Court supports Oregon county's right to block pipeline

The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled against a natural gas company over a county's ability to block construction of a 41-mile pipeline despite formerly approving the project. The county commission voted in favor of zoning for a terminal that would feed the pipeline in 2010, but a new group of commissioners overturned that approval several months later. The company behind the pipeline, Oregon LNG, filed a lawsuit against the county in response, arguing that the commission's initial approval was wrongfully reversed. However, the state Court of Appeals disagreed with that assertion, blocking the civil litigation and siding with the county.

While the appeals court decision could block the pipeline, it granted the county the ability to change its mind about its initial zoning decision. Representatives with the county commission told reporters they are evaluating the matter before making a final decision on zoning for the terminal project. Oregon LNG did not respond to requests for comment.

Critics of the projects say they hope the ruling will put a permanent halt on the pipeline. "They've been fighting for years to obtain their land use decision for the pipeline. They lost, so I don't see how the project can move forward," explained the director of an Oregon-based conservation organization. However, experts say Oregon LNG could potentially seek a type of federal pre-emption or appeal the decision with the Oregon Supreme Court. It is unclear whether the company has any plans to take such measures.

Oregon LNG still has plans to build another terminal in the state, though a third project was canceled due to opposition from local protestors. The company initially planned the pipelines as a means of important liquefied natural gas, but later began considering exporting the gas internationally after experiencing a production surge. Oregon LNC has since been lobbying federal regulators for approval for the construction of a mixed-use terminal designed to import and export gas.

Source: Statesman Journal, "Ore. court rules against Clatsop gas pipeline," Oct. 25, 2012

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