In a long-sought victory for the Climate Industrial Complex, the Oregon Supreme Court March 9 approved construction of a 300-mile, high-voltage power line that will transmit wind energy through parts of eastern Oregon and western Idaho.
The Boardman-to-Hemingway line, known as the B2H, has been in the works since 2007. Backed by deep-pocketed utilities eager to cash in on generous renewable-energy subsidies, the $1.8 billion project has been held up repeatedly thanks to the resistance of a growing and diverse grassroots organization, the STOP B2H Coalition, whose over 1,000 members fear the power line will irreversibly blight the picturesque countryside that attracted them to the area.
Facing off against the STOP B2H Coalition are the power line’s developers – Bonneville Power Administration (part of the U.S. Department of Energy), PacifiCorp, and Idaho Power – who claim the project will transport enough juice to power 150,000 homes at peak demand, between Boardman, Oregon, on the Columbia River, and Hemingway, Idaho, southwest of Boise, Idaho.
In addition to the Biden administration’s enthusiasm for all things renewable and the business interests of the three utilities, the B2H fits neatly into the Oregon Legislature’s mandate of having 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. Neighboring Washington has set the same renewable goal for 2045.
Problems with the Grid
Now that the Oregon Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for construction to begin on the B2H, the developers say the project will be in operation by 2026. But problems remain. For one, the region’s grid is not ready for the transition to more wind and solar power. Even ardent climate activists, such as Emily Moore, director of climate and energy at the Sightline Institute, a Washington state-based think tank, acknowledges real-world challenges to the Pacific Northwest’s climate goals.
“The northwest grid is nearing capacity,” she told Portland’s KGW8 (March 9). “At a regional level, without some more transmission capacity, it’s unlikely that Washington or Oregon will meet our climate goals.”
Most of the transmission lines in the Pacific Northwest are owned and operated by the Energy Department’s Bonneville Power Administration. Developers and utilities seeking to use the lines must request permission from Bonneville. Moore’s research shows that in 2022, 144 such requests were made, with only 11 receiving transmission rights, and another 96 getting conditional approval.
“Most of those can’t be accommodated on the current grid, so they’re ending up on long waitlists,” she told KGW8, noting that many of the projects left in limbo are large wind and solar projects.
The inadequate grid is not unique to the Pacific Northwest. As more intermittent wind and solar power are brought on line, grids throughout the country will be exposed to even greater strains, with blackouts and brownouts all but inevitable.
‘An Absolute Disaster for the Ecosystem’
Meanwhile, back in eastern Oregon, communities are bracing themselves for the sheer ugliness coming their way thanks to the transition to “clean energy.”
“Along the entirety of the 300-mile route, there would be more than 1,000 steel towers, each standing between 100 and 200 feet tall,” KGW8 reports. “Construction plans also call for 200 miles of new access roads and another 222 miles of improvements to existing roads, along with 10 new communications buildings.”
Joel Rice, an avid conservationist, owns 2,000 acres of land near La Grande, Oregon. He is distraught over the environmental havoc the powerline will wreak on the natural world. “The power line would just be an absolute disaster for the ecosystem,” he told KGW8.
Across the country, more and more, mostly rural, people find themselves in the path of high-voltage powerlines, or living next to what soon will be a giant solar array and/or industrial-scale wind project. With these projects come environmental degradation, plummeting property values, serious health effects, and the loss of a once-enticing countryside. The well-heeled, predominantly coastal elites pushing these monstrosities down the throats of the rubes in flyover country have no concern for the harm they are inflicting on everyone else.
The STOP B2H Coalition may ultimately have lost its battle against “clean energy.” But they fought a good fight and deserve our admiration.
Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior policy analyst with CFACT, where he focuses on natural resources, energy, property rights, and geopolitical developments.
This article originally appeared at CFACT, and is reposted with permission.
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