NorthernStar Natural Gas's proposed Columbia River liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal site in Oregon received approval last Thursday from the local county elected commission for the rezoning it needs to develop the Bradwood Landing project. Clatsop County Commissioners voted 4-1 to allow the rezoning of land formerly used for a lumber mill, town and deep-water port. Next up is the completion of the federal environmental assessment that winds up public comments later in December.

NorthernStar said that based on the elected commission's vote, the company now will work with the county to prepare "findings consistent with the board's discussion for final approval," which will come at a subsequent commission meeting.

NorthernStar President Paul Soanes said this approval will allow the company to proceed with plans for constructing the terminal, and that construction eventually "will bring good jobs to Clatsop County, but more importantly, will help secure a more stable energy future for the states of Oregon and Washington."

The LNG proponents emphasized the need for additional natural gas supplies in the Pacific Northwest and the diversity of imports being good for gas-on-gas competition from the region's traditional sources in western Canada and the Rockies. LNG imports will "insulate the regional economy from the ripple effects of higher energy costs, while boosting employment in the county," a local Bradwood Landing spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, anotherOregon LNG project was left waiting Thursday, but with some positive expectations it will clear another local hurdle in its permitting processes before Christmas. The Jordan Cove Energy Project LP at Coos Bay hopes to wrap up a second key local permit by Wednesday, its project manager told NGI last week.

<>Coos County Commissioners Thursday unanimously approved the conditions associated with the port permit for the Jordan Cove project's slip, but the elected board will not officially sign off on the findings until Wednesday (Dec. 19), according to Bob Braddock, project manager for Jordan Cove and a principal in a private equity group that is bankrolling part of the project along with Alberta-based Fort Chicago Energy Partners LP. Jordan Cove officials, however, now have to wait until mid-January for indications from FERC on the project's environmental review schedule.

NorthernStar's project needed Thursday's favorable vote to allow zoning variances for it proposed LNG terminal site, located 30 miles east from Astoria, OR, at the mouth of the Columbia River. Despite a staff recommendation for denial, the Clatsop County Planning Committee last August recommended approval of the zoning changes on a 4-3 vote.

Increasingly, NorthernStar has made it clear that it expects to have a permit and begin construction next year, despite the fact that opponents of the project are likely to challenge the favorable local county decision before the Oregon Land-Use Appeals Board. The project's environmental review at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is moving along so far with no hitches. Last August, the FERC staff indicated that with "proper mitigation," the project should get a favorable nod.

Public comment on the FERC's draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for Bradwood is open through Dec. 24, the Bradwood spokesperson said. "FERC staff will then respond to all of the comments it has received before issuing a final EIS. "Additionally, we will continue to work with Oregon natural resource agencies for related state permits."

NorthernStar said Bradwood Landing's construction would create 450 jobs spread over three years and, once completed, would create 65 permanent jobs at the facility and associated maritime trades with wages averaging more than twice the current average wage in Clatsop County. In addition, the Bradwood terminal would pay more than $7.8 million annually in property taxes to the county.

Another benefit cited by the company is a Salmon Enhancement Initiative that it claims would ensure that the project creates a net benefit for the ecology of the Lower Columbia River and represents the largest private financial commitment to watershed restoration on the Columbia. The initiative would provide up to $59 million during the life of the project for watershed and critical habitat restoration.

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