The Oregon Supreme Court has upheld that state’s Energy Facility Siting Council decision granting Idaho Power permission to move forward with a 290-mile, 500-kilovolt transmission line known as ‘B2H’ between Boardman, Oregon, and Idaho Power’s Hemingway substation in Owyhee County.
Opponents argued the Council overstepped its authority by exempting the project from noise standards and inappropriately used inside experts to analyze visual impacts to the landscape.
Justices were not swayed, writing the Council did have the authority to grant exemptions and that opponents did not present any “legal error” in the way the project’s impacts to landscape were evaluated.
Opposition group ‘Stop B2H Coalition’ responded in a press release, calling Oregon regulatory standards “a sham.”
“Their [Idaho Power] application was filled with self-serving data and the Oregon Department of Energy accepted their obfuscation of information as facts with little verification,” Lois Berry of Stop B2H Coalition said.
The group, which also unsuccessfully sued the Bureau of Land Management over its 2017 approval of the B2H transmission line, said it will continue to challenge the project at upcoming review points.
Amendments to the project remain under review, and a mitigation plan still needs to be finalized by the utilities and state and federal agencies. Oregon’s Public Utility Commission also needs to issue a decision on Idaho Power’s application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity; a decision which could also end up in court.
Idaho Power first proposed the B2H line in 2008, meant to expand connection capacity between power providers in the Northwest and Mountain West. The project is co-owned by PacifiCorp, another large regional utility. Boise-based Idaho Power bought out Bonneville Power Administration’s 25% ownership in B2H in 2022.
The utility says the new capacity is needed to meet demands of a growing population, and will help move clean power generated across the region — solar, hydroelectric and wind — to where it’s needed, reducing stress on the power grid during peak demands. Idaho Power estimates the line could increase service capacity by up to 150,000 average households.
The project has faced opposition from the very beginning: from home and land owners, environmentalists and tribes.
An Idaho Power spokesman said legal action taken in 2022 against a handful of landowners in eastern Oregon has been resolved. Those landowners had not responded or refused requests to allow utility personnel on their land for surveys related to the project.
The Utility continues to negotiate with an unspecified number of landowners for ‘right-of-way’ land purchases for the path of the transmission line.
Idaho Power hopes to begin construction on the new line later this year, with a target for operations in 2026.