Bill would give states control over ports

GRANTS PASS — Senators from Oregon and Washington have joined with East Coast counterparts to file a bill in Congress that would return control over liquefied natural gas ports to the states.

The bill filed Tuesday would remove a provision of the 2005 Energy Policy Act that gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission control over the import and export of natural gas, and restore state control.

Oregon and Washington are fighting the Bradwood Landing LNG project being developed by Northern Star Natural Gas of Houston near the mouth of the Columbia River. They claim it is not needed and federal approval was granted before full environmental reviews were in.

"Oregonians have said time and again that they don't want some federal agency 3,000 miles away forcing LNG terminals on them," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement. "I'm not going to stop until Oregonians get to decide whether or not they need LNG terminals and, if they do, where to put them."

The bill would not overturn commission approval of the Bradwood Landing project, or the Jordan Cove project on Coos Bay, but would apply to both if federal approvals are overturned on appeal, said Wyden spokesman Tom Towslee. The bill would apply to the Oregon LNG project in Warrenton, because it has yet to win commission approval.

Oregon has joined with Washington, Columbia Riverkeepers and the Nez Perce Tribe in appealing to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse FERC's approval of the Bradwood Landing terminal, located about 30 miles east of the mouth of the Columbia. It includes a pipeline across the Columbia River to Washington.

The commission has also approved the Jordan Cove terminal on Coos Bay, with a pipeline stretching to the California border. Oregon and others have appealed that to the commission.

Mike Carrier, natural resources adviser to Gov. Ted Kulongoski, said they had opposed giving the federal agency authority over siting natural gas facilities in 2005, and supported changing it back to the states, adding that Oregon has a very careful process for choosing energy sites.

"In our opinion, FERC has just been incredibly cavalier about the process," Carrier said. "It seems to be more focused on issuing a certificate of need and necessity than to doing due diligence on siting issues."

Merkley and Cantwell said in statements that states should have a greater role in decisions on LNG terminals, because they have a huge affect on local economies.

The bill was also sponsored by Senators Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn., where LNG terminals are an issue.

A similar bill failed last session.

Bradwood Landing spokesman Joe Desmond said Northern Star had been happy with the state process before responsibility shifted to the commission, and the company intends to comply with all local, state and federal requirements.

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