Draft EIS spells out possible impacts, but concludes most could be mitigated

COURTESY - A map of the proposed pipeline route through Columbia County and across the Columbia River into Cowlitz County, Wash., shows the proposed site of Oregon LNG's compressor station in Deer Island.The Oregon LNG project, which seeks to construct a liquefied natural gas export terminal in Warrenton and run about 87 miles of new pipeline through northwestern Oregon into Washington — including a segment and compressor station in Columbia County — received a largely positive assessment from federal regulators Wednesday, Aug. 5.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released a draft environmental impact statement finding that the project, as proposed, “would result in some adverse environmental impacts.” However, the draft report also said “most” of the predicted impacts could be mitigated to “less-than-significant levels” by measures proposed both by Oregon LNG and its project partner, Northwest Pipeline LLC, and commission staff.

Potential impacts considered

Among the conclusions in the 969-page draft report were that Oregon LNG's plans would “effectively mitigate” soil impacts from constructing and operating the pipeline; any groundwater impacts from the construction of the project would be “minor, temporary, and minimized through best management practices;” and pipeline operations would not have a “measurable” effect on surface water.

The report also dismissed the possibility of major impacts on protected species, property values and fisheries from the construction or operation of the Oregon LNG development.

However, the report did express concern about “significant” negative effects on some wetland areas, including those around the proposed site of the terminal on the Skipanon Peninsula in Warrenton; said soil quality at the proposed compressor station site between Highway 30 and the Deer Island Slough could make it difficult to replant vegetation; and noted that while the proposed pipeline could probably withstand most earthquakes, it might not survive a fault rupture.

The environmental impact statement was issued for both Oregon LNG and the companion Washington Expansion Project, which would add new pipeline and increase the capacity of the Northwest infrastructure with which the Oregon LNG pipeline would connect in Washington.

Reactions and hurdles

Oregon LNG's chief executive officer, Peter Hansen, reacted favorably to the draft report.

"Oregon LNG is pleased that after 8 years of studies and analysis, FERC has concluded that while our project may have some limited, environmental impacts, these impacts can be mitigated," Hansen wrote in an email to the Spotlight. "Our focus has always been on designing our facility to the most up-to-date safety and security standards while causing the smallest environmental foot print possible."

Columbia Riverkeeper, an environmentalist group based in Hood River that opposes the LNG project, issued a statement Wednesday criticizing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its “failure to consider the best available science on LNG’s impacts to public health and safety, endangered salmon, and the economy.”

Oregon LNG is currently going through both state and federal regulatory processes. The project has also faced local opposition, with the Vernonia City Council calling on authorities to reject the proposal and Clatsop County refusing to grant a permit for its 41-mile segment of pipeline to be built.

Opponents have called on Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to deny state permits for the project, Columbia Riverkeeper noted in its statement.

The release of the report also came about a week after a federal magistrate judge in Portland dismissed a lawsuit filed by Oregon LNG against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The company sought a determination that the Army Corps of Engineers, which has a longstanding easement on the Skipanon Peninsula, has no right to the land where it hopes to build. However, the Daily Astorian reported, the judge said the statute of limitations for Oregon LNG to challenge the Corps' easement had elapsed.