A developer has dropped controversial plans to build a large energy plant near Oregon’s Portland-Troutdale Airport. Safety concerns led AOPA and local pilot groups to actively oppose the plan for more than four years, while potential environmental issues in the sensitive Columbia River Gorge area raised opposition from numerous other organizations.
In a letter dated Jan. 26, the developer of the Troutdale Energy Center project notified the Oregon Department of Energy that it was withdrawing the application for site certification, effectively putting an end to the project, which had been embattled from the start.
“This is an important victory for pilots and Troutdale Airport,” said Dawn Veatch, AOPA senior director of government affairs. “This project would have created very real dangers for light aircraft and potentially limited access to the airport. We appreciate the efforts of the Oregon Pilots Association and so many others who banded together to help protect the aviation community and the public at large.”
AOPA first raised safety concerns about the proposal in 2012. In a letter to the Oregon Department of Energy, the association warned that a careful study of aviation safety issues was imperative in deciding whether to allow the power plant to be built adjacent to Portland-Troutdale Airport. The letter noted that the developer had failed to discuss such possible hazards as turbulence created by thermal plumes, plant-generated fog or low ceilings, tall structures, and potential operating restrictions for the airport in its notice of intent submitted to the energy department.
In 2014, AOPA and the Oregon Pilots Association joined with environmental groups, homeowners, the U.S. Forest Service, and others to argue that the project would create air, water, and noise pollution as well as hazards to air traffic. The groups formally expressed their opposition to the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council.
An FAA-approved modeling program showed that the 701-megawatt gas power plant would produce thermal plumes that could create hazardous turbulence severe enough to cause loss of control. The hazardous conditions, the study showed, could extend beyond Portland-Troutdale Airport and into Portland International Airport’s airspace under some conditions.