Columbia Riverkeeper, local and state agencies, and tribes recently submitted detailed comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), and to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality that describe why Oregon LNG’s project would violate environmental laws. Over two dozen fishing, landowner, community safety, and conservation organizations joined Riverkeeper on these comments:
- Columbia Riverkeeper et al. Public Comments Oregon LNG: Corps
- Columbia Riverkeeper et al. Public Comments Oregon LNG: DEQ
- Expert Report: Review of the Impacts of Oregon LNG’s Proposed Pipeline on Aquatic Ecosystems. Jonathan Rhodes, PhD. Planeto Azul Hydrology. January 12, 2015
- Expert Report: Review of the Draft Biological Assessment and Essential Fish Habitat Assessment for Proposed Oregon LNG Terminal Project. Richard Williams, PhD. Clear Creek Consulting. January 8, 2015
- Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Public Comments Oregon LNG
- Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce (CREST) Public Comments Oregon LNG
- Center for Biological Diversity Public Comments Oregon LNG
- State of Oregon Letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SCIENCE SHOWS VITAL FISH HABITAT THREATENED BY PROPOSED
OREGON LNG TERMINAL
Experts and Agencies Flag Major Problems in Massive LNG Export Proposal
Feb. 5, 2015 (Portland, OR) – Fisheries experts and agencies are raising serious concerns about how a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at the mouth of the Columbia River would impact endangered salmon and commercial and sport fishing. The Oregon LNG project proposes dredging an area the size of 102 football fields in critical salmon habitat and building a pipeline that would cross over 100 streams and rivers – a combination that is drawing sharp criticism from fisheries experts and agencies weighing in on the first major public comment opportunity for Oregon LNG’s project.
“This project flies in the face of good science and good public policy,” said Columbia Riverkeeper Conservation Director, Dan Serres. “From the stand point of destroying salmon habitat, Oregon LNG’s project is at a scale unlike any other private project in the Lower Columbia River. So it is not surprising that biologists and other scientists looking at this project are raising red flags.”
Columbia Riverkeeper, local and state agencies, and tribes recently submitted detailed comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), which is considering issuing permits for the pipeline and terminal. In addition, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is collecting public comments until February 16, 2015. Oregon LNG cannot build the terminal and gas pipeline without permits from DEQ and the Corps.
Not only would the project harm salmon habitat, but it also presents a risk to a vibrant local fishing industry. Because the Oregon LNG project could disrupt access for fishers, crabbers and other boaters in the Astoria/Warrenton area, several fishing associations joined comments that urged the Corps to deny the Oregon LNG proposal.
“Putting a massive LNG terminal in the heart of the lower Columbia’s most popular commercial and recreational fishery undermines decades of work to protect fishing opportunities in the lower Columbia River,” said Bob Rees, Columbia River fishing guide and Executive Director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders. “On top of this, our region has invested billions of dollars in restoring salmon habitat. And a lot of this money is focused in the Columbia River Estuary near Oregon LNG’s project. The contradictions beg for bold action from regulators to protect the Pacific Northwest’s fishing heritage.”
Cheryl Johnson, a Clatsop County resident and retired school librarian, stated, “Our community has spoken loud and clear in opposition to LNG, and we are thrilled to see new evidence from experts that supports our long-standing support for a clean, healthy, LNG-free estuary.”
Key expert agency comments submitted to the Corps:
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) raised concerns for the project to harm fishing, writing, “…the application does not adequately characterize the potential for substantial disruption of this socially and economically important fishery during construction and operation of the marine terminal complex.”
The Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce (CREST) explained that Oregon LNG undermined ongoing, important restoration efforts in the Estuary, stating, “The proposed project will impact limited and fragmented habitats and ongoing salmon recovery efforts. The entire peninsula has a high potential for restoration, is close to the mouth of the Columbia River, and is hydrologically connected to ongoing restoration work in the Skipanon River, Youngs Bay, and Youngs Bay tributaries.”
Richard N. Williams, a Ph.D. Fisheries expert who reviewed the Oregon LNG proposal, concluded that “…it is clear that construction and operation of the proposed OLNG project would negatively impact ESA-listed salmonids of a variety of species and life stages throughout the entire year.”
ABOUT COLUMBIA RIVERKEEPER
Columbia Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean. Representing over 8,000 members and supporters, Columbia Riverkeeper works to restore a Columbia River where people can safely eat the fish they catch, and where children can swim without fear of toxic exposure. The organization is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, the world’s fastest growing environmental movement, uniting more than 200 Waterkeeper organizations worldwide. For more information go to columbiariverkeeper.org/our-work/lng/.
What does vibrant stencil art (watch video) and dense legal comments have in common? We use them both to protect the estuary from LNG.
On Thursday, January 22, over 50 people gathered in Warrenton to learn more about the impacts of the Oregon LNG project on public safety and critical salmon habitat. With help from artist Janet Essley, participants in the meeting created new stenciled artwork to express their love of the estuary and their concerns about the Oregon LNG project. The event was the latest step in raising public awareness about the Oregon LNG project and the role local, state, and federal agencies can play in denying the destructive, polluting terminal and pipeline.
At the same time, Riverkeeper submitted detailed legal comments drafted by our Staff Attorney, Lauren Goldberg, that describe why Oregon LNG’s project would violate environmental laws. Read our comments here if you want the full story. Your support powers our in-depth legal analysis, which preserves our right to appeal. Over two dozen fishing, landowner, community safety, and conservation organizations joined Riverkeeper on these comments.
Take a moment today to comment online and explain your concerns about Oregon LNG’s impact on salmon, water quality, habitat, and fishing. Click here to tell DEQ to deny Oregon LNG!
Riverkeeper, Agencies, and Tribes Identify Risk of LNG Terminal For Fish and Fishing
Already, Riverkeeper, key local and state agencies, and tribes have identified major problems with Oregon LNG’s proposal. These groups and agencies registered their concerns with the Army Corps of Engineers, which must decide whether to approve massive dredging in critical salmon habitat for the proposed terminal and pipeline. In its comments to the Corps, Riverkeeper commissioned an expert review of the proposed Oregon LNG terminal, which concluded, “…it is clear that construction and operation of the proposed OLNG project would negatively impact ESA-listed salmonids of a variety of species and life stages throughout the entire year.”[i] Riverkeeper is not alone in raising concerns about Oregon LNG. In comments to the Corps, the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce (CREST) summarized Oregon LNG’s impact by stating, “The proposed project will impact limited and fragmented habitats and ongoing salmon recovery efforts.” CREST continued by explaining that the site of the proposed Oregon LNG terminal would be more appropriately used for salmon restoration, writing, “The entire peninsula has a high potential for restoration, is close to the mouth of the Columbia River, and is hydrologically connected to ongoing restoration work in the Skipanon River, Youngs Bay, and Youngs Bay tributaries.”
Not only would the project harm salmon habitat, but it also presents a risk to a vibrant local fishing industry. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) identified major potential disruptions to local commercial and sports fishing because of exclusion zones required for LNG tankers to keep LNG export tankers safe. ODFW stated:,“the application does not adequately characterize the potential for substantial disruption of this socially and economically important fishery during construction and operation of the marine terminal complex. For instance, this fishery experienced 107,700 angler trips in 2014 with a combined catch of nearly 84,500 salmon.” Because the Oregon LNG project could disrupt access for fishers and other boaters in the Warrenton area, several fishing groups also urged the Corps to deny the Oregon LNG proposal.
Upcoming Opportunities to Make Your Voice Heard About Oregon LNG
Oregonians and Washingtonians are saying No to LNG, and Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) should do the same! In the next few weeks, DEQ is seeking our input on Oregon LNG’s controversial proposal to decimate salmon habitat in the Columbia River for its LNG export terminal and pipeline.
We had great turnout in at the DEQ meetings in Warrenton and Vernonia on January 27 and 29. See Daily Astorian coverage. We urge local activists to attend upcoming meetings to demonstrate your opposition and urge DEQ to conduct a detailed, independent review of Oregon LNG. Dates for future meetings to be announced.
Oregon LNG cannot build its destructive, polluting terminal and gas pipeline without approvals from DEQ. We need your voice in persuading DEQ to deny Oregon LNG – make that happen by submitting your comment today.
[i] Review of the draft Biological Assessment and Essential Fish Habitat Assessment for Proposed Oregon LNG Terminal Project. Richard Williams, PhD. Clear Creek Consulting. January 8, 2015.
OPB Earthfix Dec.22. 2014
LNG Company Sues Federal Government in Property Dispute
Dec. 22, 2014 (Portland, OR) — The controversial “Oregon LNG” Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal proposed at the mouth of Columbia River hit an unexpected problem: the company may not have access to the land where it proposes building the terminal. According to court filings, the U.S. government has an easement over the proposed LNG site for disposing dredge spoils. Oregon LNG sued the United States to gain access to the land. That lawsuit is pending, and the resolution of the lawsuit may decide the fate of the LNG export terminal.
“Oregon LNG clearly did not do their homework,” said Laurie Caplan, Astoria resident and local activist representing Columbia Pacific Common Sense. “We’ve been fighting over ten years to protect our community, and this is welcome news.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) received a permanent right, called an easement, in 1957 to dump dredge spoils on the East Skipanon Peninsula in Warrenton, Oregon—the very site of the proposed LNG terminal—in exchange for opening up the Skipanon River to navigation (see attached map of easement, shown in red). Today, hundreds of salmon fishermen, sailors, and commercial fishermen keep boats in popular marinas on the Skipanon.
“We’re pleased that the Corps is standing up to protect access to the Columbia River,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “It’s simple, you cannot build a massive LNG terminal where the federal government has an easement to deposit dredge spoils. In addition, siting a massive LNG terminal in the heart of the Columbia River’s most productive salmon fishery is a huge mistake.”
Legal proceedings in the case, LNG Development Company v. Army Corps of Engineers, Case no.: 3:14-cv-1239-AC, began in August when Oregon LNG filed a Quiet Title action in federal district court against the Corps. The Corps filed a motion to dismiss in November, and Oregon LNG filed an amended complaint in December. The land is owned by the State of Oregon, which issued a lease to the Port of Astoria, who in turn subleased the land to Oregon LNG.
Local residents and conservation groups have fought against Oregon LNG because the project will threaten community safety, destroy salmon habitat, harm farms and forestlands with hundreds of miles of new gas pipelines, and send “fracked” gas to Asia.
Oregon LNG has faced a rocky path over the last ten years since first leasing the property, including: Oregon LNG was the subject of a criminal investigation into its illegal action to obtain the lease; Oregon LNG sued the Port of Astoria when the Port wanted to get out of the questionable lease; and Oregon LNG sued Clatsop County after the County rejected the LNG pipeline application.
- LNG Development Company v. Army Corps of Engineers, Case no.: 3:14-cv-1239-AC
- PDF of Press Release
Protect the Northwest from LNG Export!
Deadline is Jan. 17, 2015: DEQ and the Corps are holding a public comment period to decide whether to issue key permits for Oregon LNG’s terminal and pipeline. Now is the time to raise your voice to convince them to deny these critical permits. Submit your comment today.
Columbia Riverkeeper Executive Director Brett VandenHeuvel shares updates regarding the controversial “Oregon LNG” Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal proposed at the mouth of Columbia River:
A hydropower dam needs water. A coal-fired power plant needs coal. And a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal needs natural gas. For Oregon LNG, Clatsop County’s unanimous decision denying the company’s permit for a 41-mile long natural gas pipeline stands in the way of its plans to become Oregon’s first LNG terminal. Last year, Oregon LNG sued the County after it rejected plans for a high-pressure natural gas pipeline running through forestland, farms, and wetlands. On June 30, 2014, the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) asked the County to take a second look at its decision to deny the Oregon LNG pipeline because one county commissioner was biased against LNG.
LUBA did not reach the issue of whether the County’s decision was consistent with local land use laws. Instead, LUBA found that a county commissioner was biased against LNG development and should have recused himself from voting on the pipeline. Now the County must take a new vote on whether Oregon LNG’s proposed pipeline complies with local laws.
“The County heard overwhelming testimony on why the proposed LNG pipeline violates Oregon’s land use laws designed to protect farms, forests, rivers and salmon. We are confident that when the County takes a second look at this shortsighted gas export project, it will again issue a resounding vote against LNG,” stated Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director for Columbia Riverkeeper.
The Land Board’s decision shifts the spotlight to Governor Kitzhaber and his state agencies. The federal government cannot approve the Oregon LNG export terminal and pipeline unless the State of Oregon approves the project. Oregon LNG lacks all of the major permits it needs before the Governor and state agencies can sign-off on the project.
Contact Governor Kitzhaber and urge him to direct the Department of Land Conservation and Development to stop delaying and make a final decision to reject Oregon LNG. Oregon LNG submitted its application without necessary local and state approvals, fully recognizing the gaps in its application. The State of Oregon should stop delaying and deny Oregon LNG.
Blog post by Dan Serres, Riverkeeper’s Conservation Director—
This week, the Oregonian ran a major story chronicling Oregon LNG’s failure—again—to obtain state approval for its LNG terminal and pipeline. This in-depth investigative article highlights the emphatic 5-0 rejection of Oregon LNG’s project by Clatsop County’s Board of Commissioners, who concluded that Oregon LNG conflicts with Oregon’s land use laws.
Following interviews with state officials, Oregon LNG, landowners and Columbia Riverkeeper, the reporter describes Oregon LNG’s pie-in-the-sky ambitions and the long road ahead.
The $50 million Oregon LNG has spent to date—and fact that it lacks any major state permits—is a testament to all of your hard work and support. We are confident that the State of Oregon has the facts it needs to reject Oregon LNG. For Oregonians who have struggled to protect their farms, forests, and our River, the decision to reject Oregon LNG cannot come soon enough.
The Oregonian. January 9, 2014.
On Tuesday, November 12th, over 80 people from Astoria, Warrenton, Forest Grove, Yamhill, and Washington state urged Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to use its authority to reject the Oregon LNG project. We sent a clear message to DEQ: Oregonians and Washingtonians oppose Oregon LNG and the pollution it would create. Attendees asked pointed questions about how DEQ can use its authority to protect water quality, salmon habitat, and air quality in its review of the proposed Oregon LNG export terminal. The hearing occurred only weeks after Clatsop County Commissioners voted unanimously to reject the Oregon LNG pipeline. Oregon LNG cannot build its proposed LNG export terminal without air and water pollution permits and DEQ has the authority to deny them.
Check out Riverkeeper’s letter to DEQ on Oregon LNG’s proposed water pollution permit.
Oregon LNG’s Proposed Pollution Permits
- Stormwater Pollution Permit: This permit would authorize Oregon LNG to discharge dirty stormwater to the Columbia and Skipanon Rivers while building the terminal.
- Process Wastewater Permit: This permit would allow Oregon LNG to discharge millions of gallons of polluted water and stormwater every day of the year. This includes hot water, ammonia, copper and other toxic pollutants.
- Air Pollution Permit: This permit would give the green light for air pollution from compressors, vaporizers, ships, harbor tugs, support vehicles, gas-turbines, construction dust and a number of other sources. LNG tankers and the security vessels that accompany them are required to run their engines during the entire cargo loading cycle, spewing exhaust and air.
Commissioners Vote to Reject Oregon LNG Pipeline
On October 9, 2013, the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 to reject the Oregon LNG project. In particular, the Board concluded that Oregon LNG’s proposed 36-inch, high-pressure pipeline violated the county’s land use rules. The Board vote received a standing ovation from an overflow crowd in Astoria, most of whom were wearing red shirts to signify their opposition to Oregon LNG’s proposal. See next steps at the bottom of this page.
Cheryl Johnson, a retired school librarian and local activist, stated, “We are thrilled that our Commissioners have chosen to respect the overwhelming testimony of their constituents. The people of Clatsop County have been very clear: we value our farms, our forests, and our Columbia River, and we oppose the Oregon LNG export project.”
Oregon LNG spent over two years attempting to delay the hearing by the Board of Commissioners, but their legal efforts failed. In the meantime, Oregon LNG converted its project from a proposal to import natural gas to a proposal to liquefy and export gas. Without approval from the County, the project cannot be built.
“Oregon LNG has no place in Clatsop County or anywhere else in the Northwest,” added Dan Serres, Conservation Director with Columbia Riverkeeper. “As the Board noted, it’s clear that this project conflicts with local land use laws by damaging forests, harming fish habitat, and threatening local landowners. We expect state and federal officials to respect this decision, and to put an end to Oregon LNG’s energy export scheme.”
Note from local activist, Laurie Caplan, on last night’s hearing and major victory
The Commissioners voted 5 – 0, unanimously, to DENY the Oregon LNG Pipeline. The hearing lasted four hours, til about 7:30 pm. The commissioners deliberated over specific findings, county rules, Goals, and the Comprehensive Plan. They were intent on doing the hearing as thoroughly as possible, and according to law.
Some 80+ NO LNGers rallied on 9th and Commercial – many were there 30 minutes before our official start time! See the determined, upbeat, and enthusiastic NO LNGers in the photo.
At least 100 people – virtually all NO LNGers, except for county commissioners and staff – filled the hearing room to standing-room-only.
Columbia Riverkeeper attorney, Lauren Goldberg, was calm, composed, respectful, knowledgeable, and spot-on in her presentation to the county commissioners.
Stick with us as we go ONWARD TO VICTORY!”
Next Steps & Take Action
Is this the final straw for Oregon LNG? We hope so. The next step in the process is for Oregon to tell the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that the project violates Oregon’s management plan under the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). FERC cannot approve an LNG license unless the state says the project is consistent with the CZMA. Here, the project is not consistent because Oregon’s coastal plan states very clearly that a project must comply with county land use laws. Therefore, Oregon must reject the project. The Clatsop County decision to reject LNG is a major victory that we’ve been working on for years. This will be very difficult for Oregon LNG to overcome.
What about preemption? Oregon LNG’s new favorite line is that Clatsop County’s decisionmaking is preempted by federal law. Not true. While the Natural Gas Act does say that FERC has the exclusive siting authority for LNG terminals and pipelines, the law expressly states that FERC cannot trump the CZMA. Practically, if Oregon LNG really believed that Clatsop County’s laws are preempted, Oregon LNG would have applied to the county in the first place.
So, if Oregon LNG continues the slash and burn approach to endless legal challenges, they might now challenge Oregon’s denial of the coastal zone certification. Or they might challenge Clatsop County’s pipeline denial to the Land Use Board of Appeals. Is the fight over? No. But Oregon LNG clearly faces an uphill battle.