Judge and commissioners strategize to counter petition

By Debbie Raney
Burns Times-Herald

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 energy.in.internet@state.or.us.

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.

4 Responses to “County’s fight with ONDA not over yet”

  1. Randy Fulton Says:

    Mark June 11 on your calendar and lets pack the venue with concerned Harney County Citizens, call your neighbors, friends, and family and make your position known.

  2. Trvor Says:

    There has been many other places that I’ve been more impressed with. The Steens, close up, seemed rather bleak. I don’t know why so many outsiders are intent on stopping whatever has been set into motion. My animosity for the Oregon Natural Desert Association is not for their work on trying to preserve the sagebrush and basaltic rocks, but for them failing to promote birth control, failing to close the border to illegal immigrants, failing to put out of business the manufacturers of Dodge diesel locomotive obnoxious pickup trucks, failing to discipline the neighbor’s kids,…

    Obviously, what is on the ballot is not high on my list of priorities, If I show up to the “venue” it will only be out of carnival curiosity. With Greece going to the dogs for dallying the hard economic decisions, and the Gulf of Mexico being the latest freak show, I’ve not seen anyone take a day off or observe a moment of simplicity to honor those who produce energy we take for granted. We build wind farms and like tax measures 66 & 67, it won’t be enough to sate the thirst and hunger of an obese nation of ingrates. I don’t give a good golly whether who wins the fight. However, it might make for some amusing posturing for anyone who cares enough about whatever it is we are fighting about this time.

  3. TJ Says:

    Hey trvor- I hope your message is a joke. Otherwise, maybe you oughta go one of those places that you’re more impressed with, and then stay. After reading your…whatever that was…it seems like your “priorities” are to sit in judgement of any and all with a legitimate, considered opinion on this matter. If you can pinpoint and solve all of our problems so easily, and you think our nation’s “obese ingrates” are worth saving, you should step up and run for some public office where your superior intellect could be put to work for the betterment of us all!

  4. Trvor Says:

    Why thank you TJ. I didn’t think BTH had any readers online. After getting lulled by the sound of chirping crickets, and having most of my posts snubbed by the editors, I sling my words easily from the hip. If my work appears to be a joke, its only because I have no direction. Public office is not my ambition but, if you want to hire me to promote your agenda, I’d be proud to be a compensated lobbyist no matter what your persuasion. Its getting difficult to discern the colors of republicans, democrats and independents. When “conservatives” push for what is only in their personal interest and don’t embrace the philosophy all the way, that’s when the joke starts and the money becomes serious business.

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