Reacting to a U.S. Coast Guard report on river waterway suitability, a local congressman stepped out Monday to oppose NorthernStar Natural Gas Co.'s proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal at Bradwood Landing on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. With a district in southwest Washington that borders parts of the proposed facility's shipping lanes, Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) said a recently released waterway suitability report provides "enough compelling evidence" to oppose the LNG terminal.

Local economic, environmental and people impacts are too great "to justify moving forward on this one project," Baird said. The report talks about protective measures, such as a moving 500-yard security/safety zone on all sides of the LNG ships as they move up the Columbia River. A final environmental impact assessment is expected later this year.

NorthernStar characterized the report as approving LNG ship traffic on the Columbia River with certain mitigation measures. "The Coast Guard determined that with improvements to navigation, safety and security, the Columbia is suitable for LNG carriers," the company said.

"The Coast Guard's report acknowledges the outstanding safety record of LNG carriers while recommending enhancements to navigation, safety and security that we whole-heartily endorse," NorthernStar said. "The report also confirms our expectations that LNG vessels will have a similar impact on traffic as other deep-draft vessels that navigate the river today."

Citing concerns from constituents, some of whom would have property impacted by the proposed facility, Baird acknowledged that there may be some local benefits to the project, such as new jobs and gas supplies, but what he called "the overall negative impact" on the river system dividing Washington and Oregon outweighs those positives.

Baird cited three main areas of concern:

"While we are still awaiting the results of the environmental impact study (EIS), I have a number of concerns about the project's impact on the environment," Baird said in a statement. "Even if all of the safety and security measures are taken, the impact on the environment and economy remains unknown. Both commercial and recreational fishing industries could be adversely affected."

A NorthernStar said improvements to the river to allow LNG tanker traffic would benefit all users of the Columbia River. A spokesperson said the company hopes for a final approval of its project by the end of 2007.

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