A private opinion poll and mailing among voters in an upcoming county ballot referendum has sparked a controversy in Oregon aimed at NorthernStar Natural Gas and its proposed Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal along the Oregon side of the Columbia River a few miles from where the river and Pacific Ocean meet. Part of the proposed project would include a natural gas transmission pipeline to take the regasified LNG supplies about 125 miles east to major transmission pipelines in the load center in and around Portland and the Willamette Valley.

A Clatsop County ballot measure set for a Sept. 16 special election asks for voter approval on gas pipelines, sewer lines and cable television lines going through lands reserved for open space and recreation. NorthernStar supposedly quietly supported an opinion poll of voters without disclosing the expenditure, although the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office subsequently confirmed that the Bradwood Landing developers did file documents noting that they spent $12,500 on the survey and another $17,000 on a mailing of the results to voters.

LNG opponents and ballot measure supporters are arguing that pipelines could ruin the open space; NorthernStar supporters are countering that the activist groups are misleading voters.

Opponents of the LNG terminal accused the company in news media reports of violating state elections law. One environmental group opponent said the action groups had forced NorthernStar to admit it was behind the so-called “push poll” and campaign mailing, but it still violated campaign funding laws and should be held responsible. The anti-LNG groups are sponsoring the ballot measure, and NorthernStar’s chief spokesperson said they were “wrong” in accusing the company of violating state law.

“The expenditures Bradwood filed last week were for expenses made within the time frame allowed for reporting,” said NorthernStar’s Joseph Desmond, senior vice president for external affairs. “Contrary to the claims being made, Bradwood has never engaged in so-called push polling. This is simply an attempt by referendum sponsors to draw attention to their issue by inventing news.”

Desmond said he is confident the company will be vindicated by any subsequent review of the situation. He said the expenditures were reported in accordance with Oregon’s campaign finance rules.

“What’s more disturbing it that it appears referendum sponsors are purposely trying to mislead voters in a postcard mailed to Clatsop County voters last week (Aug. 18-22). They implied that LNG pipelines are threatening parks. There is no such thing as an ‘LNG pipeline;’ there are only natural gas pipelines.

“Referendum sponsors have attended the many local public hearings on our project and they are formal intervenors in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process. They have access to the public record and all our filings that clearly show that our pipeline would not impact any parks.”

In actuality, Desmond said, the LNG foes don’t tell voters that the proposed natural gas pipeline will traverse private — not public — land.

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