Bradwood Landing LNG terminal moves forward, drawing referendum effort

Opposition groups aim for September ballot in an effort derail LNG development

The glacial race to build a liquid natural gas terminal on the Columbia River took a step forward Thursday night when Clatsop County Commissioners voted 4-1 to wrap up approve? a land-use review of the proposed Bradwood Landing LNG terminal.

The terminal (one of three proposed in Oregon) would be located about 20 miles east of Astoria and serve as an import hub for liquefied natural gas (LNG) from overseas. The super-cooled methane would be warmed to its gaseous state at the site and pumped into the Pacific Northwest distribution network, where it would eventually reach homes and businesses throughout the region.

If NorthernStar Natural Gas, Bradwood's developer, successfully clears state and federal hurdles, at least one of two proposed gas pipeline projects will likely snake through Washington County near Forest Grove and Gaston to connect the facility to gas lines in Molalla as well.

ButThursday night, following the Clatsop commissioners' vote, a trio of anti-LNG groups said they would seek a referendum on one provision of the Bradwood Landing plan that they said could prevent pipelines from connecting to the site.

Opponents have inundated Clatsop County with complaints about the safety of the site, the necessity of the gas and environmental issues, but NorthernStar Natural Gas CEO William Garrett said in a press release Thursday that the county land-use process has addressed many of the opponents' concerns.

'Throughout our interaction with the Clatsop County Commission, we have found ways to improve our project while enhancing safety and protection of the environment,' Garrett said.

Charles Deister, project spokesman, said now that the county's on board, NorthernStar's proposal needs go-aheads from state regulators and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. No clear timeline for either approval process is set.

Deister said the company entered the county's nine-month land-use review of the project voluntarily and pledged Thursday night to abide by the requirements (instead of appealing those it disagreed with to the feds).

'No other U.S. LNG facility has ever volunteered a contract agreeing not to appeal local siting conditions' to [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission], Deister said. 'We are helping ensure the local control that the community wanted.'

But opponents are looking for a different kind of local control.

'By approving this last night they have set the stage for the pipeline to cross land designated as parks and open spaces,' said Don West, vice-president of the Columbia River Business Association, based in Astoria.

West said that in order for pipelines to cross that land, the county needed to change a provision of its code.

West's group, along with Columbia Riverkeeper and Northwest Property Rights Coalition, will begin gathering signatures in the coming weeks to send that decision to voters.

'It's realy a sign for how far Clatsop county was willing to go, basically changing the county's rules in order to allow the LNG project,' said Brent Foster, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper.

If they can gather 607 signatures, Clatsop County voters will decide in September if the current county rules forbidding pipelines on parkland will stay in place.

West is confident that a public vote will come down against the terminal, which could complicate NorthernStar's plans.

'Suffice it to say we think it's necessary that the voters of Clatsop County have their voice heard,' West said.