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Planning and Sustainability Commission to hear about potential explosions at proposed propane terminal

A Canadian company hoping to build a half-billion-dollar propane export terminal in North Portland will try to convince the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission that the plant is safe on Tuesday.

Pembina Pipeline Corp. will unveil its long-awaited assessment of potential explosions and other accidents on the site, who those might affect, and how the company will prevent them from occurring.

The commission will meet in a 3 p.m. work session, largely to review safety issues at the controversial propane terminal, at 1900 S.W. Fourth Ave. in downtown Portland.

Pembina met in an all-day workshop on safety issues Tuesday with about 35 technical advisers and representatives from the city, Port of Portland and nearby North Portland neighborhoods. Pembina didn’t release any maps of potential hazard zones, said Tom Armstrong, supervising city planner working on the proposal.

Such hazard zones — of keen interest to neighbors on Hayden Island — will be presented to the Planning and Sustainability Commission next Tuesday, said Eric Dyck, Pembina’s local project manager. Information on those hazard zones will be based partly on feedback received at the all-day workshop, Dyck said.

The hazard zones are part of a required Quantitative Risk Assessment being prepared by Pembina consultant DNV GL, an Oslo, Norway-based company that does safety evaluations for the world oil and gas industry.

Ron Ebersole, a Hayden Island resident who attended Tuesday’s workshop, declined to discuss what he heard, because he is preparing to present his assessment at next Tuesday's work session. Armstrong invited a panel of residents to present their views.

Ebersole assisted on a “white paper” issued by Hayden Island residents who believe they are at risk from explosions and other accidents at the site.

One thing Ebersole was willing to say, though, was that Pembina dodged questions about the safety of propane being shipped by rail here from Canada. “They talk only about their site,” Ebersole said, and say rail safety is the railroad’s responsibility.

Safety issues will dominate Tuesday’s work session. If there’s additional time, Armstrong said, the Planning and Sustainability Commission may address other issues, such as: Pembina’s commitment to buy green power to offset its electricity usage at the site; its pledge to restore the shoreline habitat along the terminal, which fronts the slough between West Hayden Island and the Port of Portland’s Terminal 6; a proposed Community Advisory Committee; and a proposal to offset carbon emissions traced to the propane plant.

Other than invited testimony, there won’t be time for public comments Tuesday.

But another standing-room-only crowd is expected at an April 7 public hearing before the Planning and Sustainability Commission. At that point, commissioners may make their final recommendations on the project to the City Council, which makes the final call.