Law that simplifies the process of citing public works and pipelines passes in third attempt

In 2009, it was called House Bill 3058. In 2010, Senate Bill 1020. This year, it was House Bill 2700.

Before it passed the Oregon Senate Tuesday, HB 2700 had also been known as the 'LNG Fast-Track' bill.

But the bill, despite the scary nickname, has passed on its third shot in the legislature.

'We beat it twice and they only needed to get it through once,' said Dan Serres of Columbia Riverkeeper, who worked hard to torpedo the bill in its previous appearances in the Oregon Legislature.

LNG opponents said the bill would give LNG pipeline developers carte-blanche to steamroll property owners ahead of getting their 'removal-fill' permits from state regulators. Proponents of the bill, including the head of the state's Department of State Lands, say the bill fixes a procedural problem created by past legislation that could hamper road and other vital infrastructure improvements.

Serres and other LNG opponents also worked hard this session to attach an amendment to the bill that would exempt LNG projects from its provisions. That didn't work either.

What, exactly, its passage, does for the two LNG proposals left in Oregon, Oregon LNG near Astoria and Jordan Cove near Coos Bay, is unclear.

But it certainly doesn't hurt.

'Opponents say this confers to private companies the power of eminent domain and is inexorably tied to LNG projects throughout Oregon,' said state Sen. Betsy Johnson, a Scappoose Democrat.

Johnson said she was disappointed the bill didn't pick up an amendment limiting its scope.

Johnson was one of five Democrats to vote against the bill, along with four Republicans. The legislation passed the Senate on a 20-9 vote.

Suzanne Bonamici, a Beaverton Democrat who voted against the bill, argued in a May 12 letter to State Sen. Lee Beyer, chair of the Business, Transportation and Economic Development committee that the committee should adopt an amendment excluding LNG projects.

'Since mid-February,' Bonamici wrote, 'I have received numerous emails and letters from constituents who oppose HB 2700. Their primary objection is that they believe the bill creates a fast-track permitting process for LNG pipelines in Oregon.'

But Beyer's committee didn't adopt the amendment, known as 'dash 6,' instead voting the bill to the Senate floor with a do-pass recommendation.

Beyer said his committee sent the bill to the floor as-is because the house indicated that if they amended the bill, it wouldn't pass the house again.

'We were told pretty clearly by the house that if we amended the bill they wouldn't concur,' Beyer said.

LNG is liquefied natural gas, super-cooled and stored in giant tankers for shipment overseas.

LNG terminals allow the international trade of natural gas, where pipelines can't link countries.

When LNG projects were first proposed in Oregon in the early part of the last decade, they were largely thought to be import facilities, bringing cheap gas from overseas into the growing energy market on the western Pacific Coast.

But now, with natural gas fields being tapped in Wyoming and Canada, the continental gas market looks like a good source for gas to sell abroad to China and elsewhere and companies like Louisiana's Cheniere Energy wants to build an export terminal.

Paul Sansone, a Gales Creek resident and anti-LNG activist, said if the LNG industry gains a foothold in Oregon and begins exporting gas, it would be an economic disaster for the state.

'The price of natural gas will double or triple in Oregon,' Sansone said.

Beyer, who spent nine years on the Oregon Public Utility Commission, said the LNG worries are out of place in this bill or any other. 'I don't think you're ever going to see an LNG plant on the Oregon coast,' he said.

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