A pair of liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal proposals on seemingly different trajectories -- one ascending, the other trying to break its fall -- eye separate hearings in their respective locales of Oregon and Southern California in the next two weeks.
A project along the Columbia River in Oregon appears to be moving forward, while the other, targeted for Long Beach, CA, Harbor, is trying to restart after local authorities abandoned a nearly completed environmental review early this year.
NorthernStar Natural Gas Co. is preparing for a day-long public hearing Monday on its land use permit from Clatsop County, OR. The elected county commission is expected to make a final determination by the end of November, according to NorthernStar's local representative for its $600 million Bradwood Landing LNG project. The county planning commission has already approved the zoning change, but that action needs to be upheld by the elected body.
Warming up for the public hearing, the local county planning staff recirculated its negative assessment from earlier in the year recommending that local elected officials reject NorthernStar Natural Gas's proposed terminal site about 30 miles east of Astoria, OR. A spokesperson for the project downplayed the staff report as old news."All they are doing is reissuing a previous report ahead of Monday's [elected] county commissioners' meeting," the Bradwood Landing project spokesperson said.
Despite the report that resurfaced last Tuesday, the Clatsop County Planning Commission on a 4-3 vote in August recommended that the elected officials approve NorthernStar's rezoning of it proposed site, which local news media reported needs 30 land-use regulation changes. Regasified LNG would be shipped from the terminal in a new 36-inch diameter natural gas transmission pipeline cutting across parts of Clatsop and two other Oregon counties before interconnecting with existing major north-south interstate gas pipelines to the east.
"The reissuance of the staff report doesn't change our position," said Joe Desmond, NorthernStar's senior vice president. "In fact, we look forward to making our case before the county commission and presenting our project's benefits to the local and regional economy."
Also earlier in October at its annual statewide meeting, the Oregon AFL-CIO voted to endorse the proposed the Bradwood Landing LNG receiving terminal. NorthernStar called the endorsement an "overwhelming" show of support for its project, which is one of several now active in the state.
Oregon's largest labor organizations stressed the need for additional natural gas supplies in the region to support industries that translate into "hundreds of thousands" of future jobs in the Pacific Northwest, NorthernStar said.
In the meantime, the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) is out for comment, and public hearings will be conducted in the future. NorthernStar is touting its environmental commitment, including state-of-the-art accident avoidance and minimization steps, robust mitigation and what it called "substantial and sustained enhancement," as something that will result in "significant net ecological benefit" to the lower Columbia region and a favorable environmental review of the project.
In Oregon, the unions cited the added jobs created for the three-year construction of the proposed LNG terminal as a reason for their support. The state AFL-CIO said that the plant construction will bring about $112 million into the local economy and another $18 million annually once the facility is operating. It cited $8 million in local property taxes that Bradwood Landing will pay annually.
"NorthernStar's commitment to the building trades and union labor in general has been impressive," said John Mohlis, executive secretary of the Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council. Jose Esmonde, business representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48, lauded NorthernStar for "proactively" reaching out to organized labor. "This project will provide apprenticeship training opportunities for young men and women in the trades to help build the work force of the future."
Mohlis also commended the LNG project proponents for "not seeking any tax breaks" for their Bradwood Landing facility and for proposing "an environmental plan that not only respects, but will enhance the health of the Columbia River." He said the unions considered NorthernStar a partner in the LNG project.
A senior executive with the Bradwood Landing project said last August that NorthernStar could start construction in the first of half of next year, following what one of the company's senior officers called a "positive recommendation" from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff in the project's draft environmental review. "With proper mitigation, the project is environmentally acceptable," said NorthernStar's Desmond, the former chief energy adviser to California's governor.
The proposed terminal would be located on a 40-acre site at the former townsite of Bradwood in Clatsop County, OR, about 38 miles up the Columbia River from the Pacific Ocean -- the main economic artery for the Pacific Northwest. The project, which would provide up to 1.3 Bcf of natural gas to the region, has become a politically charged issue in Oregon and Washington, with state legislators and landowners opposing it.
Further south, a proposed harbor LNG receiving terminal backed by a joint venture of Mitsubishi Corp. and ConocoPhillips in the Sound Energy Solutions (SES) project group is counting on a California Superior Court hearing in Los Angeles Oct. 31 to force the completion of a joint environmental review that was close to being concluded by the Port of Long Beach and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
"Sometime shortly thereafter we would expect a ruling from the court," SES Executive Vice President Tom Giles told NGI last Tuesday. Talks with the city are "ongoing," said Giles, noting "we see and talk to people from the city all the time, but we do need to win this court case. If we do, I think we are going to have lots of support."
Giles thinks a favorable court ruling will force the draft EIS and environmental impact report (EIR) to be completed, and that in turn will allow SES to get the go-ahead eventually to begin building its proposed $800 million, 1 Bcf/d receiving terminal.
"The Harbor Commission wrongly curtailed an established environmental process that is designed to objectively evaluate the project on a comprehensive basis and provide the facts to government agencies and the public so they can make an informed decision," Giles said last February at the time of the company court filing.
While the court cannot force the Long Beach city government to begin negotiating again for a lease and pipeline right-of-way, Giles said he expects the final EIS/EIR to be "positive" and, if it is, SES will be "in a good position to move the project forward."
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