Western Environmental News
Mary Zemke demonstrates that there is a progressive, grass-roots Republican movement
that can shape national debate and effect local and regional concerns. She shows
how we can make a difference by exercising our rights as citizen activists. Her work
to focus the dissent about the proposed Grizzly power plant is a lesson in democracy
at work. Don't leave it to the professional politicians. Go, Mary, Go! -Editor
Cogentrix to Aquila , From Bad to Worse?
by Mary Zemke
The Crooked River. Photo by Mike Volk
Several noteworthy developments have taken place with Cogentrix
since the last article. The amazing results of the primary election in Jefferson
County may have finally convinced officials there that Cogentrix may actually be
an issue ñ it is about time! In this last May primary election, I ran for
Jefferson County Commissioner against the incumbent with the popular last name. We
will still both run in November, but I received 1400 votes on the Republican ballot
and over 500 write in votes on the Democratic ballot -- an astonishing showing! I
think it shows that Cogentrix is very much the issue in Jefferson County, and obviously
the people feel strongly enough to cross party lines to fight the thing. In addition,
the candidate from Crooked River Ranch who also ran on a no Cogentrix platform, received
more votes than any other non-Madras candidate has ever received, and was only beaten
by a few hundred votes.
In the meantime, Cogentrix is in the process of being sold to Aquila,
formerly UtiliCorp United, a financially troubled energy trader. The acquisition
of Cogentrix was supposed to shore up plummeting stock prices and upgrade their negative
trading outlook. Cogentrix, for sale at a $2 billion price tag, was auctioned off
for $415 million with Aquila assuming another $1.13 billion of Cogentrix debt. On
May 21, 2002, Moody's rated Aquila one step above junk status.
Aquila, whose accounting firm until very recently was Arthur
Anderson, the Enron bookkeepers, is also the target of a class action lawsuit filed
in Missouri on behalf of all purchasers of Class A common stock for making ìmaterial
misstatements and omissionsî and failure to appoint an independent audit committee.
In addition, Aquila has laid off 650 employees in two sweeping job cuts.
Aquila has been negotiating a 10-year tax abatement with an enterprise zone agreement
in Ohio for their peaker plant there. Aquila is free to pack up after the tenth with
the result that the revenue wished for by local officials may never materialize.
Also in Ohio, two state senators made their stand, ìIf the residents of Fairfield
County, particularly those affected by this proposal, do not want this plant, then
we will not lend support to any projects of this type brought forth in our district.î
It may be well for Oregon state senators to be likewise in touch with their constituents
on such matters.
Governor Kitzhaberís Energy Advisor, Roger Hamilton
made a statement this spring that power plants should be sited near the area of consumption
and bear the brunt of the environmental effects for their electrical usage. Mr. Hamilton
stated that the Governor may ask the State Energy Facility Siting Council to consider
this when approving locations for new plants. If this policy were implemented, it
would certainly put an end to the Grizzly project and any other power plants being
sited in Central Oregon. Please let the Governor know that you support his plan.
Close to home, there was a catastrophic transformer failure at the Avista-owned
Coyote Springs Plant #2 ñ which is still under construction in Eastern Oregon.
The brand new transformer exploded, rupturing its main tank and spilling 17,700 gallons
of oil and chemicals into the nearby soil, with the emergency water deluge helping
spread the oil mixture around. Nearby BPA crews helped route the oil/water combination
back to Avista property. The $1.8 million transformer was a complete loss and replacing
it will delay the opening of the plant.
The STOP Cogentrix organization has an email alert contact list, you can sign up
by sending an email from the website stopcogentrix.org.
We can also fax alerts if you leave a fax number on the Hotline, 541-475-3721.
The Siting Council is planning to meet in Central Oregon for their August meeting
and we will notify our contact list when the date is set.
Thank you, Central Oregon, for taking a strong, united stance to protect our beautiful
area. Watching spring come to Central Oregon reminds us again of how blessed we are
to live here.
P.O. Box 976 Madras, OR 97741
Telephone: (541) 475-4446