LNG: Ore. Project’s court defeat highlights export’s image problems

LNG: Ore. Project’s court defeat highlights export’s image problems by Jenny Mandel, October 26, 2012, E&E News
The defeat of a liquefied natural gas export project in an Oregon county court, which clears the way for local officials to deny a pipeline permit for the project, could empower other communities where natural gas projects have seemed too big to fight, according to a local opponent. Brett VandenHeuvel is executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, an advocacy organization that has fought the proposal by Oregon LNG to site a terminal that could ship up to 1.25 billion cubic feet per day of LNG from the head of the Columbia River in Clatsop County, Ore. “Communities often feel like they, these projects go through against their wishes, and this was an example of a success story, of a county that said, ‘We have valuable resources here … that aren’t going to be trumped by an LNG export terminal,'” VandenHeuvel said in an interview.

The court case concerned the county’s right to re-examine a previous approval granted to build a pipeline to feed the terminal. That pipeline was initially approved on a 4-to-1 vote by a county commission, but a subsequent election that was heavily influenced by voter opinion on the LNG project led to a reversal of that decision. VandenHeuvel noted that the county commission’s technical staff had recommended against approving the project from the start, citing violation of county environmental protections including those covering forests, farmlands and salmon populations. He said the commission’s decision to revisit the issue fell within a window of time during which, under state rules, counties can reconsider such decisions. The project developers challenged that reconsideration in court, arguing that the county could not revisit its previous decision, but yesterday’s court decision said the county was free to do so.

Reached by phone, an Oregon LNG employee declined to comment on the company’s plans and said no comment was available following the court decision. … If the county commission votes to deny the pipeline permit, Oregon LNG could challenge the decision in state court. … Much of the decision on what comes next may come down to how far the terminal’s backers, the investment company Leucadia National Corp., want to push the project in legal proceedings. [Emphasis added]

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