Hearing for Troutdale Energy Center will likely reconvene at end of the month

A prehearing scheduled Wednesday, March 12, in Fairview for the contested Troutdale Energy Center case was canceled and has been rescheduled until later in March. A date is unknown at this point.

Rick Till, legal advocate at Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, said the hearings officer for the case canceled the meeting because petitioners filed a “motion for reconsideration” and an “interlocutory appeal.”

The motion and appeal challenged an order that was issued by Hearings Officer

Kevin J. Shuba granting party status to all petitioners.

Shuba has said he will try to schedule another conference for late March.

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.

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 site in Troutdale.

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.

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

Pilots president disputes Port’s claims

In The Outlook’s March 14 article, “Hearing is step one on fate of power plant,” Port of Portland spokesman Steve Johnson responded to a public request from the Port on concerns raised by petitioners.

Johnson stated, “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.”

He went on to say that the Port of Portland commissioned a study to analyze the potential impacts of the Troutdale Energy Center on airspace in and around the Troutdale Airport, and shared the analysis with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is responsible for aviation safety.

“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 said.

Mary Rosenblum, president of the Oregon Pilots Association, an aviation and safety advocacy group, said Johnson’s assertion is misleading at the least.

She said Johnson implies that the FAA approved the plant after reviewing the Port of Portland’s study on the safety risks posed to pilots by the plant’s high velocity thermal plume.

“That, however, is not all the case,” Rosenblum wrote in an email to The Outlook.

The FAA approved the hard structures that are to be built on the site; antennae, the actual physical smoke stack, etc., and determined they are not tall enough to impact aircraft, she said.

“The FAA did not approve the thermal plume at all,” Rosenblum said. “As of now, the FAA does not regulate thermal plumes in airspace and has refused to comment on the Port’s study to say that the plant does or does not pose a risk to aviators.” In September 2014, Rosenblum said, the FAA will release a computer interface to assess this type of risk that will allow companies (such as Development Partners) to input their plant data into this interface and determine whether the risk from the thermal plume meets the FAA’s approved level of safety.

Rosenblum, who was invited to an FAA group in Washington, D.C., to assess this risk assessment model, said the model used by the Port to assess that safety risk was not as stringent as the FAA’s model.

The FAA also will release new land-use guidelines to aid land use regulatory agencies in making siting decisions, she said.

“It has been Oregon Pilots Association’s contention that this plant should not be sited next to the airport until the company proves that it meets the FAA’s new safety guidelines,” Rosenblum said.

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