Lloyd Marbet came home to Portland from the Vietnam War in 1970, shaken by the destruction he had witnessed. He sunk into every library book he could find, seeking meaning and direction.
His girlfriend handed him a new book she had just finished, Perils of the Peaceful Atom, a harrowing account of the dangers posed by the nuclear power industry.
The book alarmed Marbet. He knew Portland General Electric would soon open its Trojan Nuclear Plant in Rainier, 41 miles to the north.
"If Trojan gets built in Oregon," he told his girlfriend, "we're leaving for Canada." Marbet then saw the title of the next chapter: "Don't Bother Running."
Marbet became the state's foremost anti-nuclear power activist and did more than anyone to end the madness of atomic energy proliferation in Oregon.
Trojan couldn't be stopped, but the region's utilities wanted to build at least seven more plants. Marbet took on PGE's plans for two more at the Eastern Oregon site called Pebble Springs.
He hardly seemed a formidable foe. The Ohio native had failed to finish community college and before the war had sold handmade art supplies to local school districts. "Part of Lloyd's uniqueness," says Marbet friend and attorney Greg Kafoury, "was he didn't have enough formal education to know that what he wanted to do was supposed to be impossible."
The grandson of two Presbyterian ministers, Marbet with his unruly beard and burly physique looked and sounded like a ferocious Old Testament prophet. He thundered at government officials and utility executives at the first state hearing on Pebble Springs, impervious to condescension, compromise and co-option.
"The whole process was confrontational," Marbet says. "I saw that to win I needed to learn the procedural ins and outs."
In April 1975, a state siting panel, stacked to serve private utilities, approved permits for the Pebble Springs plants. Marbet, through an organization he called Forelaws on Board, sued on Oct. 27, 1975, to stop them. PGE waged a major legal fight, but two years later the Oregon Supreme Court sided with Marbet, ruling that the siting council hadn't required PGE to provide adequate safeguards. The delays allowed other nuclear power opponents to bring forward a successful 1980 ballot initiative that set tougher standards for Oregon plants. The measure effectively killed Pebble Springs.
Marbet waged three unsuccessful ballot measure campaigns to close Trojan before the plant broke down and PGE shuttered it in 1993. Years later, PGE executives told Marbet his fight against Pebble Springs and Trojan saved the utility from its own financial folly.