BOARDMAN — Portland General Electric is decommissioning its old Boardman Coal Plant ahead of schedule and under budget.

The company gave an update of the process on Friday, Aug. 27, during a virtual meeting of the Energy Facility Siting Council.

The Boardman energy production plant is one of the oldest facilities under the jurisdiction of the council. Portland General Electric’s original plans stretched potentially into December 2023 according to Lenna Cope, senior environmental specialist for PGE, but these plans have moved up to the end of 2022.

According to Cope, the company has been prioritizing decommissioning the site to make it safe for demolition, which is now expected to start as early as October — a few months ahead of schedule.

Allison Dobscha, a spokesperson for PGE, said the decommissioning part of the process “is basically complete,” as of Sept. 1, and is expecting to finalize a demolition contractor by the end of September.

“The Boardman closure was a long-planned closure that was a significant step toward our decarbonization goals,” Dobscha said. “And the decommissioning process is going smoothly and according to schedule.”

The process also is coming in well under the original estimated $75 million budget with the latest estimate reading just more than $56 million. The majority of this comes from savings in abatement and demolition costs, which were more than cut in half from $34 million to $15 million. PGE also has been able to sell roughly $1.7 million worth of materials to scrappers.

As of the Aug. 27 meeting, there were about 157,000 pounds of hazardous waste removed and, while PGE will retain the property after demolition, there are about 650 acres on the Boardman property that will be reusable.

According to Cope, Portland General Electric has covered its ash disposal area, removed 146 tons of lead-contaminated soil, removed two underground fuel tanks and excavated 291 tons of soil from a stormwater and equipment wash pond. Additionally, the company reclaimed more than 40,000 tons of coal from its coal yard and revegetated it in January.

“The goal is for the site to eventually kind of blend into its surroundings and to just look like another part of the Eastern Oregon landscape,” Dobscha said.

Of the 67 workers employed at the plant in October 2020, 11 transferred to new roles within the company, 37 were classified as retired and 15 were laid off, according to Cope. Four employees remain at the coal plant to support the site, down from an average of 110 when it was running.

“We’re really grateful for everyone who’s involved in the decommissioning process,” she said, “and then also for the dedicated employees who served Boardman during its 40 years of operation.”

Boardman to Hemingway

The latest objections to the Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line met their end at the meeting.

The council dismissed recent challenges to the 500 kilovolt power line project — also called B2H — that stretches roughly 300 miles from the Hemingway Substation southwest of Boise to Boardman. Idaho Power is the company behind the project and claims the line will help link the Pacific Northwest with the Mountain West regions and help share power.

Oregon and Washington use the most electricity in the winter months while Idaho and Montana use the most in summer, according to Idaho Power, and B2H would allow the sharing of power during each respective off-peak periods.

The B2H project first submitted its notice of intent in 2010 and filed its complete application in 2018. But the project cuts through large swaths of public and private land and has hit snags with issues surrounding ownership, accusations over environmental regulations and impacts on agriculture. Landowners and environmentalists alike have objected to the project, with the largest opposition coming from the Stop B2H Coalition, an organization of “860 individuals and a growing number of member organizations,” according to its website.

The council at the meeting first took on the accusation from La Grande’s Irene Gilbert, who claimed the case’s hearing officer, administrative law Judge Alison Greene Webster, demonstrated incompetence and bias in her judgments. At the Aug. 27 meeting, the siting council dismissed Gilbert’s challenge.

The second challenge came from Michael McAllister, also of La Grande, who argued for his role in the process and alleged the proposed Morgan Lake Alternative route did not comply with fish and wildlife habitat standards, soil protection standards and whether the visual impacts of the project “are inconsistent with the objectives of the Morgan Lake Park Recreation.”

The council dismissed the fish and wildlife habitat standards and the soil standards issues for lacking material evidence. However, Jesse Ratcliffe, the Oregon Department of Justice senior assistant attorney general, said there was some material evidence that the project had a visual impact on Morgan Lake Park.

“Theoretically,” Ratcliffe said, “there could be a diminishment of the value of that recreational opportunity.”

The council overruled the hearings officer’s rejection of McAllister’s appeals on this visual impacts, reinstated that issue and reinstated McAllister as a party for that issue.

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Reporter for the East Oregonian and Hermiston Herald focusing on the Hermiston, Umatilla and Stanfield areas. Feel free to send him news tips or story ideas at nrosenberger@eastoregonian.com

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