The Oregon Natural Desert Association, Audubon Society of Portland, and Defenders of Wildlife have petitioned the Oregon Department of Energy (DOE) seeking to amend Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 345-001-0010 to include a comprehensive definition of "Single Energy Facility." The proposed definition is long and complex, but in essence, it would make energy facilities with common geography and infrastructure, but built over time, “single facilities” for permitting purposes.

The proposed rule would also place the burden of proof on developers of renewable energy projects under 35 average megawatts seeking a conditional use permit from a local government to demonstrate that the proposed facility is not a "Single Energy Facility" within the proposed definition. This provision would force more wind, solar and geothermal project developers into the state Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) permitting process.

Indeed, the environmental groups’ petition specifically cites the Echanis, East Ridge and West Ridge facilities in Harney County as an example of three facilities permitted under county land use procedures that should have been considered a single facility and permitted under the EFSC permitting process in order to better consider potential environmental impacts, particularly to protected species.

The next steps in the EFSC process are to seek and review public comments and to decide whether to undertake the proposed rulemaking. EFSC has just issued a notice to interested persons that it will be receiving written comments on the environmental groups’ petition through April 2, 2010, and, additionally, that it will receive oral comments at its next meeting on April 30, 2010. EFSC must make its decision to conduct the rulemaking by May 6, 2010.