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OR LNG Backers Fight Referendum, Get Big Local OK

Facing a ballot measure by its opponents that it alleges is illegal, NorthernStar Natural Gas's proposed Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal along the Columbia River in Oregon received county approval for upgrading its three-mile-long access road to the site as a last major local permitting milestone, the company announced. Bradwood Landing now looks to the final FERC environmental impact report expected around late June as its next major milestone, a Portland, OR-based spokesperson told NGI last Wednesday.

More immediately, the company lashed out against a referendum being pursued by opponents attempting to ask voters to decide on land-use decisions already made by the Clatsop County Commission. Bradwood Landing last Tuesday sought an injunction against the proposed referendum, arguing that under Oregon law a local land-use decision cannot be subject to referendum, according to Bradwood.

"The county arrived at its decision after nine months of extensive public input, testimony and debate," said Joseph Desmond, NorthernStar senior vice president for external affairs, who noted that there were "countless appellate decisions" supporting the state Land Use Board of Appeals as the only entity that can reverse local land-use decisions.

Calling it a waste of taxpayers' time and money, NorthernStar said the LNG opponents themselves have admitted that the referendum wouldn't halt the LNG project.

Separately, the Clatsop Board voted 3-1 to allow the upgrades, but without "substantially extending the right-of-way of the access road," NorthernStar said. The company called the work "significant upgrades" that it claims will provide safer access to a nearby highway for other property owners along the road. The LNG developer is paying for all the upgrades.

For the three-mile stretch, Bradwood will be widening, straightening and repaving the road to increase its current 15-mile per hour (mph) speed limit to 35 mph, a move that will allow access time to the LNG site from Highway 30 to be cut 35%, NorthernStar CEO William "Si" Garrett said.

"The upgraded road will provide a means of safe and efficient passage for emergency vehicles and all other traffic during both construction and operation," Garrett said.

Late in March the five-member Clatsop Commission voted 4-1 to reaffirm its approval of the proposed Bradwood Landing terminal that is to be located 18 miles east of Astoria, OR. The elected county leaders reiterated a previous vote to approve land-use changes sought by NorthernStar and the county's conditions for approval. However, in a subsequent March 25 recall election local voters by a 2-1 margin ousted Commissioner Richard Lee, who had supported land-use changes for the proposed LNG terminal.

There remains a vocal contingent of local opponents to the Bradwood Landing site, which would be the first on the West Coast of the United States. Along the North Baja California Pacific Coast in Mexico Sempra Energy plans to begin receiving LNG shipments by the end of June at the first LNG receiving site along the West Coast of North America.

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