Obsidian Solar case delayed

A decision by an administrative law judge in the contested Obsidian Solar case has been delayed from Tuesday, Dec. 14 to at minimum Monday, Jan. 3.

The administrative law judge hearing the case had set a schedule of when he would issue a proposed project order for the proposed Obsidian Solar Facility in the Fort Rock area. The project would build a 400 megawatt solar facility on 3,921 acres. The project has been going through the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) process until several ranchers and farmers near the proposed solar facility contested the proposed order by EFSC on the project.

The proposed order was issued by EFSC on Oct. 9, 2020, and the contested case petition was received by Nov. 9, 2020. A schedule was issued by the hearing officer on March 10, 2021.

At the beginning of the contested case process, both parties issued opinions, briefs, counter briefs, and declarations about the proposed order from EFSC.

Those against the project made several arguments as to why the project should be changed significantly or canceled outright; at the beginning of their arguments those against the project asked for changes and then in later filings changed their stance and asked that the project be canceled outright.

Besides making arguments through the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance, the parties against the project are asking that they be compensated for perceived loss of land value, something which lawyers for Obsidian Solar have rejected out of hand several times.

With the delay in when the new project order will be released by the administrative law judge, that will push back the timeline for parties to submit final exceptions to the ruling by two weeks after the Jan. 3 date. Oregon Department of Energy representatives would not comment on the specific reasons why the Dec. 14 deadline was not met; they only said unforeseen circumstances meant the administrative law judge was unable to issue the ruling.

Throughout the contested case process those opposing the project have argued that the project would remove valuable grazing land for decades — though the proposed project land is currently not grazed and does not have any water rights associated with it — and that the project is not a fit for land zoned agricultural, would create dust issues for neighbors and would disturb big game habitat.

One of the major issues at play — and one that has not only impacted Lake County but other rural counties — is that the County’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances do not match up like they used to or should. This was also an issue in the recent Blue Marmot Solar Facility decision by the Lake County Commissioners; Blue Marmot is now appealing the decision to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.

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