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Energy Team Meeting

August 24, 2017 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

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Boardman to Hemingway: Proposed Power Line

The joint La Grande/Union County meeting, held August 1st at the Blue Mountain Conference Center, was host to an overflow crowd thanks to tremendous organizing by ORA members Fuji and Jim Kreider. The proposed routes for the power line include two that would have the 300-foot towers traveling through town along the path of the Oregon Trail, or within a few thousand feet of Morgan Lake. Residents are, understandably, concerned and they made their feelings know to the City Council and the County Commission. The comments those officials heard that evening will be compiled, and used by the city and county in their response to the state about the different route alternatives.

There are a lot of moving parts to anything of this scale:

  • the Public Utility Commissions in Idaho and Oregon have to buy into Idaho Power’s resource plan which outlines why the utility feels the line is needed
  • the Federal agencies, including the BLM and Forest Service have to weigh in with their preferred alternative for those segments which cross public lands
  • Oregon’s Energy Facility Sitting Council is responsible for issuing the permit and deciding which route will be chosen

All of those decisions are backed up with documentation, and it takes a bit of work to dig in there but there are people who can help. At each step there has been or will be the possibility to comment.

There’s every reason to believe that Idaho Power’s stated reasons for the line are greatly exaggerated. The company’s estimate of future power requirements is completely out of line with the trend nationally and within their own service area. Instead, what may be driving this is the company’s need for continued infrastructure investment. They can add a guaranteed rate-of-return for what they build, and add both costs to monthly customer bills in their service area. That was their ticket for a long time, now it has them on a treadmill.

There is a lot more. I’d urge all of you to attend the August 24th energy team meeting at the ORA office for the details and to strategize.

Energy Equity: Housing with a Community Solar Component

After quite a few years of effort, we’ve engaged with OTEC and its engineering staff about a project to put a community solar component into affordable housing. For three of those years, ORA had presented a session on distributed generation and battery technology at SolWest. The electric co-op invited us to brief their staff on these developments. At that meeting, OTEC confirmed that they themselves had been seriously examining the changes coming to electric consumption and production. Here in the Northwest, they feel there is time to get it right, and they’re willing to work with us on this project which can act as a test bed for some of those changes.

In 2016, the Oregon legislature passed a law establishing a timeframe for eliminating the use of coal power by larger utilities, but there’s also a section of the bill designed to promote the development of community solar. We’re working through the new rules developed by the Public Utility Commission to find out what the bill offers to community solar developers, and how utilities fit into the picture.

We will brief attendees about those rules, and we’ll have copies of the letters that have gone back and forth between ORA and OTEC over the last few years available for you to examine at the meeting. That’s August 24th at the ORA office.

Oil-by-Rail: Funded

It’s logical to expect that we’ll be seeing an even greater push to export oil through Northwest ports. Towns are scrambling to deal with emergency preparedness within their own city limits. The larger domain – those 50 miles of river canyons, mountain ridges, and agricultural lands in between the towns also traversed by that railroad track – need close scrutiny as well.

Given the number of private, state, and federal lands along that path, it’s important to find out how synchronized those agencies are in the event of an oil spill. What water bodies, marshlands and forest stands, which farms and ranches are at the most risk and what plans exist for responding?

Those questions can be answered with the right people involved, and with modern mapping and database tools. ORA has obtained funding to extend its oil-by-rail work to the larger region around us. If you’d like to find out more, and to read the grant application, we’ll have that available as well.

All that and more, at the ORA Energy Team Meeting, 6:00 pm, August 24th.


August 24, 2017
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
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Oregon Rural Action Office
1119 Washington Ave
La Grande, OR 97850 United States
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Norm Cimon