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Northwest Energy Coalition Criticizes Environmental Group

A business-labor coalition in the Pacific Northwest is lashing out at environmental organization Columbia Riverkeeper (CRK) for allegedly working covertly in a recent anti-liquefied natural gas (LNG) local election. CRK's work supposedly led to the narrow recall of one of five members of the Clatsop County (OR) Commission, a majority of which has supported building an LNG receiving terminal along the Columbia River.

One member of the Clatsop County panel easily beat the recall, but a second member did not, prompting the Energy Action coalition to call for CRK's oversight board to investigate what the energy coalition alleges was the environmental group's staff and executive director "secretly participating in political campaign activities against elected officials involved in the [LNG] project that CRK opposes while simultaneously denying it," according to Tom Ivancie, the new executive director of Energy Action.

Energy Action has been lambasting opponents of NorthernStar Natural Gas Corp.'s proposal to build a 1 Bcf LNG receiving facility, Bradwood Landing, contending that they have consistently misrepresented facts about LNG generally and the Bradwood project specifically. As a nonprofit organization, CRK is prohibited from taking active political advocacy roles, and Energy Action alleges there is third-party evidence that the organization did that in campaigning to recall the two commissioners.

Proponents of the Bradwood Landing LNG facilities received a boost in late September when the Clatsop County Commissioners voted 4-1 to rezone a parcel of private land that a connecting gas pipeline for the terminal is slated to traverse. The Portland Oregonian in an editorial criticized the opponents for turning to recall campaigns, citing "ugly attacks" against three of the commissioners.

The newspaper concluded that "wielding the recall against them in such fashion has a corrosive effect, discouraging people from running for office and unfairly punishing those willing to stick their necks out and serve."

Commissioner Ann Samuelson was barely recalled by four votes in October, which was confirmed following a 50% turnout for the recall election. A year earlier another Clatsop County official was recalled by a 2-to-1 margin. While one of the pro-LNG commissioners survived, yet another one will go through a recall vote Dec. 8.

A NorthernStar spokesperson said there are still some minor grading and road-building permits that the LNG developer needs from the county, and there could be only two project supporters left on the commission by the time they are considered if the last recall election next month proves successful for project opponents.

"I believe I speak for many in our state when I express complete frustration with CRK's continuing policy of clouding rational discussion of our energy options," said Ivancie. "They seek to delay at every turn development of needed energy infrastructure that is vital to the economic interests of our region and the jobs of thousands of Oregonians."

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