Do Oregon or Washington need LNG?

Commentary by Gloria G. MacKenzie for The Daily News, published Sunday, March 29, 2009

Almost exactly two years ago, The Daily News  ran my first commentary (“Let’s not guess with LNG”). I asked if we citizens had a say in the “need” for liquefied natural gas. Without hesitation, the public and its representatives definitely have the right and responsibility to add our 2 cents. (Should that figure be raised in light of every thing else?) This prompts me to correct misconceptions in the editorial of March 17. I will try to simplify some of these complex issues.

Oregon and Washington most assuredly have a “legal interest” in determining the need for natural gas. Existing land use planning rules can be changed only, if it is determined that there is a public need. This works basically the same way with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Currently, the only way an LNG terminal can be built, or pipelines can be installed using imminent domain, is by FERC declaring there is a public need.

After FERC issued the draft environmental impact statement for the Bradwood proposal, Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the Oregon state agencies legally requested that FERC perform a comprehensive needs assessment. The governor also requested the Oregon Department of Energy perform a needs analysis. The ODE concluded there are other alternatives, which could be less detrimental and with a new LNG facility in Baja California, it would be questionable whether the capacity of an LNG facility in Oregon would be substantially utilized.

I would have been more inclined to be receptive to this project if the applicants had been up front with us from the beginning. Unfortunately, this was not the case. During the public hearing July 10, 2007, in Astoria, the representative from NorthernStar stated categorically “the gas was not designed to go to the California market.” Further insulting the public’s intelligence was a representative from Northwest Natural, testifying how beneficial LNG would be for the Northwest, while entering into a partnership to build the Palomar pipeline, which would enable the gas to go to California ... and later trying to convince us that this was separate from the Bradwood project.

Were it not for the greed of many of the deregulated corporations, think Enron, and the process by which siting of LNG terminals came to be, one might consider this an opportunity. However, having more gas pass through Oregon and Washington does not necessarily mean cheaper gas for this region; it merely puts the control of the flow and the pricing in the hands of those who built the terminal and pipelines.

In view of the current state of the economy and the mighty moguls who doomed us to this perilous position, my trust in NorthernStar’s promises is nonexistent.

It is with renewed hope and excitement that this writer looks forward to seeing what this new president and administration can accomplish, with regards to energy solutions that do not rely on fossil fuels. It is equally encouraging to have Jon Wellinghoff appointed as the new chairman of FERC, and a scientist, Stephen Chu, at the helm of the Energy Department. Additional respected local leaders, from Gary Locke to Jane Lubchenco, will also add a Pacific Northwest perspective.

Is it possible for NorthernStar to look for green solutions, such as Sempra Energy’s big solar projects in Nevada and Southern California? Gosh, we could even end up supporting them.


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