Thursday, December 1, 2011

Obama's power line team to visit B2H project

By JAYSON JACOBY Nov. 30, 2011

A team of federal officials that President Obama tasked with speeding up the permitting process for seven proposed power lines will conduct a site visit next week for an Idaho Power Company line that’s slated to bisect Baker County.

The president’s “Rapid Response Team for Transmission” will be in Boise on Dec. 6, and in Ontario on Dec. 7.

The team is not scheduled to travel to Baker County.

Mark Bennett, the county’s planning director, said he will attend some of the meetings. Bennett said Fred Warner Jr., chairman of the county’s three-member Board of Commissioners, might accompany him. 

Obama announced in early October that he wants to expedite permitting for seven power transmission lines, including Idaho Power’s Boardman-to-Hemingway project that was unveiled several years ago. Idaho Power has suggested several routes for the 300-mile, 500-kilovolt line, some of which — including one that would have run through Baker Valley between Baker City and the Elkhorn Mountains — were discarded.

The company’s current preferred route would run about one mile east of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center near Baker City. That proposal has provoked opposition among some local residents, who formed a group called Move Idaho Power. Their chief complaint is that the 150-foot towers would mar the views from the Interpretive Center.

In response, Idaho Power has proposed an alternative route that would move the power line a few miles to the east. But that location creates conflicts with breeding sites for the sage grouse, a bird that is a candidate for the federal endangered species list.

The route issue remains unresolved. Idaho Power’s current timeline calls for the company to acquire rights-of-way from mid-2012 through mid-2014, with constructed scheduled from 2014 through mid-2016. In the meantime, the president announced his intention to accelerate permitting for Boardman-to-Hemingway (B2H) and six other projects.

“The president wants to get America working again,” Nancy Sutley, chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, said in a press release in October. “Building a smarter electric grid will create thousands of American jobs and accelerate the growth of domestic clean energy industries translating into more energy choices and cost savings for American consumers.”

The purpose of the Dec. 6-7 site visit, according to the email invitation Bennett received last week, is to help the president’s Rapid Response Team “better understand the B2H project as the (team) works to expedite and improve the federal government’s evaluation of transmission applications.”

Members of the Rapid Response Team who are slated to attend include Bill Falsey, deputy chief of staff for the BLM; Laura Morton, renewable energy senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Energy; and Lucas Lucero, BLM’s rights-of-way branch chief.

According to the schedule, the portion of the meeting set aside for local government representatives — including Baker County officials — will start at noon PST on Dec. 7. The agenda doesn’t include a public comment period.

The Rapid Reponse Team wants to discuss a variety of topics, according to the invitation, including:
 • The history and current status of project review, including approach to public engagement
 • The list of permits required and the schedule and timelines for processing permit applications
 • The roles and authorities of each agency involved in the project review
 • The amount of non-federal land that the proposed project would affect and views and roles of non-federal land owners
 • Tribal consultation and interaction with State Historical Preservation Officers
 • Project need, including how and by whom it was identified, and whether the asserted need for the project is controversial
 • The established processes for data collection, data use, and record keeping
 • Reasonable and feasible alternative routes (including the use of previously designated corridors), particularly sensitive environmental resources, and potential mitigation measures (if presently known)
 • Whether approving the line would be inconsistent with any federal, state or local plans, and the processes by which those plans can be amended
 • Any potential “show stoppers” or fatal flaws
 • Strengths that have assisted you in making progress in the review process
 • Challenges and obstacles that you currently face, or expect to experience
 • Recommendations (including the means) to realize efficiencies in project review
 • Any assistance you may need dealing with obstacles and challenges that cannot be directly addressed on-site
 • Recommendations and lessons learned that may be applicable to other projects
 • Issues or concerns the RRTT can help address

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Idaho Power Newsletter and Updated Maps

Dear B2H Project Stakeholders,

 Thank you for your continued interest and participation in the Boardman to Hemingway (B2H) Transmission Line Project. Idaho Power is working hard to enhance reliability throughout the region and move energy from where it’s generated to where it’s used in homes, farms and communities.
A lot has happened on the project since we last met with area stakeholders in summer 2010, so we wanted to provide a brief update about project activities.
Please view the B2H Connection recently mailed to project stakeholders or visit the project website using the links below to learn more about:
  • Routing changes in the Boardman, Baker City, Brogan and Owyhee Dam areas as suggested by stakeholders following community and landowner meetings in summer 2010.
  • Field surveys conducted or underway.
  • The latest project schedule outlining Idaho Powers in-service date change from June 2015 to June 2016 to ensure adequate time for construction.
  • Micrositing as part of Idaho Power’s commitment to refine project routing where possible to lessen impacts to communities and landowners.
As you’ll see, a lot of work has been accomplished over the last year, and there’s a lot more work to do. We are working with the Bureau of Land ManagementOregon Department of EnergyU.S. Forest Service and many other stakeholders to build this 300-mile line. We encourage you to stay involved in the project by attending future public meetings and visiting the website for the latest project updates.

Keith Georgeson, Project Manager

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fed Plan to Consolidate Power Over Nation's Power Highway Has States Nervous

by Judson Berger

The Obama administration is looking to consolidate control over the nation's power highway, pushing a proposal that would put one federal agency in the driver's seat when it comes to reviewing and approving power-line projects across the country.

The proposal has triggered a rush of complaints, pitting power companies and the federal government against concerned citizens and local lawmakers.

As the Energy Department reviews the immense feedback in the weeks ahead, the ordeal could help determine how and where the nation's power supply is routed.

At the heart of Washington's proposal is a desire to guide and speed up a process that can be slowed by local bureaucratic hurdles. The need for more transmission lines is apparent -- in the vast states where wind and other forms of renewable energy are produced, the energy is often hundreds of miles from where it would be consumed.

But new power lines are not exactly welcome guests.

"Siting transmission is extremely difficult, because no one wants it on their land," said Gene Fadness, with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

Still, he said, "We don't think (the process) takes so long that it's not workable."

The states, which along with local governments have long had authority over whether and where power lines get built, derided the plan as a move that would make it harder for local residents to weigh in.

"It turns the whole process on its head," said Robert Thormeyer, spokesman with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. He said the federal government would be "more inclined to build" than the states, if for no other reason than they probably wouldn't have as much interaction with citizens. A bureaucrat in Washington might not hear the not-in-my-backyard pleas as frequently as a bureaucrat in, say, Boise.

The proposed change has drawn the skepticism of at least one senator. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., who helped write a 2005 law that initially expanded federal power over power lines, complained about the plan in a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said it appears the commission is trying to "rewrite" the language in the law. He said that's a decision for Congress, not the commission, to make.

The move, he wrote, "would pave the way for the commission to use the newly consolidated powers in ways never intended by Congress. . . "

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Routing the power around Adrian

By Larry Meyer Wednesday, July 20, 2011

ONTARIO — The Bureau of Land Management is working on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Boardman to Hemingway 500-Kilovolt transmission line and some environmental issues have been raised along proposed route and as part of the EIS process the BLM will be looking for possible alternative to mitigate those concerns or bypass them completely.

According to a letter from Idaho Power to Jon Beal and Bill Lawrence, Malheur County Planning Department, the company is planning to ask the BLM to remove the proposed route from near the Idaho-Oregon border, to a point north of U.S. Highway 20 and Vines Hill.

While most of the alternate routes to be explored are still on federal land, one alternate would move the line closer to Adrian, putting in four miles away, instead of the estimated 12 miles away for the current proposed route. This alternative would follow the Vale District utility corridor for some distance and would cross some private land south of U.S. 20 and southwest of Vale.

“There are four major landowners,” Keith Georgeson, Idaho Power project leader, said. Company officials were in the process of contacting them, he said Tuesday and whether the company would file that alternative as the new proposed route depends on the response of the land owners.

The reason for offering route alternatives is that the proposed route crosses through a “Sensitive Resource Area,” and an “area of critical environmental concern.” A sensitive resource area is one with wilderness characteristics that could be aside as wild-lands in the future.

A second alternative, which has a more southern route is more buildable, but is a little longer and has other challenges, the Idaho Power letter said.

Renee Straub, BLM leader on the Natural Resource Agency review, confirmed the route does go through environmentally sensitive areas, managed under the Resource Management Plan, and under the National Environmental Policy Act, the possible impacts must be considered and reasonable alternatives proposed.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

B2H line to be evaluated by BLM and others

by Larry Meyer

ONTARIO — The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service are preparing to work on a draft of an environmental impact statement to evaluate the Boardman to Hemingway 500-kilovolt transmission line project, and has released a report on the issues which will be discussed in the EIS, including purpose and need, transmission line route alternatives and resource inventory, impacts and mitigation.

Idaho Power Company is proposing to build the line between the existing Hemingway Substation, situated in Owyhee County near Melba, Idaho, and planned substation near Boardman, Ore., in Morrow County. The line would be about 300 miles long and would cross private, federal and state lands in six counties in Oregon and Idaho, with about 93 miles of the land the line will cross administered by federal agencies. Idaho Power’s right-of-way application to the BLM and USES initiated a EIS process.

This initial report, which is available online at, reviews the siting process up to now and the public comments garnered from a number of public meetings, referred to as public scoping.

The Environmental Impact Statement will explain the purpose and need to which the BLM, the lead agency, is responding, including the proposed action and what objectives are to be achieved by the action.

Under project description, the EIS will discuss such issues as the physical requirements for transmission line construction, maintenance and operation, plus technical feasibility and constructability of the project and alternative technologies.

The draft EIS will include a study and review of alternative routes. The route issue brought the original scoping process to a halt, while Idaho Power set up a community advisory process which proposed a revised route.

A resource inventory will address impacts on such issues as sage grouse, migratory birds, listed species, habitat fragmentation, farmland, cultural resources, aesthetics and economics.

Issues which will not be addressed, raised by the comments during the scoping period include the following:

— If energy conservation plans were implemented, this project would not be needed.

— Electrical power should be decentralized.

— Suspicion that more transmission lines will be placed in the right-of-way than stated.

Other issues not to be addressed include opposition or support for the project, use of solar energy, development of a wide-range sage-grouse conservation plan and who is going to bear the expense of the project.

The draft environmental impact statement is expected to be released in spring of 2012, followed by a 90-day public comment period, which will include public meetings.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

B2H Project Revised Scoping Report Available‏

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) have published the revised scoping report for the Boardman to Hemingway 500kV Transmission Line Project (B2H Project). View the report.

The revised scoping report provides a summary of potential issues, impacts and alternatives received during the scoping process and the extent to which those issues and impacts will be analyzed in the B2H Project Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Scoping also helps ensure a range of reasonable alternatives will be evaluated in the EIS.

The report adds over 300 comments received during the 2010 scoping period to those received in 2008, as well as more than 900 comments submitted through Idaho Power’s Community Advisory Process. Comments were provided by the public, Tribes, and local, state, and federal agencies.

Next Steps
BLM and USFS will use the revised scoping report to prepare the draft EIS to evaluate the B2H Project and a range of reasonable alternatives for potential impacts to environmental, social and economic resources.

The next opportunity for formal public comment will be the 90-day comment period following the release of the draft EIS, expected in the spring of 2012. BLM will also hold public meetings during the draft EIS comment period.

The public can stay involved prior to the draft EIS release in the following ways:
Stay Informed
To learn more about the project, help find document viewing locations, view landowner maps, and learn about future public meeting dates and formal comment periods, visit

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Various agencies reviewing public comments about transmission line
By Larry Meyer Thursday, March 17, 2011

ONTARIO — State and federal agencies are continuing to move ahead with their review of Idaho Power Company’s plans to build a transmission line from Boardman to Hemingway — northeast Oregon to southwest Idaho — and are in the process of reviewing public comment during the public scoping period completed last summer.

In the latest project newsletter issued by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Services and Oregon Department of Energy, the ODOE will soon issue a project order outlining the issues and regulations Idaho Power must address in its application for site certificate. ODOE is the state agency that must approve the proposed route through Oregon. Agency officials anticipate that Idaho Power will submit its preliminary application later this year to begin the next phase of the state review process.

The project order includes issues and concerns raised during last year’s public comment period.

After Idaho Power submits its preliminary application for site certificate to ODOE and its Energy Facility Siting Council, the application will be reviewed by state and local agencies to determine if the company addressed the requirements in the project order. When deemed completed, the application will be released for public comment, and another round of informational meetings will be held.

The federal agencies, with the BLM in the lead role, are drafting a revised scoping report summarizing public comments.

The report is expected to be made public in May, and, during the next year, the agencies will evaluate the project for potential impacts on environmental, social and economic resources to be included in the draft Environmental Impact Statement.

For its part, Idaho Power reports that its engineers and surveyors will conduct reviews of the topography and land features along the proposed route, assess corridor rights of way, as well as identify where access roads and landowner permission may be needed. Archaeologists will also be available for possible archaeological or historical sites or other cultural resources in the proposed corridor.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

B2H March 2011 Newswire

B2H Newswire

Issue 2 - Winter 2011

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) have published the second issue of the Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line Project newsletter – the B2H Newswire.

In this Edition:
  • Recap of summer 2010 scoping period
  • Idaho Power submits revised routes
  • ODOE to issue Project Order
  • BLM and USFS draft Revised Scoping Report
Recap of summer 2010 scoping period

BLM, USFS and ODOE reopened the public scoping comment period and hosted public meetings in summer 2010. The agencies received over 300 public comments.

Your comments are helping the state and federal agencies develop their separate review documents. Thank you for your participation in this early comment period!

Idaho Power submits revised routes

Based on public and landowner feedback, Idaho Power made changes to its proposed route and alternatives. The changes were officially submitted to BLM and USFS in March 2011. View the revised routes.

This spring fieldwork operations are set to continue along Idaho Power’s proposed routes and alternatives. Learn more about Idaho Power’s fieldwork.

ODOE to issue Project Order

ODOE will soon issue a Project Order outlining the issues and regulations Idaho Power must address in its Application for Site Certificate (ASC). ODOE anticipates Idaho Power will submit its preliminary ASC later this year, initiating the next step in the state review process. Learn more about the state review process.

BLM and USFS draft Revised Scoping Report

BLM and USFS are drafting a Revised Scoping Report summarizing the 2008 and 2010 public scoping comments, as well as the comments submitted during the Idaho Powercommunity advisory process. The agencies expect the report will be publically available in May. Over the next year, the agencies will evaluate the project for potential impacts to environmental, social and economic resources, which will be documented in the draft Environmental Impact Statement.Learn more about the federal review process.

Stay informed, visit

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

LNG Fast-Track Bills Threaten Landowners, Salmon, and the Climate

Feb 2, 2011 by Nick Engelfried

With the legislative session kicking off this week, Oregon lawmakers should protect private land and our state’s natural resources from an egregious case of big energy corporations trying to overrule the needs of communities. Allies of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry are looking to introduce legislation to re-define the word “applicant” for wetland removal and fill permits, so they can more easily move forward on unpopular pipeline projects that threaten rural economies. . .

2011 has seen the emergence of not one but two versions of the LNG fast-track bill—a legislative concept which companies like Bradwood LNG and Oregon LNG have been pushing for years. In 2009 and 2010 other versions of the fast-track bill were defeated in the legislature, and rightly so. Though the exact language differs from one bill to another, each is designed to make it easier for energy speculators to apply for and receive permits for pipeline construction on private land—without prior permission from landowners.

This is perhaps first and foremost a land rights issue. Though clearly designed to accommodate the LNG industry, the fast-track bill would change the permitting process for every project on private land that requires a wetlands fill permit. Supporters argue it wouldn’t allow companies to set foot on private land without property owners’ consent, but the entire purpose of the fast-track bill is to streamline permitting to allow property rights to be overruled more quickly in the future. . .

Two versions of the LNG fast-track bill have reared their heads this session. House Bill 2589 and Senate Bill 265 would delete the current definition of “applicant” for wetland removal and fill permits, allowing private companies to apply for permits without the permission or knowledge of landowners. The other version, House Bill 2206/Senate Bill 261, would expand the definition of applicant with the same convenient implications for LNG. So far none of these bills have been assigned to a committee, but we’ll how long that lasts.

If Oregon lawmakers want another drawn-out fight over LNG this year, I’m confident the public will give it to them. But I hope legislators concerned about public interest will take the initiative early on, and speak out against any and all forms of an LNG fast-track bill. Lawmakers will have to make many tough decisions this session—but this shouldn’t have to be one of them.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Whose land is it?

Oregon State Senator Larry George, Republican District 13, has introduced SB 473:

Summary: Allows energy facilities and hydroelectric facilities as outright permitted uses in exclusive farm use zones, mixed farm and forest zones and forest zones.

SB 473 as currently drafted would allow outright most of the major energy generating and transmission facilities on EFU zoned lands. No public process, no land use criteria.

Please contact your local representatives and Senator George and encourage them not to sell out EFU land use laws that we have had to live under all these years, leaving productive farm land the preferred route for utility companies not wanting to battle environmentalists in uninhabited public lands.

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1713
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-307, Salem, OR, 97301

Monday, January 31, 2011

Fast Track Bills Introduced – Contact your legislator

The LNG fast-track bill has re-emerged in the Oregon legislature for the 2011 session. In the past two sessions, the LNG industry has pushed fast-track legislation that would allow private LNG speculators to seek and obtain permits on private lands without the landowners’ permission. We’ve defeated this bill twice, thanks to strong opposition from property rights advocates and LNG opponents.

If passed, the bill will:

  • Allow companies to apply for permits on your land without your knowledge or consent
  • Fast-track the permitting process for LNG-related pipelines in Oregon
  • Harm landowners and devalue property rights in our state
There are two versions of the bill:

In one version (HB 2589 in the House and SB 265 in the Senate), the bill would delete the definition of “applicant” for obtaining wetland removal/fill permits on private land. In essence, this version of the bill would allow any private company to obtain wetland removal/fill permits on private farm and forest lands without the landowner’s permission or knowledge.

In the second version of the fast-track bill (HB 2206 and SB 261), the legislation would “expand” the definition of an applicant to allow private companies proposing “linear projects” to apply for and receive permits on private lands without the landowner’s permission. This version of the bill contains provisions for landowner notification and appeals, but it also makes it easier for LNG companies to obtain permits for unneeded pipelines.

In essence, both versions of the bill are a give-away to the LNG industry. The bills could easily be amended to exempt LNG-related pipelines. As written, the bills would facilitate continued LNG speculation by Oregon LNG, Williams & PG&E (Pacific Connector Pipeline), and NW Natural gas.

Make Your Voice Heard Today! In southern Oregon join the Rally against the legislation and pipeline (learn more here). Learn how to contact your representative, and what to say, by reading more.

To obtain contact information for your state Senator and Representative, go to:

Tell Your Elected Leader:
  • You oppose SB 265 & HB 2589.
  • You also oppose SB 261 & HB 2206.
These bills undercut private property rights, allowing private companies to push unneeded projects at the expense of Oregon families and businesses.

These bills make it easier for LNG companies to continue to push forward speculative pipeline projects. These bills disrupt farms, forestry operations, and nurseries – all bedrock economic drivers of Oregon’s rural economy. The bills were originally proposed in 2008 by Bradwood LNG, a now bankrupt company that owed public agencies hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Oregon does not need LNG, and our legislature should not make it easier for unneeded LNG projects to disrupt the lives and businesses of hard-working Oregonians.
We will keep you posted when we find out if these bills are assigned to Committees.

For now, be sure to get on the record with your legislators that you oppose these controversial re-treads of bad, LNG & pipeline-friendly, legislation.

You can download a pdf of the bill here:
Contact us for more information:
In northern Oregon: Dan Serres – (503) 890-2441
In southern Oregon: Monica Vaughan (541) 521-1832

Saturday, January 8, 2011

John Kitzhaber praises Oregon's farmers, announces Katy Coba will keep her job

Good news for the farmers out there. . .

Governor-elect John Kitzhaber said Katy Coba will retain her job as director of the state Department of Agriculture when he takes office, prompting a burst of applause from farmers and industry representatives gathered for a meeting Friday.

Kitzhaber made the impromptu announcement during a talk at an annual agriculture and natural resource conference put on by the Portland law firm Dunn Carney. The governor-elect, who will be sworn in Monday, said in response to an audience question that he is "pretty comfortable" with the leadership of the state's natural resource departments.

Coba, who was among the panelists at the conference, said she was surprised and pleased by the announcement. Coba grew up on a Pendleton wheat ranch and was appointed agriculture department director by Gov. Ted Kulongoski in 2003.

In his prepared remarks, Kitzhaber said the economic impact of Oregon's nearly $5 billion annual agricultural production is often overlooked. Agricultural products -- ranging from Christmas trees and grass seed to wheat and blueberries -- are the state's second-leading traded sector after high-tech products. But 85 percent of the state's production is eaten or used elsewhere, and a majority of Oregonians have lost touch with farming, he said.

The state's "well-earned" reputation for producing safe, wholesome, high-quality farm products is an advantage Oregon can capitalize on in the national and international marketplace, Kitzhaber said. "There are few places like Oregon left on the planet," he said.

On other topics, Kitzhaber acknowledged that water quality and quantity, land-use pressure, environmental regulations and livestock damage from wolves, cougars and coyotes are all issues facing farmers. He and said he's open to discussion on those topics.

Topics at the conference, attended by about 120 people, included food safety, proposed water quality regulations and using alternative energy projects to generate income and cut farm costs.