On June 11, the state Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) voted unanimously to deny ONDA’s petition to include private lands on Steens Mountain in a list of “protected places” off-limits to development.
The petition asserted that The Steens Mountain Act, passed by Congress in 2000, intended to preclude development on all lands within an area designated a “cooperative management and protection area” (CMPA). EFSC weighed volumes of written evidence from ONDA and others, then heard presentations on June 11 from ONDA attorneys, the BLM, Harney County and dozens of citizens. After carefully weighing all that information, EFSC considered six points in determining whether or not to move forward with the request. With five members considering six points, there were 30 times EFSC members could have agreed with ONDA or cited a gray area. They each disagreed with ONDA on each of the six points.
EFSC is a state agency, staffed by the Oregon Department of Energy. Council members are appointed by the Governor, from various interest groups, from around the state. Among other things, they are responsible for permitting larger energy facilities, including larger wind farms.
This was ONDA’s second petition (see here) to EFSC. Their first petition was also denied by unanimous vote.
From our perspective, this unanimous vote sent a strong signal that the wilderness is composed of those lands set aside by Congress as wilderness, and that private lands outside the wilderness were indeed explicitly protected by the Steens Act.