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Campaign Successfully Stops Liquefied Natural Gas Pipeline and Export Terminal Oregon, 2005-2012
On 8 August 2007, Columbia Riverkeeper, a group dedicated to the environmental restoration of the Columbia River, launched a protest against the proposed plant. Two hundred protesters picketed on the beach at the proposed site and sailed into the river in kayaks holding signs and banners.
On 6 February 2008, 200 protestors gathered outside of the State Capitol in Salem Oregon, demonstrating against the Bradwood Landing LNG project and two others slated to go forward in the state, one farther to the west of Astoria and one on the southern Oregon coast. Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and Oregon House Speaker and future US Senator Jeff Merkley, who both condemned the terminals, joined the protesters. Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski responded with a statement supporting the terminals and arguing that they would help the state decrease its dependency on coal and hydropower.
In order to go forward with the western portion of the pipeline project, NW Natural and Palomar had to seek a zoning change on a piece of property through which the pipeline would run. On 20 March 2008, the Clatsop County Commission voted to change local land-use laws to allow for natural gas pipelines on property zoned for open space, such as parks and recreation.
In response to the zoning change, Columbia Riverkeeper, Columbia River Business Alliance and the Northwest Property Rights Coalition launched a petition to put the zoning change on the county ballot, challenging the authority of the commission. On 15 April 2008, NothernStar Natural Gas filed an injunction to block the referendum, arguing that it was not a legislative decision and therefore could not be a valid ballot measure. Clatsop County Clerk Fred Neal processed the referendum, however, after hearing a legal opinion from the county judge dismissing the injunction, citing that, since it changed zoning law, it was legislative and thus a valid referendum topic.
Campaigners gathered 607 valid signatures to force the referendum onto the September 2008 ballot. On 16 September 2008, Clatsop County voters rejected the zoning change in a 67% to 33% vote, blocking the changes needed for the pipeline project. After the vote, NorthernStar successfully subverted the zoning law by petitioning the landowner to rezone his property, which allowed the pipeline project to continue.
On 18 September 2008, the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) approved the Bradwood Landing terminal. Columbia Riverkeeper immediately filed an appeal with FERC, arguing that they did not properly consider the negative impacts of dredging on salmon habitat in the Columbia River. Columbia Riverkeeper also urged the state to appeal the FERC process, which they subsequently did under the direction of the now skeptical governor Kulongoski.
Throughout 2008 and 2009, Columbia Riverkeeper filed two separate appeals to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), arguing that Clatsop County had not properly analyzed the size and scale of the facility for the site, which was designated for a “medium” size development. Riverkeeper asserted that the massive facility and 17 story storage tanks could not possibly be considered medium in scale. Additionally, they argued that research showed Bradwood Landing was a particularly popular spot for juvenile salmon, and that the county had not properly taken into consideration environmental protections when granting the proposal. Both appeals to LUBA proved successful, and the board kicked the issues back to the county for further analysis before granting any permits.
In 2009, Bark (an organization dedicated to protecting the Mount Hood National Forest), along with other environmental groups, filed a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior over a 2005 Energy Policy Act that streamlined the approval process for projects like the Palomar Pipeline. The suit contended that “original designations didn't facilitate renewable energy development, failed to look at environmental consequences and provided insufficient protections for public lands within the designated corridors.”
On 24 September 2009, protesters organized another rally in downtown Astoria, supporting recall efforts against the the three county commissioners who voted to support the permitting process for the pipeline and facility.
After a long permitting process, NorthernStar Natural Gas officially suspended the Bradwood Landing terminal project on 4 May 2010, citing delays in the permitting process and an unfavorable investment environment. The next day, NorthernStar Natural Gas filed for bankruptcy.
Northwest Natural Gas subsequently cancelled the western portion of the proposed Palomar pipeline but clarified that they would press forward with the eastern portion of the pipeline as an additional and necessary supply route for the Pacific Northwest.
In response to the changes in the proposal, 200 protesters from Columbia Riverkeeper, Bark and others gathered with former secretary of state Bill Bradbury to protest the proposed pipeline outside the board meeting for NW Natural in the convention district of Portland Oregon on 27 May 2010.
On 2 March 2011, The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the 2008 FERC license for the Bradwood Landing Terminal, based upon the lawsuit brought by Columbia Riverkeeper and the state of Oregon. This officially ended the project.
Subsequently, Palomar Pipeline Company and Northwest Natural withdrew their FERC application for the Palomar pipeline on 23 March 2011, citing a decrease in demand for natural gas but remained committed to restarting the project in the future.
Later in July 2012, Bark won its lawsuit against the 2005 Energy Policy Act, and in the settlement successfully designated the proposed path for the Palomar pipeline as a “no go zone” for energy development projects due to the environmentally sensitive nature of the area, effectively ending discussion of revitalizing the Palomar pipeline proposal.