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Natural gas terminal gets OK from feds

Oregon, Washington must approve project along Columbia

WASHINGTON – A federal commission approved a liquefied natural gas terminal along the Columbia River on Thursday – the first such terminal on the West Coast to receive such approval.

The vote was 4-1. Advocates on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, including Chairman Joseph Kelliher, said the terminal will help provide needed energy for the region and the country.

The $650 million Bradwood Landing project, proposed for Bradwood, Ore., 20 miles east of Astoria, would import superchilled natural gas aboard tankers and warm it so it can be distributed regionally in pipelines.

The commission imposed more than 100 conditions that it said would help ensure safety and mitigate environmental damage from the plant.

The plant’s developer, Houston-based NorthernStar Natural Gas, must obtain state-level permits before it can start construction. Officials hope to begin work in late 2009 and be operational by 2013.

Officials called the FERC vote a significant milestone that positions the project to help the supply natural gas to the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

“We are certainly pleased with the FERC decision,” said Joe Desmond, senior vice president with NorthernStar Natural Gas. “It represents 3 1/2 years of work, and we are satisfied we can meet the 109 conditions identified by FERC.”

Desmond and other officials said the company will work with Oregon and Washington to secure state approvals.

But Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski said the state will ask federal officials to conduct a new hearing on the project to ensure that concerns of the state and local communities are addressed. A rehearing is an administrative step that must be taken before parties initiate legal action.

“Today’s decision by the federal government lacks accountability to the environment and the people of Oregon,” Kulongoski said in a statement. “The commission has decided to ignore the law and instead approve a project with incomplete mitigation plans and without regard to Oregon’s important concerns.”

Brent Foster, executive director for Columbia Riverkeeper, an environmental group, said the FERC action was no surprise.

“We expected FERC to rubber-stamp the LNG project from day one,” Foster said. “At this point Oregon needs to use all the authority it has to stop this project.”

Foster said he is confident state officials will move to stop the project because Oregon Treasurer Randall Edwards and Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, who along with Kulongoski constitute the State Land Board, have announced they oppose liquefied natural gas projects in Oregon.

The State Land Board approves leases for state lands.

The Bradwood Landing terminal and its 38-mile pipeline would create more than 450 jobs during construction and 65 permanent jobs while contributing more than $7.8 million annually in taxes to Clatsop County, Ore., company officials say.

The project is one of three proposed liquefied natural gas terminals in Oregon that have raised the ire of some residents and most of Oregon’s congressional delegation.