An apparent mechanical failure has forced Oregon's only coal-fired power plant to close temporarily. Operations at the Boardman Plant were shut down July 1 when a sudden pressure change dislodged a pipe carrying steam away from the generators.

According to Portland General Electric, which owns 65 percent of the plant, Boardman is expected to remain offline for at least another month. PGE spokesman Steve Corson says the plant experienced what's called a "water hammer event."

That's when hot steam encounters a cooler liquid like water and rapidly compresses. Corson says with the loss of Boardman, the company has turned to the wholesale market to meet demand.

"We're constantly balancing our customers' need for electricity with the resources that are available and in this case we're going to be using different resources for awhile," said Corson.

It's too early to tell how much the outage will cost. PGE is conducting a damage assessment and analyzing the root causes of the incident.

But according to Bob Jenks, with the Citizens' Utility Board of Oregon, how and why the incident occurred could determine who covers the bill -- PGE or ratepayers.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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