Judge and commissioners strategize to counter petition
By Debbie Raney
Harney County may have won one battle against the Oregon Natural Desert Association’s attempt to petition Oregon’s Energy Facility Siting Council, but the fight is far from over, as another petition lies in waiting.
After denying a petition to amend rules regarding single facility energy generation projects, the Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) now has another Oregon Natural Desert Association’s (ONDA) petition waiting for action. This petition asks the EFSC to add the The Steens Cooperative Management and Protection Area (SCMPA) to the list of protected areas, off limits to industrial scale energy development. The Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area was established by the United States Congress in the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act of 2000.
In reviewing a petition for rule making, the EFSC considers the following six points:
(a) The continued need for the rule; (b) The nature of complaints or comments received concerning the rule from the public; (c) The complexity of the rule; (d) The extent to which the rule overlaps, duplicates or conflicts with other state rules or federal regulations and, to the extent feasible, with local government regulations; (e) The degree to which technology, economic conditions or other factors have changed in the subject area affected by the rule; and (f) The statutory citation or legal basis for the rule.
During the Harney County Court meeting of May 5, Judge Steve Grasty and Commissioners Jack Drinkwater and Dan Nichols discussed a strategy for the county to address the petition in writing prior to the council’s June 11 meeting, as well as during testimony at the meeting. Judge Steve Grasty commented that though it was a “home run” for the hearing to be scheduled for Burns, it was essential that Senator Ted Ferrioli and Representative Cliff Bentz be present at the hearing, and that Congressman Greg Walden, Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Jeff Merkley be represented as well.
Before the hearing, the EFSC has requested meetings with a federal employee who was part of the SCMPA planning and a representative from the legislative side of the planning. Grasty suggested contacting Lindsey Slater, a former member of Walden’s staff who participated in writing the original act, and Tom Dyer who was employed at the Burns District Bureau of Land Management at the time the act was established.
A venue site for the hearing was also discussed, with several suggestions made. The court was in consensus that the best place for the meeting would be at the Harney County Senior Center and Grasty will request the use of the facility on June 11.
The court also discussed the need for the entire community to be involved in letting the EFSC know how the county feels about changing the SCMPA, whether through letters or by attending the hearing. Written testimony can be addressed to Oregon Department of Energy, EFSC, 625 Marion St. NE, Salem, OR 97301-3737, or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grasty told the court, “Their job (EFSC) is to implement policy, they are not policy makers.” He continued that ONDA is trying to take the decision-making away from those who have a stake in the land, and give it to a group who has no experience and no investment in the outcome.
In other county court business on May 5, Jerry Hensley Emigrant Creek District Ranger, discussed Title II project funding and prioritization. The four projects, in order of priority will be long term stewardship, Harney County Forest Opportunity, aspens restoration and small tree thinnings. The total funding amount would be $433,000.
Dan Jordan gave the court an update on property and liability insurance claims. He reported that auto claims have increased over the last five years and suggested that the county have a safety seminar with all employees.
Jordan said the cost of general liability insurance would be improving as six claims from the 2004-05 fiscal year would be removed from the county’s history this year. Worker’s compensation claims had also gone down in the past year, according to Jordan.
One bid was open for a pickup for the road department. Teague Motor Company was awarded the bid for a 2010-11 Dodge Ram 2500 regular cab pickup for $24,232. A trade-in allowance of $4,500 brought the total down to $19,232. A second bid came into the office after the 5 p.m. May 4 deadline, and was not opened.
Charley Otley requested that the court find out if ONDA could use the Antiquities Act to make Steens Mountain a national monument. Otley said he had heard rumors that this was possible and wanted clarification.