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FERC blows off Oregon Democrats on LNG issue

Federal agency says that market forces will decide pipeline projects

Oregon Democrats are upset that their concerns about liquid natural gas terminals being developed in Oregon aren't being recognized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio, David Wu, Darlene Hooley and Earl Blumenauer sent a letter to FERC on March 7 asking that the agency collaborate with the state of Oregon and conduct an assessment of the need to build LNG terminals in the state.

FERC responded April 2, saying that the agency is charged with aiding the "expeditious completion" of gas projects, and would not act on the delegation's concerns.

"FERC basically blew off the concerns expressed in our letter," DeFazio said in a press release, "Now, the state of Oregon is going to waste a huge amount of time investigating several plans, at great cost to state taxpayers, most of which will not come to fruition."

Three different firms are working to build LNG terminals in Oregon. There are also plans for at least two long pipeline projects that would snake through Washington County near Forest Grove and Gaston.

Last week FERC and the state signed a deal that would bring state regulators to the table in the development of wave energy off the Oregon coast.

Hooley said that deal indicates that FERC's hands aren't tied.

"Clearly FERC, when it wants to, has the ability and interest in working with the State--which makes their dismissal of our request on LNG all that more disappointing," Hooley said.

But state officials say that FERC has more leeway with wave energy since it's an emerging technology. When dealing with LNG, the agency is bound by the rules laid out in the 2005 Federal Energy Act, which took away much of the state's role in regulating LNG facilities.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski has demanded that FERC stop the siting processes for the five projects in Oregon until a need assessment can be conducted. He has also argued for a bigger state role in siting.

As of last week, Kulongoski's office hadn't received a response from the agency.