On February 23rd, some fellow Sierra Club members trekked out to Cousins’ Country Inn in The Dalles. The Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) was holding one of their regular meetings where they discuss and eventually vote on which sites are granted the right to produce energy. Thus, they can either approve or deny the Carty/Boardman gas plants. Although the Carty gas plants were not on the agenda, public comment (of any sort) was – and thus a few of us wanted to voice our concerns with the proposed PGE gas plants.
The meeting took place in a small conference room, thus it was a very intimate setting. One very significant bit of information was gifted to us at the very beginning of the meeting. Very briefly, the secretary of the council informed the other council members that they received a complaint from the contractor that installed the initial gas plant pipes – which has been up and running since July 2016.This complaint stated that PGE has not properly maintained the welds for these pipes. That was the extent of the secretary’s statement, but the basic assumption was that PGE is not being accountable or reliable when it comes to basic maintenance on an energy plant. Thus, as I was getting situated in my seat, mentally and physically preparing for what could be a very long meeting, I was pretty happy because we were just gifted some very valuable information – already making the 90 minute car ride worth it!
EFSC received over 7,000 public comment cards before this meeting, scripting their disapproval of the Carty gas plants. Public comment at the very end of the EFSC meeting gave life to the people behind those comment cards. When a Native American family sat down in front of them, and started off with a prayer, the council members were at full attention. All in all, 7-10 residents spoke up against the gas plants for various reasons.
Personally, I think the drive in the middle of the day was worth it. It was good to see that these council members are regular ole citizens of the state (appointed by governors past and present), thus I believe they can be swayed if enough of us speak up. They have to follow rules/laws of the state, as well as listen to both sides, but when they see/hear from us over and over again, they HAVE to listen. This small meeting with approximately 30 people in the room may end up swaying the decision in our favor. Thus, I remind all of us to keep showing up, standing up, and speaking up!
By Colin McLean