Ore. DEQ Suspends Permitting on Bradwood Landing
March 02, 2009
The state Department of Environmental Quality has informally suspended processing clean air and clean water permits for a controversial liquefied natural gas terminal and pipeline proposed on the Columbia River, the Oregon Department of Justice said in a letter to project backers and opponents.
The DEQ has proposed a formal suspension of permitting until backers of the Bradwood Landing LNG terminal can resolve land use issues with Clatsop County. Otherwise, the agency will be forced to proceed and likely deny the permits, the letter said.
Further permitting delays would be the latest of several regulatory and legal setbacks for Bradwoods backer, Houston-based NorthernStar Natural Gas Inc. The terminal, proposed for 20 miles east of Astoria on the Columbia River, would offload supercooled natural gas from tankers and ship it as far as California via one of two proposed pipelines.
Environmental groups and landowners who oppose the project are hoping that regulatory delays, coupled with the general economy downturn and a moribund market for LNG, will sap NorthernStars resources and force it to abandon the Bradwood project. NorthernStar says it remains committed to the project and still hopes to start construction late this year.
Last month, the state Land Use Board of Appeals remanded Bradwoods land-use approval to Clatsop County. LUBA said the county had adopted an overly narrow definition of the word protect when it determined the project met the requirement to protect traditional fishing areas and endangered species habitat from incompatible development.
LUBA also asked the county to justify its determination that the terminal would be a small- to medium-size industrial facility, versus a large one, and thus consistent with the countys land-use plan. The projects scale has been controversial from the start.
Clatsop County voters also passed a ballot measure last year that bans pipelines on land zoned for parks and open space. The measure means that a planned pipeline running from Bradwood to an interstate gas hub near Kelso, Wash., is no longer compatible with land-use regulations, according to the Department of Justice letter.
In the letter, Assistant Attorney General Larry Knudsen said the DEQ had informally suspended processing the permits and asked Bradwood to agree to a formal suspension until the land-use issues, including appeals, are settled. If Bradwood doesnt agree, Knudsen said, DEQ would be forced to proceed and would likely deny the permits.
Columbia Riverkeeper, the conservation group that originally launched the land-use appeal and helped organize the pipeline ballot measure, hailed the letter as the first formal recognition that state permitting on the facility had stopped. They believe the permitting process for the facility could still stretch for years.
Joe Desmond, NorthernStars government affairs director, said the companys position was that the county land-use permit remains valid, even during remand. As such, he says, the state can continue processing the permits. He said the company will meet with DEQ to come up with a workable solution.
Source: The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.
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