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LNG Pipelines: One Down, One Flipping?

By Camilla Mortensen
Eugene Weekly
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Liquefied natural gas advocates have called those opposed to massive gas pipeline projects in Oregon “NIMBYs” (Not In My Backyard) over their objections to gas companies using eminent domain to take portions of the their land for projects such as the Pacific Connector and the Palomar Pipeline. But opponents say the issue isn’t just where the pipelines would go, but the repercussions for everything from the environment to prices for electricity and gas customers.

LNG is natural gas that has been cooled to a liquid for shipping. Once transformed back to a gas, it is shipped through large pipelines, similar to the one that exploded and killed eight people in September 2010 in San Bruno, Calif. Oregonians have been fighting several proposed LNG import terminals. One, Bradwood Landing, has gone under, and its associated pipeline, the Palomar Pipeline, withdrew its permit application last week. 

Olivia Schmidt, community organizer for BARK, says despite Palomar Gas Transmission LLC’s claims its pipeline was not dependent on an LNG terminal, its decision to withdraw both halves of its proposed pipeline indicate otherwise. The eastern half of the pipeline would have gone through the Mt. Hood National Forest, cutting a 50-foot wide swath through the forest and cutting through the Clackamas River, she says. 

Schmidt says Palomar violates the laws that protect wild and scenic rivers and old growth, and it could damage critical habitat for salmon and steelhead.

While celebrating, Schmidt says the fight is not over yet. “When and if they came back we’re here to stop them again,” she says. Palomar has indicated it intends to file another application in the future. She says what has stopped the LNG companies has “really just been resistance from the public, which has slowed this project down enough to reconsider their investment.”

She points out that even as the diverse coalition of environmentalists, landowners and others celebrate Palomar’s current defeat, Oregon LNG’s proposed terminal in Astoria is still on the table as is Jordan Cove and the Pacific Connector pipeline in Coos Bay.

Monica Vaughan, grassroots coordinator for Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, says LNG opponents’ fears that the proposed Oregon terminals would not just import LNG but export the fossil fuel were realized when Bob Braddock, project manager for Jordan Cove, told the energy newsletter “Platts LNG Daily” that his company had mulled over inquiries about using the facility to convert domestic gas to LNG for export. Braddock has since backpedaled on his comment.

Under section 7(h) of the Natural Gas Act, as an import terminal, Jordan Cove’s Pacific Connector legally qualifies to use eminent domain to cross properties as the pipeline would be for the public’s benefit. As an export terminal it would not qualify because the gas would not be for “public convenience and necessity.”

Vaughan says, “For the last couple years we’ve really anticipated that the project would be flipped to export because that’s what would make economic sense.” She says the proposed Pacific Connector pipeline to Malin, OR, would link to the Ruby Pipeline and tap into Wyoming’s natural gas supplies. 

Exporting natural gas would cause prices for the fuel and electricity to rise in the U.S. Vaughan says, citing the Industrial Energy Consumers of America, which recently came out against an LNG export proposal in Louisiana. 

 

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