Change in scope will pull Washington County out of project's crosshairs

The push for a controversial liquefied natural gas pipeline through Washington County was hit with another setback last week, this one linked to the bankruptcy of Bradwood Landing, the LNG terminal that would have been sited 77 miles west of Portland on the Columbia River.

In filings last week with federal energy regulators, Michael B. Burke, general manager of the Palomar natural gas pipeline project, announced the bankruptcy has killed the possibility that his project would include a western leg through Washington County. Instead, Palomar will focus exclusively on the eastern leg of the project.

Opponents of the Palomar project, a joint venture between NW Natural and TransCanada, had long suspected that without a terminal facility in the west, the Palomar project would turn into a regional infrastructure project. And with the fall of Bradwood Landing, that's exactly what's happened.

'We have listened carefully to public comment over the past three years and heard the concerns of state policymakers,' Burke wrote in a letter to elected officials. 'The new iteration of Palomar will address many of those concerns, including the elimination of any connection Palomar had to the bankrupt Bradwood Landing LNG terminal.'

The eastern leg of the project will also be adjusted. An agreement with the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation will allow the project to take a shorter route in the east, reducing its footprint in the Mt. Hood National Forest by 40 percent, and reducing the impact on the Deschutes River.

Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax said he was happy to see the project reduced in scope.

'I can't help but think that since the Forest Grove City Council was the first such body in the state to go on the record in opposition to this project that we didn't play some small role in this result,' Truax said. 'The ruling protects our watershed and the line from that watershed to our water treatment reservoir at the top of Watercrest Road.'

Paul Sansone, a Gales Creek resident who has fought to oppose LNG development in Oregon, said the news isn't the end of the line.Two other LNG proposals are still slowly working through the regulatory process, including one that would have followed Palomar's route through western Washington County.

'Even though this battle appears to be finally drawing to a messy close, the barn door is still open,' Sansone said. 'The abundance of domestic gas, and a relatively inexpensive price compared to Asia, is a strong economic incentive for LNG export proposals which would still require highly damaging pipelines across Oregon with very little economic benefit to the state.'

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