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Wyden Opposes Routing Palomar Through Oregon Forest

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is seeking to block the U.S. Forest Service's efforts to allow the construction of the 211-mile Palomar Gas Transmission pipeline through areas of Mt. Hood National Forest east of Portland, OR.

"I request that you immediately rescind the proposed amendment for this purpose, which would dramatically alter the landscape of Oregon's most heavily used forests," he wrote in a recent letter to Gail Kimbell, head of the Agriculture Department's Forest Service.

Construction of the Palomar line, which is expected to connect to the proposed Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Clatsop County, OR, also is "premature" in light of the fact that the Bradwood facility "may never be constructed since the state of Oregon as well as other state, federal and tribal agencies are opposing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's [FERC] decision to allow the construction of Bradwood," Wyden said.

In late November the Forest Service issued a notice seeking comments on how its Mt. Hood National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan should be amended to accommodate the Palomar pipeline for the Pacific Northwest. Approximately 47 miles of the pipeline, a joint venture of TransCanada Corp. and NW Natural, would be located in Mt. Hood National Forest. The proposed route would directly affect approximately 709 acres of national forest system land, of which about 106 acres would be old-growth forest, and it would also cross the Clackamas River, a federally designated wild and scenic river, according to the notice. Comments are due by today (Jan. 5).

In mid-September FERC, responding to a mass of concerns by opponents and critics, attached 109 safety conditions and mitigation measures to its order approving the Bradwood LNG terminal project, the first LNG import facility that would serve rising natural gas demand in the Pacific Northwest. However, even FERC commissioners raised doubts about whether the facilities would ever be built (see NGI, Sept. 22, 2008).

A number of parties have since asked the Commission to reconsider its decision, including the state of Oregon, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service, according to Wyden. "Given that the actual construction of Bradwood is not, and should not, be considered a certainty, it seems unnecessary to move forward on plans to construct a pipeline that would connect to it," he said.

Palomar Gas Transmission last month filed an application at FERC to build the natural gas pipeline to move Rocky Mountain gas into markets in the Willamette Valley of northwest Oregon and the West Coast's I-5 corridor (see NGI, Dec. 15, 2008).

If the certificate is approved by FERC by the end of 2009, Palomar said it could begin construction in 2010 with a target in-service date of November 2011. Palomar would be only the second interstate gas pipeline to serve customers in Oregon's Williamette Valley and southwestern Washington state.

The project calls for the construction of a 211-mile, 36-inch diameter pipeline that would connect TransCanada's existing Gas Transmission Northwest pipeline in central Oregon with Northwest Pipeline's Grants Pass Lateral and NW Natural's distribution system near Molalla, OR, approximately 30 miles southeast of Portland (see NGI, June 2, 2008). The project also would include a western segment to allow deliveries along NW Natural's distribution system west and north of Molalla. It would have the capability to transport up to 1.3 Bcf/d, according to Palomar.

As currently designed, the Palomar project would provide NW Natural with additional access to the interstate pipeline grid via an interconnect near the town of Molalla, as well as connect it with the proposed Bradwood Landing facilities.

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