October 20, 2020

Dan Serres, Conservation Director, Columbia Riverkeeper (503) 890-2441 dan@columbiariverkeeper.org

Developer Violated Oregon Law By Breaking Ground on Major Fracked Gas Project

Salem, OR – Today Columbia Riverkeeper filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue under the Clean Water Act alleging that the developer of the proposed 415-MW Perennial Wind Chaser fracked gas power plant near Umatilla, OR, violated Oregon law when it began construction on a road for the project without having first obtained a key construction stormwater permit. The violation occurred despite media scrutiny and multiple organizations calling for the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) to prohibit road construction without the developer first meeting all the pre-construction conditions required by Perennial’s site certificate.

“We are flabbergasted that, at the invitation of the ODOE, the Perennial fracked gas plant rushed to begin construction without a key stormwater permit, in direct violation of both its site certificate and the Clean Water Act” said Erin Saylor, Staff Attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper. “ODOE needs to stop bending rules for this major new source of climate-altering pollution.”

“If built, this plant would be one of Oregon’s top polluters, capable of generating roughly 1 million tons of climate-changing pollution each year,” stated Dineen O’Rourke, Campaign Manager for 350 PDX. “We pushed for the Energy Council to strengthen and uphold its greenhouse gas standards, yet here they have allowed a fracked gas polluter to sneak around Oregon’s rules and laws, all in the midst of our region living through the impacts of the climate crisis firsthand. It’s time for Governor Brown to step in and stop this would-be polluter from undercutting Oregon’s climate goals.”

According to ODOE’s website, Perennial-WindChaser LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Perennial Power Holdings, Inc., which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sumitomo Corporation and Sumitomo Corporation of America. Perennial’s site certificate was set to expire on September 23, 2020; by starting construction on just a small portion of the facility—despite lacking key permits and having no immediate plans to build any other portion of the facility—Perennial was able to avoid applying for an amendment to its site certificate. By avoiding a site certificate amendment, Perennial sidestepped new rules that would have significantly increased the fracked gas power plant’s carbon mitigation costs.

In August and September, Columbia Riverkeeper and a coalition of organizations urged ODOE to hold the Perennial fracked gas plant to the terms of its site certificate, which clearly required the company to obtain key permits and to complete other pre-construction requirements before beginning road construction.

“Perennial lacks both a construction stormwater permit and an air pollution permit from DEQ, has no buyer for its power, and has hinted at plans to redesign the facility. It makes absolutely no sense for ODOE to bend over backwards to allow this major polluter to start construction simply to avoid a site certificate amendment,” stated Saylor.

ODOE staff dismissed these concerns on behalf of the Council, allowing illegal road construction to begin. If built, the Perennial plant would rank 5th or 6th among Oregon’s top greenhouse gas polluters, according to data available from Oregon DEQ for 2018.