’s proposal.

Troutdale Energy Center, a subsidiary of New-York based Development Partners Group, applied for a site permit through the Oregon Department of Energy in July 2012 to build a 652-megawatt plant at the former Reynolds aluminum factory site in Troutdale.

The land is owned by the Port of Portland.

Lang said the Port of Portland has been unresponsive to the range of concerns raised over environmental impacts and pilot safety.

Steve Johnson, spokesman at the Port of Portland, responded.

“We believe the proposed Troutdale Energy Center is compatible land use for Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park and is also compatible with the use of Troutdale Airport,” Johnson said.

The Port of Portland is relying on the Energy Facility Siting Council to make a decision that will help ensure Oregon has an adequate energy supply while protecting Oregon’s environment and public safety, Johnson said.

“The proposed Troutdale Energy Center would use the existing natural gas supply and electrical distribution infrastructure at Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park to meet regional energy needs,” he said.”While the Federal Aviation Administration is responsible for aviation safety, we commissioned a study to analyze the potential impacts of the operation of the proposed Troutdale Energy Center on airspace into and around Troutdale Airport, and shared the analysis with the FAA.

“Based on that study, and FAA’s approval of the proposed Troutdale Energy Center project, we believe the proposed Troutdale Energy Center is compatible with the use of Troutdale Airport,” Johnson added.

Last June, Development Partners lost a competitive bid to sell power to Portland General Electric, but it plans to move forward with building a gas-fired power plant in Troutdale anyway.

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