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WindFloat Pacific: What’s This About ‘Secret’ Meetings?

The Portland Tribune is kicking up a little dust regarding the WindFloat Pacific Offshore Wind Advisory Committee that Gov. Kate Brown is putting together. This is the body that the Oregon governor hopes will find a way to keep the offshore wind project on course to receive crucial federal funding and ultimately be built off Coos Bay.

As a demonstration project, WindFloat Pacific power is likely to be pricey – the idea is that the cost would drop on subsequent, scaled-up projects – and the state is looking to help the developer find a buyer. As I reported in June, backers of the project failed to get a bill through the Oregon Legislature that would have required the state’s two big investor-owned utilities, Pacific Power and Portland General Electric, to purchase WindFloat’s output.

So now the Trib reports that the WindFloat committee won’t meet publicly, and suggests this goes against the new governor’s pledge to be ultra-transparent in the Post-Kitz Era. It’s a reasonable point, but I will note that there was a public hearing on the WindFloat bill last April, and as far as I can tell, the Trib didn’t think that was important enough to write a story about it. Also, the governor’s committee won’t have any real power – it’s just going to try to come up with a plan. That plan would then likely need to be acted on by the legislature and/or the Public Utilities Commission, in which case all kinds of vetting could unfold.

Still, public discussion of public policy, that sort of makes sense, right? The only issue I can see is WindFloat is already behind schedule – the developers are asking the feds for a one-year extension on the project timetable – and a new layer of public meetings runs the risk of dragging out the search for a solution. But that’s where leadership comes in. Brown was AWOL on this issue this past spring. Maybe with some focused action now, she can shepherd a process that is open and speedy and delivers this project to Oregon.