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NW Business-Labor Coalition Turns Up Heat in Oregon

More than a million natural gas customers are going to be added in Oregon and Washington during the next 20 years, according to business-labor coalition Energy Action Northwest, and it behooves the keepers of the region's infrastructure to prepare for the growth. However, that is not happening fast enough for Edward Finklea, an energy attorney and executive director of the coalition.

Finklea wants Oregon officials to more fully support liquefied natural gas (LNG) and other gas infrastructure in the region he said in testimony to an Oregon state legislative committee opposing legislation (HB 2015) he thinks is anti-LNG (see Daily GPI, April 20). Finklea followed up the testimony with an opinion column in the Salem, OR, Statesman-Journal on Friday.

"On top of customer growth, we also expect rapid growth in the use of natural gas to generate electricity," Finklea said in his column under the headline "The need for natural gas: Let's not wait to miss it when it's gone."

Finklea said that despite "indisputable facts," opponents of three proposed LNG terminals and pipelines in Oregon "continue to claim that new infrastructure development has been proposed solely to increase the market for natural gas in the Northwest, rather than to respond to irrefutable projections of increased need."

Citizens in the region are now confused because they are hearing one message from the energy proponents and another from the Oregon state officials, said Finklea, who thinks that the residents in the two states have a "right" to expect that the energy needed to heat homes and power generating plants will be available and "not be held hostage to extreme views that damage, rather than advance, our energy future."

Finklea and the coalition are billing their efforts as "The Great Energy Reality Check of 2009." The testimony and newspaper advertising and opinion columns are all geared to gaining more widespread support for new infrastructure.

Finklea said projections call for a 66.2% increase in population in Oregon, or 478,000 new gas customers by 2028, and another 55.2% jump in population in Washington, or an added 626,000 people during the next 20 years.

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