'Stop Cogentrix' coalition declares victory in Madras

By Michael Funke Special Correspondent MADRAS - Cogentrix is dead-and labor-backed "Stop Cogentrix" candidates want to turn that victory into another one in the November election.

Faced with growing opposition from union members, ranchers, consumers, farmers and environmentalists - and a depressed energy market riddled with corporate corruption - Cogentrix has called off plans to build a non-union power plant in Central Oregon.

Cogentrix was supported by the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners in its plans to use non-union, out-of-state labor to build a 980-megawatt gas-fired steam generation plant 12 miles from Smith Rock State Park. But the North Carolina-based energy corporation drew powerful opposition from the Stop Cogentrix coalition, Central Oregon Building Trades Council, Central Oregon Labor Council, Sierra Club and others who questioned construction of a plant that would draw up to eight million gallons of water a day from the Deschutes River Basin, pollute the pristine Central Oregon skies, create fewer than 40 new jobs and pay no property taxes for the first five years of operation.

"Stop Cogentrix," led by Jefferson County resident Mary Zemke, collected over 6,000 signatures from residents and visitors who were alarmed at the Cogentrix plans.

"We have fought hard and not backed down," said Zemke, one of two labor-endorsed candidates for the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners. "We have sent a clear message to our local and state leaders that we will protect our natural resources and stand up for the good of Central Oregon."

Stop Cogentrix is "truly a mass movement beyond anything I have ever seen in my 15 years as a power plant activist,"said John Paul Williams, industrial consultant to Electrical Workers Local 280, which represents members in Central Oregon.

The Central Oregon Building Trades Council and Central Oregon Labor Council have endorsed Zemke, a Republican, and Walter Ponsford, a Democrat opposed to Cogentrix, for two seats on the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners in November.

"Cogentrix is just one example of our elected commissioners not listening to Jefferson Country residents," says Zemke. She and Ponsford pledge to represent all county residents, preserve agriculture, promote economic growth and clean industries that provide good-paying jobs.

October 18, 2002 issue

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