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County to Rehear Oregon LNG Pipeline Permit Case

The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners has set a new hearing and process for Oregon LNG's application for a permit to cross county lands with a 36-inch diameter transmission pipeline to link a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility with interstate supply pipelines in the state of Washington.

In a dispute that has been simmering on and off for several years (see Daily GPI, July 3), backers of the proposed LNG facility at the mouth of the Columbia River won an appeal in a county land-use case in which Clatsop's elected board has now set a Sept. 10 hearing to, in effect, reconsider the LNG project's application.

Peter Hansen, who in the past has accused one of the county officials of a conflict of interest, declined requests from NGI for a comment on the latest county action.

The Clatsop board set the new hearing in a special executive session held Wednesday, and it will meet again on Aug. 13 to set the scope of the county's review at the Sept. 10 hearing. The board will decide if new evidence will be taken at the September hearing, or if it will be limited to the existing record.

Oregon's Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) called for the reconsideration of the county's denial of a permit, deciding that Commissioner Peter Huhtala, a vocal opponent of the Oregon LNG project before being elected to the county board, had not been impartial when he voted with a majority to withdraw previous county approval of the project permit.

"The remand by LUBA means the [Clatsop] board must reconsider the application without Huhtala taking part in the decision," county spokesperson Tom Bennett, told NGI.

Oregon LNG's unit, Oregon Pipeline LLC, appealed to LUBA, alleging that Huhtala and two others -- another commissioner and now former commissioner -- had displayed evidence of bias against the project. LUBA found there was insufficient evidence concerning the other two.

In question is the 41-mile segment of an 86-mile proposed pipeline traversing Clatsop from the Skipanon Peninsula in Warrenton, OR.

The local permitting issue dates back to 2010 when Oregon LNG's proposed pipeline was determined by an independent hearing officer to have met all the Clatsop County land use codes and standards. An appeal filed by Huhtala, as the then-executive director of the opposing Columbia River Business Alliance, was later rejected. However, he later was elected to the county board and was among a majority that reversed the earlier approval.

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