Another meeting, more questions about cogen

Published on Thu, Jan 23, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Another meeting, more questions about cogen

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

About 40 citizens filled the meeting room at the Blaine public library last Wednesday to learn more about the proposed 720 megawatt power plant to be built on British Petroleum�s (BP) Cherry Point property.

The meeting was led by BP representatives and assistant attorney general Mike Lufkin, who has been appointed as counsel for the environment. Both parties explained the project�s legal process and projected timetable. Before BP gets a go-ahead on the project, the company must go through trial-like hearings, called adjudicative proceedings, which allow BP, Lufkin, and other parties to present information.

Lufkin, who stated his job is to �represent the public and protect the quality of the environment,� is currently collecting information from the public and experts to use in the hearings. �I don�t have any other agenda than to let people ask questions. That�s what I�m here for tonight,� he said. �I want to hear what citizens� concerns are. I listen to what everyone has to say and I talk with experts. And then I make an opinion.�

He said a decision about the potential plant would not be made until the summer. After the adjudicative proceedings, a recommendation is then made to the governor by the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), which oversees all major energy facilities in the state. The governor then has 60 days to approve, deny or request that project aspects be reconsidered.

BP representative Bill Kidd said the Cherry Point property is the only BP refinery that doesn�t have a co-generation plant. �This will be the most efficient plant built in the northwest. We�ll be cleaner than anybody else,� he said. �We�re not screamingly excited about getting into the power generation business. We are concerned about the refinery. We could be looking at some high prices in the future.�

BP began exploring the idea of a co-generation plant back in December of 2000 after one day of power cost them $7 million, a little less than a third of their annual cost of $20 million. Kidd said the co-generation plant would use existing infrastructure and generate cheaper power for BP.

Mike Torpey, the environmental manager for BP�s project, said that the plant would produce less pollutants overall, but acknowledged the project�s economic benefit. �This is a very cheap and easy way to develop power and sell it,� he said. �We�ll end up using less water overall, there will be less pollution. It�s cheaper and it�s more efficient.�

Most of the audience was uninterested in BP�s economics. They were mostly concerned with environmental and health issues, such as air quality, pollution and noise. Construction, job numbers and obstructions in view were also acknowledged.

One person accused BP of �waffling� after a question about pollution was not directly answered. Another said BP was �fudging� numbers about �bad stuff.�

Another concern involved Trans Canada, whom BP named as a developer of the Cherry Point project. BP stated no definite agreement exists with Trans Canada, and it is possible that Trans Canada, not BP, could run, own, or even sell the plant. When asked how long the plant would run, Kidd estimated 30 years.

Members of the group Generations Affected by Senseless Power (GASP), also spoke at the meeting. The group, which is currently fighting a proposed power plant in Sumas, encouraged the citizens of Blaine and Birch Bay to form a group of people and speak up. �Get involved. It�s important to know the process,� Marlene Notebloom, a member, said.

�Use your resources,� Marion Beddill said, also of GASP, looking at Lufkin, and then to the audience. �Make him make his money.�

The public will have another opportunity to voice their concerns at an open meeting during the adjudicative proceedings. For more information, contact EFSEC at www.efsec.wa.gov, 360/956-2152 or call Mike Lufkin at 360/586-3649.

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