Library from Oregon
A federal court has killed a large wind energy project in southeast Oregon over concerns about a declining sage grouse population that needs the area to breed.
The long‐running case over the impacts of proposed industrial‐scale wind energy development on Steens Mountain in southeastern Oregon was put to an end Tuesday afternoon by order of a federal court. The court vacated the Secretary of the Interior’s approval of an industrial‐scale wind project that would have forever marred one of Oregon’s most cherished high desert natural areas.
In this important ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, the court vacated the Secretary of the Interior’s approval of the proposed Steens Mountain wind project which would have sited up to 69 turbines and a 230 kv transmission line in area critical for sage grouse. The order is provided below and can also be accessed by clicking the links on this page.
Oregon’s two biggest utilities, major industrial users and the Citizens’ Utility Board are all opposing legislation that would carve out a portion of Oregon’s renewable portfolio standard for small-scale projects.
This action was a serious breach of the revenue department's ethical responsibility to act in the best interests of all Oregon taxpayers. The department's involvement in the failures of the BETC program needs further investigation. Taxpayer money should not have been allowed to flow out of state coffers into the BETC program with little to no supervision.
Some of the biggest names in Oregon's renewable energy and forest products industries landed on a list of suspicious state giveaways during an investigative audit of Oregon's Business Energy Tax Credit Program. ...The audit details ongoing and costly failures by staff at the Oregon Department of Energy in applying the most fundamental rules of the program or performing basic due diligence to ensure tax credit applicants qualified for the money and used it as intended.
The appeals court decision said the BLM completed no surveys on whether sage grouse were at the site during the winter. "The inaccurate information and unsupported assumptions materially impeded informed decision-making and public participation," the decision said.
Both groups, which had appealed U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman's 2013 decision to throw out the case more than two years ago, have long argued the Steens Mountains location is not a proper site for an industrial-scale wind farm. They argued the project would have destroyed the grouse's nearby winter concentration areas and severed a unique habitat corridor that is essential to the survival of neighboring grouse populations.
According to the environmental groups, a three-judge panel writing for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had erred in deciding not to survey for sage-grouse at the project site.
The Ninth District Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the Oregon Natural Desert Association, and rejected a wind turbine project on Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon. The 104-megawatt project proposed by Columbia Energy Partners would have erected 70 wind turbines and a high-capacity transmission line on Steens Mountain. The approximately 100 MW Echanis project would be sent power to Southern California as part of an agreement with Southern California Edison. The project also included a high-capacity transmission lines that cut across potential sage grouse habitat within the protected Steens Cooperative Project. A summary of the order is provided below. The full decision can be found by clicking the links on this page. Also attached to this page are the legal arguments presented by the government and by the environmental groups from March 2016.
Federal regulators did not adequately address whether a proposed wind-turbine project in southeastern Oregon would adversely impact the area's greater sage grouse population, the Ninth Circuit ruled Thursday.
Wind power generation had its smallest increase in 16 years due to less intense wind speeds in Utah and eight other Western states in the country. Even though wind generation capacity jumped by 13 percent in 2015, the actual output grew 5.1 percent.
The federal appeals court met Thursday to consider a challenge to the proposed construction of up to 69 wind turbines on the Steens Mountain, the biggest fault-rock mountain in North America, located in the high desert of Harney County.
The energy bill has been controversial since before the legislative session began, because of news reports that Gov. Kate Brown’s administration instructed the Public Utility Commission not to go public with concerns the bill would be expensive for customers yet do little to reduce emissions from coal power plants.
"This session we've seen the Democrat majority put their partisan agenda ahead of both the needs of Oregonians and the law," his statement said. "Senate Republicans will not work late into the night to fast track an agenda pursued by the Democrat majority that features back room deals between Democrats and special interests and numerous broken promises of collaboration and compromise."
Commissioners and staff at the Oregon Public Utility Commission believe the bill would increase electricity costs and shift risk from utilities to ratepayers. They also say it wouldn't actually reduce carbon dioxide emissions, according to communications released to The Oregonian/OregonLive in response to a public records request.
Whether a wind farm gets built off the coast of Coos Bay depends on Oregon utilities' willingness to sign on — and so far, the cost of Principle Power's project has been a deterrent. In May 2014, Principle Power crossed a huge hurdle, receiving up to $47 million in matching grant funds from the U.S. Department of Energy over four years.
Jeff Bissonnette, policy director for the Citizens’ Utility Board and a registered lobbyist, said perhaps there might be other ways the state could support the project so ratepayers would not directly shoulder as much of the financial burden. Bissonnette reiterated comments by utility representatives that rates should not be used to pay for research and development projects, nor for economic development.