ASTORIA In a move that exemplifies the growing rift both within and without Oregon state government over liquefied natural gas terminals, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in June gave an environmental endorsement to a proposed project on the Columbia River. Days later, Oregon utility regulators said that importing LNG would be good for the region, despite an earlier DEQ report that came to the opposite conclusion.
Project backer Houston-based NorthernStar Natural Gas applauded the thumbs up as confirmation of what it calls a “salmon friendly” terminal. Gov. Ted Kulongoski, however, slammed FERC, saying in a statement that the agency was “irresponsibly considering this project only from the supply-side of the marketplace.”
The proposed $700 million terminal, which would sit 20 miles upriver from Astoria, would rewarm supercooled natural gas brought in by ship and then transport the gas via pipeline to markets in Oregon and California.
NorthernStar has spent the past five years developing a biological assessment and mitigation plan, which includes $56 million worth of salmon habitat restoration.
FERC’s analysis is not final approval for the project but it is an important procedural step, and it’s highly likely that environmental groups will challenge it. Or the challenge could come from the state, should it find problems after reviewing FERC’s findings.
NorthernStar also finds itself being attacked by citizen groups that are concerned about the environmental and land-use impact of the terminal and pipeline, and by Oregon’s Department of Energy, which says the state can better address its energy needs by importing gas from others states.
Spokesman Charles Deister says NorthernStar has tried to address every issue in its own studies. “All I can do is point to our extensively detailed record,” he says.