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Washington Governor Leery of Bradwood LNG Plans

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire is concerned that FERC's approval last month of the Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas (LNG) project along the Columbia River in Oregon was premature, given that her state has not made a final determination on its portion of a pipeline planned to link the LNG terminal to existing interstate pipelines.

The project's proponent, NorthernStar Natural Gas, has assured Gregoire that construction of the 36-inch diameter pipeline is still two to three years in the future, so there is adequate time to work through any state concerns.

Gregoire wrote in September to NorthernStar CEO William "Si" Garrett, expressing concerns that "Cowlitz [WA] County residents fear the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's [FERC] action will give the company unbridled eminent domain authority, and the company will seek to use that authority [in obtaining its pipeline route]."

In a letter responding to the governor Oct. 2, Garrett assured Gregoire that NorthernStar was not seeking to use eminent domain. "We intend to work with all affected landowners in good faith to resolve their concerns and arrive at a fair and equitable resolution of the issues," Garrett wrote.

The FERC approval, the first issued for an LNG import terminal and associated sendout pipeline in the Pacific Northwest, included 109 safety conditions and mitigation measures.

Designs for the Bradwood Landing project include a 36-mile transmission pipeline, half of it in Oregon, half of it in Washington -- traversing mostly privately owned land -- and running 50 feet below the bottom of the Columbia River. Cowlitz County requested -- and the governor agreed -- to have the Washington Department of Ecology join it as the co-lead for the state environmental policy act review of the proposed pipeline, which would connect with the existing Northwest Pipeline near Kelso, WA.

In a letter that pre-dated the FERC action by two days, Gregoire indicated that if the Commission acted she would direct here ecology agency "to litigate" the federal action. "We have taken a similar legal stance on other projects and are committed to preserving our state's clear legal authority under the Clean Water Act," the governor said.

Garrett tried to assure the governor in his letter that legal action would be unnecessary because Bradwood is already working closely with Cowlitz County and the state ecology department. "We will not proceed with the project until we have satisfied the requirements of these and other state and federal permits," Garrett said.

"Although FERC has conditionally approved the Bradwood Landing project and associated pipeline under Section 7 of the Natural Gas Act, Bradwood reaffirms its commitment to proceed with the Washington state review process through the State Environmental Protection Act mechanism," he added.

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