Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Monday, July 8 @ 5:01 p.m. / Environment, Oregon

Curry Commissioners Reiterate Opposition to Offshore Wind, Consider Legal Action As Well As Advisory Vote in November

BOEM has designated two wind energy areas off Southern Oregon, including 133,808 acres between Gold Beach and Brookings | Courtesy of BOEM

Though one member of the public said they’ll likely be in for a bare-knuckle fight to the finish, Curry County commissioners haven’t relaxed their “no-way-in-hell” stance on offshore wind energy.

In fact, they may be prepared to take the matter to court and put it before voters in the form of an advisory question on the November ballot.

“It does provide some level of ammunition to be able to go in and say, ‘… look, this X percent of individuals are against this,’” Commissioner Jay Trost said Wednesday, “‘and these are the individuals we represent that you’re going to be impacting financially and environmentally.’”

Trost brought the subject up with his colleagues last week after the Board of Commissioners in March approved a resolution asking the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to coordinate with local governments on actions that may affect their recreational areas.

On April 30, the Biden Administration announced that BOEM had proposed auctioning off two lease areas in Southern Oregon to offshore wind energy developers. The two lease areas total 194,995 acres in size and are off the coast of Coos Bay and between Brookings and Gold Beach.

On Wednesday, Trost said he had asked Natasha Tippets, the Board’s administrative assistant, to reach out to BOEM to confirm that they had received a copy of the resolution he and his colleagues approved.

In their resolution, it invokes the Coordination Development Act of 1963 and asks BOEM to “engage in coordination prior to any further development with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Offshore Wind Energy Project in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Curry County.”

Trost said that a BOEM representative acknowledged receipt of the resolution and asked if the Board of Commissioners wanted to discuss it further.

Though Trost, after consulting with the county’s attorney, said he and his colleagues would like to discuss coordination further, the BOEM representative hadn’t responded.

“I think what I’d like to bring to the attention of this group is should [BOEM] not respond within the parameters in which we’ve requested, I think we need to consider possible legal action,” Trost told his colleagues.

He pointed out that Brookings approved a similar resolution and local tribes have also come out in opposition to offshore wind energy.

Trost also noted that he’s a member of the BOEM Oregon Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, taking the seat over from former commissioner Court Boyce. The Board of Commissioners in October approved Trost’s appointment to the task force, but according to Trost the same BOEM representative who acknowledged receiving the coordination resolution responded “as if just receiving [our] request to be on the BOEM task force for the first time.”

“I guess I shouldn’t be assuming anything, but they knew our stance and that’s why they never responded in kind,” Trost told his colleagues.

Though he noted that BOEM hasn’t been responsive with Curry County, Director of Operations and County Counsel Ted Fitzgerald said if they’re still not responsive within 10 days, “we should probably send them some sort of notice that we’ll be proceeding.”

Fitzgerald said they can also find out why it took nearly a year for BOEM to finalize Trost’s appointment on its Oregon Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force.

Gold Beach resident Lynn Coker said he has participated in more than 30 hours of BOEM meetings, seminars and discussions. He said he’s read the documents and studied the lease agreement for the Oregon Wind Area, and four companies have been invited by BOEM to participate.

These corporations are massive, Coker told commissioners, and represent the world’s very best energy development organizations. And a referendum on the November ballot would show there is a “preponderance of opposition” in Curry County, he said.

“If we intend to go bare-knuckled against them, we better be ready for a sustained bare-knuckle fight to the finish,” Coker said. “I’m here today to encourage us to continue the effort within Curry County and Coos County to elevate the awareness of our neighbors regarding this existential threat. Today existential is used so loosely, [but] just to remind you, that means life and death — life and death for our way of life.”

Commissioner-elect Patrick Hollinger, who will replace John Herzog on the Board and serves as a Port of Gold Beach commissioner, said he was contacted by former Coos County commissioner Melissa Cribbins, who represents ReNew Energy Global, or RNW, a “pro windmill group and a pro natural resources group.”

According to Hollinger, RNW reached out to him through Cribbins because he was a port commissioner and because she knew he was running for the Curry County Board.

“I heard from her a couple weeks ago, saying they’re looking at doing two trips to Scotland, one for government officials and another for pro and not-pro lobbyist groups to go out there and get educated on how Scotland might be doing it differently,” he said.

Hollinger produced information he said he received from Coker about RNW, which is listed on the NASDAQ. According to Hollinger, RNW is affiliated with U.S. Mainstream Renewables, which is a potential lease candidate for Oregon.

The Scotland trip invite comes from Scottish Power, Hollinger said, which is owned by a Spanish firm named Iberdrola, whose largest shareholder is the Qatar Investment Authority, which in turn, has a large ownership position with US Mainstream Renewable Power, Hollinger said.

“That tells you the deep pockets and the tentacles that come off just one company name that’ll be listed as a lessee,” he told commissioners. “When we do fight, if it ever goes to litigation, it would be you’re fighting all of these companies not just one. Let’s keep up the good fight.”

Nesika Beach resident Joe Wilson praised the Board of Commissioners for their unified stance against offshore wind, saying he hopes any legal action they try to initiate makes it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wilson cited the Court’s recent ruling in Grants Pass v. Johnson, which upheld the city’s ban on sleeping outdoors, as well as its ruling in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo. The latter decision weakened the federal government’s regulatory powers, the AP reported.

Wilson urged commissioners to put the matter before voters.

“I’ve spent some time speaking with a lot of people in the county and have found the opposition against these windmills to be very overwhelming, but that’s me saying it,” he said. “There’s one way to prove it — put it to a vote.”


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