March 24th, 2008 5:33 pm | by Shefali Kulkarni News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

Clatsop County preps for referendum on gas pipeline

Marc Auerbach of Birkenfeld, Ore. says he's tired of seeing his county officials bend backwards to please NorthernStar Natural Gas. The latest evidence of that is a new amendment passed by Clatsop County commissioners altering county law to allow NorthernStar's Liquefied Natural Gas (L.N.G) pipeline to pass through an area zoned for a park and recreation site.

“The county is already bending backwards to accommodate NorthernStar. This is going too far for a lot of people here. Now we are willing to let them trench across our parks?” says Auerbach, chair of the Northwest Property Rights Group—one of the major backers of a referendum to get the amendment revoked.

Passed last Thursday, with a 4-1 vote, the amendment allows LNG pipelines to pass through any park and recreation site and open public area in the county. Other backers of the referendum include Columbia Riverkeeper, and the Columbia River Business Alliance. Currently Auerbach and these other organizations are waiting to gain county clerk approval to legally petition to locals. They must gather 607 votes, or four percent of the most recent number of voters. But Don West, vice president of the Columbia River Business Association says they will get well over the required amount of signatures.

“[The amendment] is clearly a breach of the public's trust. Richard Lee and the other commissioners aren't in line with the public. We want the voters to have a voice in this.” A special election will take place in September to vote on the referendum.

Marc says the amendment came swiftly and ignored the public's outcries against the zoning amendment. But the issue of NothernStar's LNG pipeline terminal has been a three-year problem for Clatsop County, since its inception in 2005. The issue teeters a fine line between helping local business and economy in the sleepy shore county. Others say that the out-of-state gas company is just manipulating Oregonians—who won't receive any of the natural gas—rather it is being funneled to California—and will create more havoc than help on county legislation in the long run. This week's amendment change is an example to boot.

Charles Deister, a spokesman for NorthStar, sighed deeply when he heard about WW's post. "There's much more to it than that," he says. Deister explains that the current map of the pipeline route is still temporary—already undergoing nearly 60 adjustments based on individual properties. "We are taking in local input," he says. Already in Oregon there are two natural gas storage units—one in Portland and one near Newport. "Mechanically, this LNG terminal will be much more simpler than those," says Deister. The proposed pipeline will stretch 38 miles throughout parts of Clatsop and Columbia County.

Keep an eye out for more updates.
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