Victory Over Fracked Gas Power Plant
With the cancellation of the Perennial Wind Chaser power plant, scenes like this from the natural gas-fired Chehalis Generation Facility in Washington won’t be coming to Hermiston any time soon. Photo by Steven Baltakatei Sandoval/WikiMedia Commons
Another large fossil fuel project fails in Oregon!
Confronted with mounting public pressure and litigation that Crag Law Center brought on behalf of Columbia Riverkeeper and Friends of the Columbia Gorge, the developer behind the controversial Perennial Wind Chaser Station, a 415-MW fracked gas power plant proposed in western Umatilla County, Oregon, announced—through its counsel—its intention to abandon its plans to build the project. On the eve of oral argument before the Multnomah County Circuit Court, Perennial’s counsel announced in an email to the Court that the project will “not be constructed” and that Perennial will ask the Energy Facility Siting Council (“EFSC”) to terminate the state-issued permit for the project, called a “site certificate.”
“This is a huge win for Oregonians and the climate. If built, the Perennial project would have turned the Hermiston area into a clustered hot spot of pollution-spewing power plants and would have locked the state into at least thirty years of additional climate-destroying emissions. We hope the lesson for aspiring developers of new fossil fuel-burning plants in Oregon is clear: our future is in clean energy, not dirty fossil fuels.”
– Erin Saylor, Staff Attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper.
Crag Staff Attorney Maura Fahey worked on a team with the Law Office of Karl G. Anuta, Columbia Riverkeeper Staff Attorney Erin Saylor, and Friends of Columbia Gorge Senior Staff Attorney Nathan Baker to challenge the ill-conceived project.
If constructed, Perennial would have emitted more than one million tons of greenhouse gases per year, making it the sixth largest stationary source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state—a statistic that fails to account for the considerable climate impacts associated with the extraction of the fracked gas that would have supplied the plant (since most methane gas in the United States and in the Pacific Northwest is produced by fracking). Over the last decade, fracking has led to a significant increase in the amount of methane released into the atmosphere. On a short-term basis, methane is over 80% more impactful than carbon dioxide in causing climate change. The Perennial project 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 per year.
“Just five years ago, several proposals for new gas-fired power plants threatened to harm air quality in the Columbia River Gorge and exacerbate climate change, but public opposition to each of these projects has prevailed. We hope and expect that Oregon’s future begins today, free of new fossil fuel power plants, which are dirty dinosaurs of a bygone era.”
– Nathan Baker, Senior Staff Attorney for Friends of the Columbia Gorge.
The end of fracked gas power plants in Oregon?
The Perennial project was the last of numerous proposals for new gas-fired power plants in Oregon that have been cancelled over the past five years, starting with the Troutdale Energy Center and South Dunes Power Plant in 2016, then PGE’s Carty Units 2 and 3 in 2018, and now Perennial in 2021. With the abandonment of Perennial, no proposals to build any new gas-fired power plants in Oregon remain pending with EFSC.
Shortly before Perennial’s September 23, 2020, deadline to start construction of the facility, the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) and Perennial together concocted what conservationists have called an illegal scheme to breathe new life into the otherwise dead proposal. As part of this scheme, ODOE unilaterally altered the previously approved construction schedule for the project and purported to waive numerous mandatory pre-construction conditions in the site certificate. ODOE did so without first obtaining approval for these changes from the Energy Facility Siting Council, as required by state law. ODOE then allowed Perennial to start work on a road and bridge at the site, despite Perennial’s noncompliance with the site certificate, including Perennial’s failure to obtain other required permits.
Shortly after, our clients – Columbia Riverkeeper and Friends of the Columbia Gorge – filed a Petition for Judicial Review against ODOE and Perennial in the Multnomah County Circuit Court, alleging that ODOE’s decisions violated state law. This case was pending when Perennial announced its intention to seek termination of the site certificate for this project. Crag Staff Attorney Maura Fahey represented the groups in this matter, along with the Law Office of Karl G. Anuta, and in-house counsel: Staff Attorney Erin Saylor at Riverkeeper and Senior Staff Attorney Nathan Baker at Friends.
Read Columbia Insight’s 4/14/21 story “Developers back off controversial fracked gas power plant in Oregon”
Learn more about Crag’s work on this case