Oregon court rules against Clatsop pipeline

County changed mind, wants to block LNG plan

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PORTLAND — Clatsop County can change its mind and block a pipeline that could carry natural gas to an LNG terminal at the mouth of the Columbia River, the Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled.

The ruling paves the way for the county to make final a decision against zoning for the line to feed Oregon LNG's proposed terminal at Warrenton.

The county commission approved zoning for the 41-mile pipeline in 2010. Four months later, a newly elected slate of commissioners reversed the decision.

In a lawsuit, the company argued the first decision was irreversible. The Court of Appeals disagreed in a ruling handed down Wednesday. County officials said they are reviewing the decision before they finish making the zoning decision final.

Three LNG terminals have been proposed in Oregon.

Local opposition led backers to drop plans for another LNG terminal, upriver from Astoria, in 2010.

A third terminal project, at Coos Bay, remains active.

Originally, the terminals were envisioned as a means to import liquefied gas, but technological advances touched off a boom in domestic exploration and production. After that, the LNG proposals began to focus on exporting domestic supplies to Asia.

In the summer, Oregon LNG launched a new bid for federal approval of the Warrenton terminal, which it switched from an import proposal to a mixed-use project that could export gas to Asia, where prices are much higher. It has been holding public meetings with federal regulators on a new environmental impact statement.

Representatives of the company did not respond to a call and email from The Associated Press. The Oregonian reported the company could appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court or seek some form of federal pre-emption of local regulation.

"They've been fighting for years to obtain their land-use decision for the pipeline," said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of the conservation group Columbia Riverkeeper. "They lost, so I don't see how the project can move forward."