BLAZES OF YELLOW streak the rosy dawn above Mount St. Helens Monday morning. As night’s shadow clings to the Lewis and Clark bridge, the dawn reflects on the surface of the mighty Columbia below. Chief Photo by Amanda Gail Moravec
by Deborah Steele Hazen
A Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) public hearing on a new air contaminant discharge permit for the Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery (CPBR) at the Port Westward industrial park near Clatskanie will be held Thursday, April 3, in the Clatskanie Middle/High School auditorium, 471 Bel Air Drive.
An information session with questions and answers will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Pre-registered public comments will be taken from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Written comments will be received until 5 p.m. on Friday, April 11. They may be sent by mail, fax or email to:
DEQ Northwest Region
Air Quality Permit
2020 SW 4th Ave.,
Portland, OR 97201
Email: NWRAQPermits@ deq.state.or.us.
The public hearing is in regard to a new Standard Air Contaminant Discharge Permit for CPBR’s bulk organic liquid products storage and marine vessel loading operation. The liquid products include crude oil and ethanol. CPBR, formerly owned by Cascade Kelly Holdings, LLC, and now owned by Global Partners LP, manufactures ethanol at the site. It also brings crude (unrefined) oil by train from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Port Westward where it is transloaded onto barges for shipment to West Coast refineries.
Global has announced plans to invest $50 to $70 million in its Port Westward operations, and add over 30 additional family wage jobs to its existing workforce at Port Westward of approximately 47, if it is able to get the necessary permits.
In June of 2012, while the CPBR was still owned by Cascade Kelly, the DEQ approved a modification of the existing ethanol plant permit, allowing the company to receive and transload 50,000,000 gallons of crude oil per year. According to the DEQ, it approved the request because it could be performed with existing equipment and emission controls, resulting in insignificant emissions, and was considered an incidental activity.
With plans to receive and transload significantly more oil, the DEQ has ruled that the expansion of the operation will establish a new source of air contaminant emissions for which the company must obtain a new permit. CPBR applied for that permit last August.
The proposed DEQ permit, and the public process are about the air permit for operations at the transloading facility located at Port of St. Helens’ Port Westward Industrial Park in Clatskanie. DEQ is not authorized to regulate trains, train traffic, or train safety, spokespersons for the agency emphasized.
A presentation on train safety was given at the Feb. 26th meeting of the Port of St. Helens in Columbia City. On Feb. 25, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an order requiring all shippers to test product from the Bakken region to ensure the proper classification of crude oil before it is transported by rail, and to use only newer rail cars as opposed to the older models that were involved in explosions following derailments elsewhere in North America during the past year.
by Deborah Steele Hazen
Wet weather since the first of the year has considerably improved the forecast for hydropower production on both the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) system and the Arrowrock Dam hydroelectric project.
That means that the outlook for wholesale sales for the Clatskanie People’s Utility District (PUD) is much better than it appeared in January when PUD director of energy resources and services Eric Hiaasen predicted that – without a major change in the weather – net income for the current year would be $827,000 less than what had been budgeted.
Thanks to a “wet February and March to the rescue,” the forecast runoff – and, consequently, hydropower production – on the Columbia River is slightly above average, and the Boise River, which powers the Arrowrock hydroelectric project, has improved from about 71 to 82 percent of normal, Hiaasen told the PUD board at its meeting March 19.
“We still need to rigorously test the models, but I think we’re back on budget now.”
Additionally, Hiaasen said, he had not included in his budget predictions the resumption of the demand distribution charge for the Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery (CPBR) operations at Port Westward.
The 2014 PUD budget, adopted in December, predicts $50,093,000 in revenues this year.
After a meeting with officials from CPBR and its parent company, Global Partners LP, PUD general manager Marc Farmer and Hiaasen reported that it is expected that the approximately $39,000 monthly demand distribution charge for the CPBR operation will restart on July 1.
CPBR is already paying $55,000 per month to the PUD to repay approximately $6 million in equipment installed in the ethanol plant by the PUD under an agreement reached in the spring of 2007.
At the suggestion of Farmer and community/government relations director Randy Larson, the board gave the nod to writing a letter in support of Global/CPBR’s application for a new Department of Environmental Quality air emissions permit.
In action items approved by the PUD board at last week’s meeting:
The board approved a resolution authorizing membership in the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Cooperation (CFC) which provides services for members for a one-time membership fee of $1,000.
CFC provides short term and long term loans to utilities as well as board and staff trainings and other services.
The action on joining the CFC was taken after finance manager Debbie Throop reported that the Western Generation Agency (WGA) had been unable to find short term bonding. WGA is the entity composed of the Clatskanie PUD and the Eugene Water and Electric Board which partners with Georgia-Pacific to own and operate the co-generation plant at the Wauna Mill.
While the co-generation plant is now running normally and revenues are beginning to come in, it was shutdown for several months for repairs, necessitating a short-term loan or revenue bonds that were authorized by the PUD board at its Feb. 19th meeting.
The shutdown of the plant will also result in the suspension of the co-generation benefit of .002 per kilowatt hour on customers’ bills as of April 1, Throop said. When the board determines that revenues from the co-generation plant have recovered sufficiently the benefit may be restored.
The board also approved a policy on use of the community meeting room.
Directors Bob Wiggins and Merle Gillespie were named voting delegate and alternate delgate to the Northwest Public Power Association.
Director of Operations and Engineering Don Smith reported on various projects at his last meeting with the board.
Smith has accepted a position as general manager of Wheatland Rural Electric in Wheatland, Wyo. “Thank you,” Smith told the board. “It’s been an educational and sometimes entertaining couple of years. Overall, I’ve enjoyed the time here. My family’s enjoyed it here. You have some really good staff.”
The board members thanked Smith for his service to the PUD and wished him well in his new position.
Farmer announced that Smith will be replaced by Charlie O’Hare, who is reporting for work next week. O’Hare has a strong background in generation, operations and engineering, Farmer said.
Smith and O’Hare, who worked together in Alaska, will have one week together here before Smith leaves for his new position.
New executive assistant Sarah Rossi was also introduced. A resident of Scappoose, she worked with Farmer for nine years at West Oregon Electric Cooperative in Vernonia where he was manager prior to accepting the top position at the Clatskanie PUD.
by Adam J. Wehrley and Deborah Steele Hazen
After pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of Harassment, former Clatskanie People’s Utility District (CPUD) power manager Joseph Arthur Taffe was convicted, on Feb. 20, in Columbia County Circuit Court and sentenced to three years probation.
The counts are related to incidents which occurred in March of 2011 while Taffe worked at the CPUD.
Taffe retired from the CPUD in January of 2012. He was originally indicted on three counts of Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree, and one count of Harassment in June 2012.
Taffe’s probation will end in February 2017 and forbids the use of alcohol or drugs or the viewing of sexually explicit materials.
Taffe was also fined $4,134. He is ordered to undergo alcohol and drug counseling and not to contact any of the victims of the harassment; Tamela Keith, Sarah Blodgett, Elisha Shulda and Gail Rakitnich. All four victims are former employees of CPUD.
Former PUD Employees File Lawsuits
Three lawsuits related to the Taffe case have been filed in U.S. District Court in Portland by four former Clatskanie PUD employees.
All of the lawsuits revolve around the sexual harassment by Taffe, and what the plaintiffs allege was retaliation against them by the PUD administration. The PUD asserts that their jobs were “terminated for cause.”
Rakitnich and Shulda are plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits. Blodgett has recently filed another lawsuit.
The fourth lawsuit was filed by Keith, who also claims she was denied a promotion because of gender.
CONGRESSWOMAN SUZANNE BONAMICI visited six schools in Columbia and Washington counties last Wednesday, March 19. In the picture above she is shown visiting the Rainier School District campus, from left, Superintendent Michael Carter, Congresswoman Bonamici, Rainier Junior/Senior High School Interim Principal Graden Blue, a staff member and students, and Rainier school board chair Sean Clark.
The purpose of the congresswoman’s tour of schools in her district was to talk about education policy and funding.
“This was a great opportunity for me to see first-hand how education policy is working in the classroom,” Bonamici said. “There has been a lot of discussion about curriculum, assessment, and education reform, but there is no better way to understand what’s working in a classroom than talking with students, teachers, and administrators.”
Bonamici, who is a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, also visited two programs that help students make the transition from high school to higher education or the workforce, including Rainier’s Youth Transition program.
“We need more innovative programs like Rainier Youth Transition and Forest Grove’s 4-H program to help prepare students for their future,” Bonamici said. “These programs offer students a network of support that they may not get anywhere else and we should do more to support them.”
Bonamici worked with the local labor, education, workforce, and business communities to introduce House Resolution 954, the WISE Investment Act. The WISE Act is designed to help community colleges, apprenticeship training programs, and other institutions develop a curriculum and an action plan to close the local skills gap.
On her one-day tour, Bonamici also visited Clatskanie Elementary School, St. Helens Middle School, Scappoose High School, Banks Elementary School, and Forest Grove High School, before meeting with other Northwest Oregon education leaders at a forum on the evening of March 19 at Mt. View Middle School in Aloha.