On Thursday, Sept. 18th, 4 of 5 Commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) voted in favor of granting NorthernStar's Bradwood LNG proposal a conditional license to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal on the Columbia river. On Tuesday, Sept. 16th, voters of Clatsop County overwhelmingly rejected changes to county law that would facilitate the Bradwood LNG project and its pipeline. So where do we stand with Bradwood LNG?
The ball is in the State of Oregon's court. If key agencies such as Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Dept. of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD), deny the project necessary permits,than the Bradwood LNG project will be unable to move forward. If the agencies take seriously the vote just taken by Clatsop County voters, then they will not move forward with permits for the project. DEQ and DLCD typically require land use consistency as a prerequisite for processing permits, and the referendum vote resoundingly rejected Bradwood's attempt to rewrite local laws to bring the project into compliance with land us regulations. As of Tuesday, Bradwood LNG DOES NOT comply with local land use laws, despite Bradwood's commitment in County hearings to do so.
The FERC decision was a foregone conclusion. Surprisingly, one Commissioner wrote a strong dissent that cited the Pacific NW's enormous potential for energy conservation and renewable energy as a reason why he would vote against Bradwood. Commissioner Wellinghoff was the only FERC Commissioner to actually visit Oregon, and he voted "No" to Bradwood.
Now, the State of Oregon will need to decide whether agencies will issue permits for this project. If they refuse to do so, than Houston-based NorthernStar's project cannot move forward. Key permits include:
- Clean Water Act permit in Oregon and Washington. Either State can and should deny the permits for a project that is demonstrably inconsistent with our water quality and habitat protection laws.
- Coastal Zone Management Act permit. The project does not comply with local land use laws, and it violates protections for estuarine habitat. The State can veto the project by determining that Bradwood does not comply with the CZMA.
- State Land Leases. Bradwood needs leases from the Department of State Lands, and these leases can and will be reviewed by the State Lands Board. The current 3-member board includes Governor Kulongoski, Treasurer Randall Edwards, and Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. Two of these three - Edwards and Bradbury - are strongly opposed to Bradwood and other LNG projects in Oregon.
- Water Rights. Bradwood LNG has requested up to 15 billion gallons per year of Columbia River water for regasification and cooling of LNG tanker engines. This huge withdrawal would suck in endangered juvenile salmon and would pump heated water back out into critical salmon habitat.
The States of Oregon and Washington have both vowed to challenge the FERC decision, but LNG opponents are calling on them to go further and not to issue they key permits listed above.
On the grassroots level, the referendum was a huge victory (67 percent voted NO - against Bradwood's requested law changes), and it's incredibly encouraging that both Governor Gregoire and Governor Kulongoski will sue to challenge FERC's decision and to preserve that State's authority on this issue. This is a direct result of public pressure, and more pressure will be needed to make sure that no permits are issued from the State of Oregon for the Bradwood project.
For more information, go to nolng.net.