In Our View: LNG Proposal Suffers Setback

Clatsop County's rejection of pipeline is upheld by Oregon Court of Appeals

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Another defeat was suffered this week by proponents of liquefied natural gas pipelines near the Columbia River estuary. Think of it also as another triumph for nature, and for the countless people of this region who properly believe the lower Columbia River must be protected from incursions by the petroleum industry.The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that Clatsop County (Astoria) commissioners were correct in March 2011 when they denied an application by Oregon LNG to build a pipeline from a proposed LNG plant on the Skipanon River near Warrenton.

That rejection in 2011 by the commissioners reversed a 2010 decision by a different board of county commissioners. Oregon LNG appealed that second decision by the commissioners to the Clatsop County Circuit Court, which also ruled against Oregon LNG. The appeal to the Court of Appeals followed, and that case was finalized by Wednesday's decision.

Three strikes in the permitting system ought to mean a return to the dugout, as far as we're concerned. And we're hoping Oregon LNG will abandon the Skipanon River proposal, just as another firm retreated from a similar plan back in 2010. That was when NorthernStar Natural Gas of Houston gave up on a proposed LNG terminal at Bradwood Landing. Bradwood Landing is in Oregon, about 60 miles northwest of Vancouver and 20 miles east of Astoria. NorthernStar wanted to build a 38-mile pipeline from Bradwood Landing to Kelso, threatening the environmentally fragile river area, as well as the Julia Butler Hansen Natural Wildlife Refuge near Cathlamet.

Repeated court setbacks led NorthernStar to suspend work on that project, and little has been heard about the idea since 2010.

Oregon LNG's proposed pipeline would wind through 41 miles of river area, farms and forests, threatening salmon habitat and posing a risk to public safety. With the Court of Appeals' ruling, the matter now returns to the Clatsop County commissioners, who we hope will uphold their ruling of 2011. We also hope Oregon LNG decides against further appeals.

Brett VandenHeuvel of the activist group Columbia Riverkeeper called this week's court decision "a resounding victory for the citizens of Clatsop County. You cannot build an LNG terminal without a pipeline."

To be clear, as we've editorialized more than once, The Columbian is not anti-LNG. Rather, we are pro-river. And just as the flanks of Mount St. Helens is the wrong place for the mining industry, the estuary of the Columbia River (much of it relatively pristine) is the wrong place for an liquefied natural gas plant. More specifically, that estuary is the wrong place to gouge pipelines through an area many people rightly believe is a natural treasure. There are plenty of other places for pipelines and terminals.

Environmentalists are on a roll in their battle against LNG proponents. But we suspect this struggle is far from over. And much of the good fight must be fought by elected officials. Credit the Clatsop County commissioners for doing the right thing and setting a good example for other governments.