Accusations fly in latest LNG battle

February 25th Larry Knudsen, Assistant Attorney
General with the Natural Resources Section of Oregon’s Department of
Justice wrote a letter to Northern Star’s (Bradwood Landing) attorney
and to Columbia Riverkeeper’s (CRK)
director/attorney. In the letter Knudsen gave an update on the progress
of two of the permits that Bradwood Landing had before Oregon’s
Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Northern Star’s Bradwood Landing project is applying for permits to site an LNG
storage facility on private property in Clatsop County on what was once
a saw mill site and is currently zoned for marine industrial, using
private money from investors. Columbia Riverkeepers, a regional branch
of a private organization which monitors the use of rivers throughout
the country, opposes the project mainly because they say that spending
money on fossil fuel projects takes away from “green” projects. {{more}}

In the bitter conflict between the two adversaries both
continue to accuse the other of “duping” the public with
“misinformation”. In the latest confrontation between the two, Columbia
Riverkeepers appealed land use law decisions made by Clatsop County
Board of County Commissioners to Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals as
Respondent-Interveners. Their arguments, along with the Columbia River
Inter-tribal Fish Commission’s and Dunzer’s, were addressed in LUBA’s
final decision.

LUBA had three
choices of decisions to render when considering the appeal. The state
agency could uphold the Board’s decision. They could reverse (overturn)
the Board’s decision or they could remand it back to the Board for
further clarification (send it back to be fixed).

The
Inter-tribal Fish Council lost on all eight points it was contesting,
and the Board’s decisions were upheld. Dunzer lost on both points he
was contesting and CRK lost on 21 issues, with the Board’s decision’s being upheld on each. Two decisions that CRK contested were remanded back to the BOCC. None of the land use decisions were reversed.

Knudsen clarified that because the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) remanded two decisions back to the Clatsop County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) the permit for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and the permit for the Air Contaminant Discharge Permit (ACDP)
would more than likely be denied and recommended that Bradwood Landing
formally agree to continue the suspension of permitting activities for
the two permits until the remanded decisions were resolved.

The
letter went on to update the recipients regarding additional matters
that Bradwood Landing had not yet applied for, explaining what needed
to be accomplished for the NPDES to be issued for “construction stormwater permits or registration under the 1200 C general permit for the proposed pipeline.”

Upon receiving the letter Columbia Riverkeepers sent out a press release informing media that DEQ had stopped reviewing all permits. Columbia Riverkeeper’s press release stated:

First, Clatsop County Citizens for Common Sense passed a referendum on September 16, 2008 that barred LNG pipelines in protected areas. Second, Columbia Riverkeeper and partners won a challenge at the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) that overturned the county’s approval of Bradwood Landing. Based on these two victories, DEQ has suspended review of all permits for the LNG terminal and pipeline.

Bradwood Landing quickly issued its rebuttal:

A
letter sent yesterday by the Oregon Department of Justice on behalf of
the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality addresses procedural
matters relating to processing certain permits for Bradwood Landing,
but in no way constitutes a suspension of work … “The permitting
process associated with an LNG terminal and
pipeline is highly complex,” said Joe Desmond, senior vice president
for external affairs for NorthernStar Natural Gas. “It consists of
hundreds of local, state and federal permits, many of which are
connected to other permits. In addition, there are overlapping and
interdependent schedules for review and processing.” The DOJ letter makes clear that the State has not stopped processing all of our permits.

The
Columbia Riverkeeper’s point of view is that Northern Star’s Bradwood
Landing project has met a critical point in its permitting process. “DEQ’s
action of suspending the permits is another major blow to Bradwood
Landing,” stated Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia
Riverkeeper. “Bradwood is trying to push through an incredibly
unpopular project, but sixty-seven percent of Clatsop voters rejected
the pipeline and LUBA overturned the rest.
Considering the broad state-wide opposition and Bradwood’s legal
problesm, I don’t see this as a viable project.”

Bradwood Landing counters, in its press releases, that the recent development with DEQ is par for the course when dealing with permitting agencies.

The critical point for the public to understand is that these permits are NOT
on the project’s critical path, which means there is flexibility within
the overall schedule to work through these types of delays until such
time that DEQ can issue its final decision.
Starting and stopping a clock is standard practice for any agency
reviewing an application. We will be meeting with DEQ in the near future to discuss the appropriate next steps.

Columbia Riverkeepers also restated in its press release that they, and assorted interveners, had prevailed in the LUBA appeal. The following parties prevailed in the LUBA
appeal: Columbia Riverkeeper, Columbia River Business Alliance, Oregon
Chapter of the Sierra Club, Columbia River Clean Energy Coalition, Jack
Marincovich, and Peter Huhtala (represented by Jan Wilson of the
Western Environmental Law Center) and the Columbia River Inter-tribal
Fish Commission (represented by Julie Cater).

As
previously stated, Columbia Riverkeepers and its co-interveners asked
that the land use decisions made by the Clatsop County Board of County
Commissioners be reversed (overturned). In point of fact, Columbia
Riverkeepers requests, as well as all those by the rest of the
co-interveners, were denied. None of their over 30 arguments convinced LUBA
to reverse any of the Board’s decisions. The Clatsop County Board of
County Commissioners land use decisions were upheld, with only two
issues being remanded back to the Board for further clarification.

Columbia Riverkeepers then accused BWL of “continuously” deceiving the public and agencies in its application for the Bradwood Pipeline.

New
evidence shows that NorthernStar Natural Gas Company has a binding
commitment to deliver all of the gas imported to its proposed Bradwood
Landing LNG terminal to the Palomar Pipeline
in Oregon. Therefore, the pipeline that Bradwood Landing has proposed
through Cowlitz County (known as the “Bradwood pipeline” and shown on
map in green) is unnecessary because all of the gas is committed to
travel though the Palomar Pipeline. Bradwood has performed a
bait-and-switch, wasting tremendous resources at FERC, federal agencies, the State of Washington, and Cowlitz County, as well affected landowners.

Bradwood countered in its press release that CRK “fundamentally” misunderstands the Bradwood Landing project and the workings of interstate gas pipelines.

The paper’s conclusion is fundamentally flawed – even the title itself was wrong. Since BWL
does not own the gas, it cannot commit to where the gas goes. Our
customers will make that decision. That is how we’ve previously
explained the Precedent Agreement.

As determined by FERC
and Clatsop County, Bradwood Landing has “independent utility” and will
be constructed regardless of whether or not the Palomar pipeline is
constructed. The objective of the Bradwood Landing pipeline is to
deliver 1.3 Bcfd of natural gas into the Northwest gas market; the
proposed route meets this objective, regardless of whether Palomar is
built.

Columbia Riverkeepers went on
to state that there is “new” evidence that Bradwood’s intent was to
pump all of its gas through Palomar. In doing so, CRK
alleged, Bradwood raised serious doubts as to whether the application
for the Bradwood pipeline was in bad faith if Bradwood already had an
agreement to ship the gas via the Palomar Pipeline. Bradwood’s
own Securities and Exchange Commission filings show that Bradwood
intended to use Palomar as early as 2006. Bradwood stated: “we have
recently submitted a request for service to TransCanada and NW Natural
for their open season under which they would construct, own and operate
a pipeline that would connect the Bradwood terminal to Williams’
Northwest pipeline at Molalla and TransCanada’s GTN Pipeline near Mollala.

Bradwood Landing responded by stating that the “new” evidence CRK
was referring to has been a part of its permitting process for over two
years, and went on to show the timeline for its applications.

Northern Star initiated the pre-filing process for the Bradwood Landing LNG
terminal and associated pipeline on February 23, 2005, Palomar Pipeline
initiated the pre-filing process on August 20, 2007. The Bradwood
Landing project was proposed to FERC nearly
2 ½ years prior to the Palomar project. In addition, Bradwood began
working with the State of Oregon through its Energy Facility Siting
Council in 2004 and received a project order for the Bradwood terminal
and pipeline in 2005, again two years before Palomar was proposed to FERC.

The
Bradwood Landing project consists of the Bradwood Landing Terminal and
Bradwood Landing Pipeline, the Bradwood Landing project has
“independent utility.” It would have made no sense, argues BWL,
to suggest building a holding facility without a pipeline to get the
gas to the market at the time that the project first began working with
the State of Oregon in 2004. It makes no sense, now, BWL argues, to suggest that BWL would continue to spend millions of dollars in the permitting process for a pipeline that was not going to be used.

Columbia Riverkeepers continues to assert, as can be seen in its last two press releases,
that the gas that is coming from the Bradwood Landing holding tanks is
intended for California, with Oregon merely being a “conduit”.

  • Columbia Riverkeeper and local citizens have argued since 2006
    that the Bradwood pipeline does not make sense because there is no way
    for the gas to get to California.
  • The Palomar Pipeline leads directly to the California-bound GTN pipeline so nearly all of the Bradwood Landing gas now has a direct conduit to California.
  • Considering that Bradwood has an agreement to use Palomar to take the gas to California, this report is highly deceptive.
  • However, it is clear that Bradwood needs Palomar to serve California markets.

    In fact, Columbia Riverkeepers is protesting all of Palomar’s
    permitting process in Oregon at local, state and federal levels, in the
    hope of blocking its ability to come into Oregon from the Rockies.
    While protesting the pipeline, Columbia Riverkeepers has referred to
    the Oregon Department of Energy’s report to Governor Kulongoski which opined that LNG
    was not needed. Oregon Department of Energy went on to predicate its
    determination on the assumption that natural gas from the Midwest would
    be able to adequately supply Oregon along with what is provided from
    Canada.

    Although CRK continues to use the DOE report as a reason why LNG is not needed, CRK has refused to clarify the discrepancy -that it continues to fight the very thing that makes the DOE report on imported LNG
    a valid argument. The following week a memo from Oregon’s Public
    Utilities Commission to Governor Kulongoski stated that Oregon is
    served primarily by Canadian natural gas that is shipped via a pipeline
    through Washington. “Oregon also receives natural gas from the Rocky
    Mountain states via the Northwest Pipeline that accesses the Opal Hub
    in Wyoming.” The memo went on to report that about 70% of Northwest
    natural gas comes from Canada. The Northwest pipeline from Wyoming is
    currently operating at or near capacity.

    The press releases are contained in the NorthCoastOregon article Lng press releases accuse deception.

    A related article regarding the Oregon Department of Energy
    report and the Oregon Public Utility memo to Governor Kulongoski can be
    read at NorthCoastOregon’s PUC memo says LNG storage could benefit the state.