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Groups file petition to revoke Steens transmission line approval

The Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) and the Audubon Society of Portland have filed a petition requesting U.S. Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar, to revoke the December 2011 Record of Decision allowing industrial scale wind development on Steens Mountain. The crumbling financial and regulatory framework for a proposed industrial wind facility on Steens Mountain has spurred on conservationists to petition the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw its approval of the project they contest is ill-sited and illegal.

Groups file petition to revoke Steens transmission line approval

Sage Grouse - Scott Carpenter

Mar 07, 2013

BEND, ORE. – The Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) and the Audubon Society of Portland have filed a petition requesting U.S. Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar, to revoke the December 2011 Record of Decision allowing industrial scale wind development on Steens Mountain. The crumbling financial and regulatory framework for a proposed industrial wind facility on Steens Mountain has spurred on conservationists to petition the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw its approval of the project they contest is ill-sited and illegal. The December 2011 decision approved a plan allowing a developer, Columbia Energy Partners, LLC (CEP) to build a high-capacity transmission and dozens of wind turbines on the remote and iconic mountain, located in southeast Oregon. The decision was legally challenged by both groups based on the risk of serious harm to wildlife including sage-grouse and golden eagles. 

Several recent developments have dealt significant blows to the financial and technical feasibility of the project. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently cancelled CEP’s authority to begin development of the project. Last month, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) informed the groups that CEP has withdrawn its application to connect to the BPA power grid, meaning that CEP is unable to deliver power generated by the project. In December 2012, attorneys representing CEP in a legal challenge to the development abruptly withdrew, leaving CEP unrepresented. And given these developments, it is uncertain whether the Power Purchase Agreement for the project—the agreement CEP had to sell the power to California—remains intact.

“There are places for wind development but Steens Mountain is not that place,” states Brent Fenty, Executive Director of ONDA. Mr. Fenty explains, “Congress set this landscape aside because it contains some of the most important wildlife habitat remaining in the West; we can’t allow it to be fragmented by this short-sighted development. If the developer is not even willing to defend the government’s decision, Secretary Salazar should not waste taxpayer dollars defending a project that seems increasingly unlikely to ever be built.”

“Steens Mountain provides crucial year-round habitat for sage-grouse and other wildlife. This project never should have been approved in the first place and the BLM should take this opportunity to set things right and protect this amazing place,” explained Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for the Audubon Society of Portland.

Steens Mountain was protected by Congress in 2000. Prized for its unique ecological and recreational values, the Steens Mountain region is one of the last undeveloped expanses of sagebrush habitat in the entire country. Golden eagles and other raptors would also be severely impacted by the construction of wind turbines on Steens Mountain, according to experts.

Read the petition | Learn more about Steens Mountain | Read a Bend Bulletin article on the petition

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Brent Fenty, Executive Director, Oregon Natural Desert Association | work 541- 330-2638 | cell: 541-678-1974
Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director, Audubon Society of Portland | work 503- 292-9501 x110 | cell: 503-380-9728

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