September 18th, 2008 5:33 pm | by Katie Gilbert News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, Environment

Gastoria Update: Feds approve LNG pipeline near Astoria


In an unsurprising yet highly controversial move today, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted conditional approval to Houston-based NorthernStar Natural Gas in constructing and operating the Bradwood Project, a proposed terminal and pipeline for liquefied natural gas 20 miles east of Astoria on the Columbia River.

Opponents of the LNG project expected FERC's decision, but that didn't temper their outrage—it merely gave them time to ensure it was well worded. A press conference held today at the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission in Northeast Portland allowed tribal leaders, elected officials, and environmental activists to publicly vow that they planned to challenge FERC's decision.

“We must say no to liquefied natural gas,” said Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, who issued his response to the vote in a written statement. “It makes no sense for Oregon or the rest of the country to build a new facility to develop fossil fuels at the same time we're trying to reduce our use of fossil fuels.”

The terminal would receive imports of natural gas—liquefied for more efficient tanker travel—from foreign suppliers. At the press conference, Oregon State Rep. Chuck Riley stressed that a dependence on foreign natural gas is “not someplace we need to go.” He said that the Rocky Mountain States have an adequate supply of the resource, and that the country's aim should be to rely on its domestic supply.

He also touched on the environmental concerns associated with the Bradwood Project.

“There are many reasons this decision is not environmentally sound, and you can see some of them on the wall behind me,” he said, gesturing towards five bronze fish suspended on the blue wall above his head.

FERC anticipated environmental apprehensions, and included in its approval, in the words of FERC Chairman Joseph T. Kelliher, are “109 conditions designed to assure safety and mitigate environmental impact.” One of these conditions, which is a focus in the press release FERC issued today to announce its decision, requires that LNG carriers stream Columbia River water through their engines while at berth to cool them down.

But Brett VandenHeuvel, attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper—a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting the water quality of the river—pointed out that that “safety” measure would only heat up water in an estuary that is already growing too warm to support the habitats of the salmon that live there.

FERC passed its approval of the project in a 4-1 vote; Commissioner John Wellinghof was the lone dissenter. In his statement, he echoes the economic and environmental fears delineated at the press conference, and lays out possible alternatives to liquefied natural gas—like a focus on infrastructure to support the domestic version and the development of renewable energy sources.

“These alternatives are more efficient, more reliable, and environmentally preferable to the Bradwood Project,” he said.
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