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Conflicting claims rekindle LNG debate

Gales Creek critic asks Attorney General to investigate Oregon LNG


by: NEWS-TIMES FILE PHOTO - Opponents of Oregon LNG's proposed import-export facility and pipeline have fought the project with some success since 2008, when they gathered at Montinore Estate to review this pipeline map. Now they face Oregon LNG's recent appeal to the state Supreme Court, which could take as long as six months to decide whether to review the case. Today is the last day for people to send comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission about Oregon LNG’s new — as of July — proposal to export liquefied natural gas, rather than simply import it.

The comments are relevant because although the project once seemed kaput, Oregon LNG recently filed a petition with the Oregon Supreme Court that keeps alive its quest to build an import-export facility in Warrenton — and a connecting pipeline that could potentially pass through western Washington County.

“Most people think it’s dead. It’s not dead,” said Gales Creek resident Paul Sansone, one of the project’s opponents, who recently sent documents to the Oregon Attorney General, claiming Oregon LNG had intentionally made false statements about its plans .

Oregon LNG maintains that the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners’ November 2010 approval of the project should stand, and that new commissioners — elected partly due to public anger over the previous commissioners’ approval — had no right to withdraw it, as they did in March 2011.

A Clatsop County Circuit Court Judge upheld the new county board’s action. In October, the Oregon Court of Appeals agreed.

Oregon LNG’s Supreme Court appeal comes amid a shifting landscape in the LNG debate.

A report released Dec. 5 by the federal Department of Energy concluded that LNG exports will help the economy overall by bringing in billions of dollars from Asian countries hungry for American LNG, even as the exports raise gas prices in the U.S.

Consumers and businesses that rely on natural gas claim the spike in prices will hurt the economy and hinder U.S. efforts to lower its greenhouse-gas production.

Oregon’s U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden shares that concern and will carry it with him when he takes over chairmanship of the U.S. Senate’s powerful Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Jan. 3.

Meanwhile, Sansone is waiting for a response to his September 7 letter to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, in which he asks her to investigate whether Oregon LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) broke state laws by making false statements in order to get a “benefit” from the state.

Among the “false statements” Sansone cites:

The emergency management plan submitted with OLNG’s application addressed only the facility at Warrenton — not the proposed pipeline, as OLNG had promised it would in its application and its oral presentations to the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners.

Sansone considers this extremely important, given the occasional infernos that explode from faulty pipelines, such as the one two years ago in California which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

Sansone also notes that a number of property owners who had been fighting the pipeline received letters from Oregon LNG Chief Executive Officer Peter Hansen last April saying, “your property in Washington County, Oregon will no longer be impacted by the proposed pipeline” when in fact that was not true.

Although Oregon LNG’s new “preferred” route merely clips the northwest edge of Washington County, the previous preferred route, which passed through large portions of the county, is included as an alternate route and as such, could easily be switched, he said.

Sansone also believes Oregon LNG planned all along to use the facility to export LNG but applied for an import facility because that was more politically palatable. “OLNG was soliciting investors touting the ‘import’ terminal approval process as a ‘short-cut’ to building a gas export facility,” he wrote in is letter to Rosenblum.

It was not alone, according to a five-year study by a research team that included Sansone. The gas industry discovered huge shale-gas deposits years before Oregon LNG applied for its import facility in October 2008, the study found.

The idea that “the world’s largest and most sophisticated gas industry players... all collectively responded to news of massive new U.S. shale gas discoveries by making catastrophically poor decisions to invest in costly LNG import projects that can now coincidentally be used as the springboard for far more lucrative LNG export projects is strained,” the study states.

Oregon LNG did not respond to numerous calls and emails seeking their response to these allegations.

Attorney General spokesman Jeff Manning said no investigation is underway. But that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be one in the future, he said.

State Sen. Betsy Johnson agrees. “In this application, every assertion needs to be checked,” said Johnson (D-Scappoose), whose district includes Warrenton. “The state agencies are the watchdogs of Oregon’s interests in this matter.”

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