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Natural gas assurances fail the sniff test

For months, we've been told not to fret. That our worries about environmental damage are unfounded. That the concerns about property rights are misplaced. That the fears about explosions are overblown.

In short, we've been assured that the folks promoting the liquified natural gas projects in Oregon should be trusted. After all, they say, much of this gas is destined for Oregon consumers. This is a project that benefits the state.

Sorry, but that argument no longer passes the smell test.

On Monday night, the Forest Grove City Council adopted a resolution opposing the proposed terminal near Astoria and the pipelines that would carry the gas through much of western Washington County on its way to Wasco County.

The councilors made it clear why a local governing body was weighing into a project that is largely controlled by federal regulators:

•The lines carrying pressurized gas south might have to run through the city's watershed that lies west of the city. At the very least, those lines would have to cross the pipes that bring water into Forest Grove.

•The pressurized gas would run through an area served by the Forest Grove Rural Fire Department and, under one scenario, pass under the playground at Gales Creek Elementary School.

•The reliance on an imported fossil fuel is at odds with the council's newly adopted goal of promoting a 'sustainable' city.

The council's plan to take up the issue, announced two weeks ago, was hardly a secret. More than a dozen critics of the pipeline project had no trouble making their way to the council meeting.

But, when it came time for pipeline proponents to defend their project, they were nowhere to be seen.

Councilor Pete Truax, who drafted the resolution, said that on the one hand, he was relieved that the pro-gas forces didn't show. But, on the other hand, he said, 'I'm a little bit offended that something this important to this community and to the state of Oregon is, in effect, blown off by them.'

Offended, perhaps, but he shouldn't have been surprised.

For months, critics of the natural gas projects have made a convincing case that companies behind them are really only interested in getting their product to California. So, is it any wonder that when given the chance to show up in a community and address a local government's concerns, the pipeline proponents took a pass?

As Monday evening made clear, something is rotten about this project, and it's not the sulfur-based compounds that are usually added to natural gas to warn users of its danger. In this case, the empty seats served as warning enough.