Photo: Allyson Woodard

April 15, 2020

For Immediate Release

Contacts:

Erin Saylor, Staff Attorney, Columbia Riverkeeper, (541) 399-4775, erin@columbiariverkeeper.org 

Nathan Baker, Senior Staff Attorney, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, (503) 241-3762 x101, nathan@gorgefriends.org

Victory Over Fracked Gas Power Plant

Developer Abandons Plans to Build Controversial Plant in Umatilla County 

Portland, OR – Another large fossil fuel project fails in Oregon. Last week, confronted with mounting public pressure and litigation brought by 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,” said Erin Saylor, Staff Attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper. “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.” 

“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,” said Nathan Baker, Senior Staff Attorney for Friends of the Columbia Gorge. “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.”

“The Perennial fracked gas project would have severely undermined Oregon’s own goals for stopping the climate crisis,” said Dineen O’Rourke, Campaign Manager at 350PDX. “This victory is a reminder that our collective movement for a just transition from dangerous fossil fuel projects and towards clean energy is winning.”

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.

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.

Columbia Riverkeeper’s mission is to restore and protect the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean. Columbia Riverkeeper is a nonprofit organization with over 16,000 members who live, work, and recreate throughout the Columbia River Basin. www.columbiariverkeeper.org 

Friends of the Columbia Gorge is a conservation organization with more than 6,000 members dedicated to protecting, preserving, and stewarding the Columbia Gorge for future generations. Friends maintains an office in Portland, Oregon, as well as in two Gorge towns—Hood River, Oregon, and Washougal, Washington. www.gorgefriends.org 

350PDX is a grassroots, volunteer-powered movement dedicated to fighting the root causes of climate disruption through justice-based solutions and by mobilizing, training, and inspiring people to act. 350pdx.org

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Background information

Perennial’s announcement that it will seek termination of the site certificate finally signals the end of this ill-conceived project, which was proposed to be built in an area southwest of Hermiston, Oregon that already hosts two large gas power plants, the Hermiston Generating Project and the Hermiston Power Project. The Perennial project would have been sited adjacent to the existing Hermiston Generating Project.

The plans for the Perennial project stretched back approximately eight years. Perennial-WindChaser LLC was first registered to do business in Oregon in 2013. The following year, the company applied with EFSC to build the proposed power plant. According to EFSC’s website, Perennial-WindChaser LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Perennial Power Holdings, Inc., which is in turn a wholly owned subsidiary of Sumitomo Corporation and Sumitomo Corporation of Americas. Sumitomo also owns a 50 percent stake in the existing Hermiston Generating Project.

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 EFSC, 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 thereafter, 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. That case was pending when Perennial announced its intention to seek termination of the site certificate for this project. Riverkeeper and Friends are represented in the matter by Maura Fahey of Crag Law Center, 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.

Additionally, on December 28, 2020, Riverkeeper filed suit against Perennial in federal court for Perennial’s failure to obtain a construction stormwater permit before breaking ground on the road and bridge work. Riverkeeper is represented in that matter by Kampmeier & Knutsen PLLC, and Riverkeeper Staff Attorneys Erin Saylor and Simone Anter.

Riverkeeper and Friends anticipate that all litigation involving the Perennial project will be resolved once EFSC formally terminates the site certificate for the project.

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