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Natural gas debate comes to Forest Grove

Controversy - Local critics of large pipeline project encourage the city council to join the fray
by: Chase Allgood, Alan Hershman told Forest Grove City Councilors that pipeline backers aren’t concerned with local concerns.

A group of Forest Grove residents wants the city to join the growing debate over a pair of proposed natural gas lines west of town.

The lines would carry natural gas from a proposed new terminal on the Columbia River east of Astoria to existing distribution facilities downstate.

The residents, who made a brief presentation to the City Council Monday night, stopped short of asking the councilors to oppose the pro-ject, instead requesting that the elected officials pass on the critics' concerns to state and federal officials.

'We'd love the council to come out against it,' said Forest Grove resident Gene Maliza. 'But because it doesn't come through the city limits, we weren't sure we could ask them to do that.

'But if they did, that that would be great.'

At least one city councilor said he'd like the chance to weigh in. Pete Truax, in an interview after the meeting, noted that the proposed pipe-line paths would cut a swath between the city and its municipal watershed in the coast range.

And, he added, the pipes would transmit highly flammable gas through the rural fire district that is a part of Forest Grove Fire and Rescue.

'I would like to hold a forum here and end with an up or down vote from the city council,' Truax said. 'It would have to be an advisory vote, but at least we'd be on the record.'

Alan Hershman, who lives on Carpenter Creek Road, encouraged councilors to act quickly, while the terminal project is still being debated in Columbia County.

'If the terminals are built, I assure you the pipelines are coming,' he said. 'And this liquid natural gas project is not in the best interest of the citizens of Oregon.

'The investors of the project aren't from here,' he said. 'And they don't give a hoot about our quality of life.'