NorthernStar Energy LLC received an unfavorable review this week from the Clatsop County (OR) Planning Commission staff’s updated report, which follows an earlier recommendation for denial of zoning changes for the proposed Bradford Landing liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal along the Columbia River in Oregon. NorthernStar, however, said it was unconcerned.

A public hearing on the 70-page staff document is scheduled for Wednesday, and the county planning unit is expected to make its recommendation to the elected county commission by mid-September.

“There is nothing in there [the staff report] that we cannot comply with,” said NorthernStar Astoria, OR-based project spokesperson Charles Deister in a brief interview Friday with NGI. “We don’t expect much to happen at the next planning commission meeting [Aug. 29],” said Deister, but he acknowledged that local opposition groups would likely appear, along with local labor and business groups that are actively supporting the plans for the $600 million terminal.

Deister said the LNG terminal backers have made progress in resolving issues with the planning staff, and by the time the county commission makes a final determination, he expects the company and staff to be in total agreement. “We were maybe 70% in agreement, and now we’re roughly 90% in agreement, he said.

Meanwhile, a favorable draft environmental assessment on the Bradford Landing project from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is on a separate track, and local public hearings will be held in Oregon this fall (see Daily GPI, Aug. 21).

Part of the county planning staff report acknowledged that the project sponsors had “done much to resolve deficiencies identified by staff in [its] June 28 report,” citing road improvements, creation of a decommissioning plan and increased emergency response resources. “The applicant also has modified its original findings and submitted additional evidence, thereby strengthening the applications

“We commend the applicant for those substantial improvements but believe that the application still fails to satisfy key approval criteria.”

With a public record that closed earlier in August, the Clatsop planning staff said overall it was sticking with its June 28 recommendation that the planning commission recommend that the county board of commissioners deny Bradwood Landing’s application. The staff noted that there were changes to parts of the June 28 report in the latest version, which addresses 25 separate areas or issues, ranging from the number of LNG storage tanks planned and LNG ship traffic on the Columbia River to public safety, access and pollution/greenhouse gas emissions.

The planning staff said it recommended against “outright approval” or a “conditioned approval” because NorthernStar’s “application has failed to satisfy key approval criteria related to the proposed amendment of the Bradwood Subarea Plan, the proposed rezoning (AC-2 to AD), public safety, and soil disposal. We further believe that these deficiencies cannot be resolved through conditions of approval.”

Part of the disagreement centers on the developers’ contention that if zoning standards can be met through conditions, then an application should be approved. The planning staff specifically stated its disagreement with this, citing the state statute governing local government approving land-use changes.

“We think it is unlikely that new evidence or extended review will change [some deficiencies],” the planning staff said. “We further believe that not all deficiencies can be resolved through conditions of approval.”

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