On behalf of the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) and Audubon Society of Portland (Portland Audubon) we ask for your immediate action to revoke the December 2011 Record of Decision for the North Steens 230-kV Transmission Line Project, and the associated Right-of-Way (ROW) grants issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for that project. This petition is based on significant changes in the technical and financial ability of the project to proceed including: 1) the lack of an interconnection agreement for the project; 2) the questionable status of the Power Purchase Agreement;
3) the revocation of a Notice to Proceed (NTP) and refunding of the project bond by the BLM; and 4) the withdrawal of legal counsel by the developer.
This letter is a petition for agency action pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 502 et seq. and we request a decision on this petition within 60 days.
Industrial Wind Development on Steens Mountain
The unique values of Steens Mountain are now threatened by industrial wind development. Specifically, in October 2011, BLM issued the “North Steens 230-kV Transmission Line Project: Final Environmental Impact Statement” (DOI-BLM-ORB060-2010-0035-EIS), which addressed the proposal by applicant Echanis LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Columbia Energy Partners, LLC (jointly, “CEP”), to construct a 230-kV transmission line extending 46 miles from a new wind development on Steens Mountain to a new substation on an existing 115-kV line, crossing 12.1 miles of public lands managed by the BLM, including a portion of the federally-protected CMPA.
The express purpose of the transmission line is to carry electrical power from the proposed Echanis Wind Energy Project, a proposed 104 megawatt wind energy facility located on private land adjacent to the CMPA and the Steens Mountain Wilderness Area.
Based on the October 2011 FEIS, you and then-BLM Director Robert Abbey signed a Record of Decision dated December 28, 2011, approving the grant by BLM of rights-ofway (ROWs) over the public lands for the proposed North Steens Transmission Line. BLM subsequently issued ROWs to CEP for the North Steens line, pursuant to the ROD. In May 2012, BLM further issued an initial Notice to Proceed, authorizing preconstruction surveys (but no ground disturbing activities) and BLM required the developer to post a bond in the amount of $651,897.
Our organizations have filed federal court litigation challenging the North Steens FEIS and ROD, which remains pending. See ONDA et al. v. Salazar et al., No. 3:12-cv-596- MO (D. Oregon). CEP intervened in that action.