DEQ Announces Informational Meeting on Oregon LNG in Vernonia

DEQ has announced it will host two informational meetings on a 401 water quality certification for the proposed Oregon LNG pipeline project. DEQ will hold the meetings in Vernonia on Thursday, January 29 at 6:00 PM at the Cabin in Vernonia. DEQ will also host a meeting in Warrenton on Tuesday, January 27.

DEQ’s public comment period on the proposed Oregon LNG 401 water quality certification application has been extended and now closes on Monday, February 16, 2015.

The proposed thirty-six inch pipeline would travel just northwest of Vernonia.  It would connect with the Williams Pipeline in Woodland Washington, crossing the Columbia River into Oregon near Dear Island and travel across Columbia and Clatsop Counties.  The total length of proposed pipe in Oregon is eighty-six miles.  The pipeline would transport natural gas from Canada through Washington to a proposed terminal in Warrenton, OR, where the gas would be sold and shipped overseas, most likely to Asian markets.

Marilyn Tatman lives on 32 acres at the end of Creekview Lane off Keasey Road.  The proposed pipeline would cross Rock Creek along the eastern property line of the Tatman’s property, four miles above Vernonia. The Tatmans are one of the few small private property owners directly affected by the proposed route of the pipeline.  The proposed route mostly travels along roads and across some timberland.

Tatman says she is concerned for several reasons including possible environmental degradation as well as safety concerns.

Among Tatman’s chief concerns is the fact that the pipeline crosses Rock Creek, the water source for the City of Vernonia as well as numerous residents along the water route.  “We pump our water out of Rock Creek and so do a lot of other people below where the pipeline would cross,” says Tatman.  

Tatman says the stream crossing and the 100 foot easement for the pipeline is on a pristine piece of property that is home to beaver, deer, otter, and fox.  Tatman says an elk herd often visits the area and she has seen signs of cougar. Salmon also spawn along this stretch of the creek.   Tatman says she worries that the dredging required to install the pipeline underneath the creek will damage the water quality downstream and collapse the banks of the creek.  She also fears that large old trees will be damaged or removed during the construction process.

This photo shows where the LNG pipeline is planned to cross Rock Creek  four miles above the intake for Vernonia’s city water.

This photo shows where the LNG pipeline is planned to cross Rock Creek
four miles above the intake for Vernonia’s city water.

“Oregon LNG has been very secretive about this whole project,” says Tatman.  “I’ve been aware of it because they had to notify me – I’m an adjacent landowner.  But I’m concerned about my neighbors and the other families that live nearby that could be affected and aren’t even aware that this is happening close by.”

Tatman says that if the pipeline is constructed and uses any of her property she would be compensated.  “I don’t want their money,” says Tatman.

For Tatman, safety concerns could be an issue for neighbors of the project. She references a major explosion at a Williams plant in Spokane in March of 2014 that injured twelve people, raises doubts about the project.  “They have a terrible safety record,” says Tatman.

“I just don’t see any benefit for Columbia County from this project,” says Tatman.

Columbia County Commissioner, and Vernonia resident, Tony Hyde disagrees.

“I absolutely see a benefit for the county,” says Hyde.

Hyde says he sees the pipeline as resource that will provide needed capacity to move natural gas in and out the region, whether the LNG plant is constructed in Warrenton or not.  “If we are going to continue to enjoy the low prices we are currently experiencing, we’re going to have to be proactive about keeping the supply available,” says Hyde.

The proposed route of the OLNG pipeline would pass just north of Vernonia.

The proposed route of the OLNG pipeline would pass just north of Vernonia.

Hyde says the pipeline would provide Columbia County with a known supply of natural gas, which for him is the most important aspect of the project.  According to Hyde the pipeline provides the ability for the County to attract large customers to the region, which will create jobs and the need for manpower.

Hyde noted that expansion plans for the Mist Natural Gas fields are being considered which currently supplies a new power generation plant at Port Westward which just went on line on January 2, 2015.  Hyde also mentioned that plans for another consumer of natural gas – the major manufacturing plant at Port Westward near Clatskanie that would convert natural gas into methanol and then into plastic and other synthetic products – are still on track and moving towards the permitting process.

“This is all taxable and it’s taxable to the tune of a lot of money,” says Hyde.  “This pipeline that would go through our county is all taxable as property taxes and would be fairly significant.”

Hyde says he has talked to landowners who were involved in, and fought against a similar pipeline near Molalla.  “They are still able to use their land, it has not impeded them.  They’re still farming it, grazing it and growing trees on it,” says Hyde.  “Except now they get a paycheck every month.  There is no real impact to speak of.  As far as forestry goes, they can’t grow trees in the right-of-way, but they’re being compensated for that.”  Hyde noted that Vernonia now has the benefit of natural gas service available because the mainline from Mist to Molalla runs very close to town.

Hyde says he has no real safety concerns about the pipeline project.  “There is always the potential for a major disaster, says Hyde.  “We live with that every day. But we have a pretty good record.”

Hyde says the pipeline crossing water sources in the area does not worry him at all.  “We have pipelines crossing rivers and streams already and we’ve had no issues,” says Hyde.  “These guys are professional and know what they are doing.”

Hyde says he feels comfortable that the due diligence done during the permitting process relieves any environmental concerns.  “If this gets permitted, I’m feeling pretty comfortable that it’s safe,” says Hyde.

Locally the permitting process requires a 401 water quality certification for any federally licensed or permitted projects that may result in a discharge into navigable waters. Specifically, DEQ provides the certification to ensure that work permitted under a federal Clean Water Act Section 404 Dredge/Fill Permit will meet state water quality standards. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issues the Section 404 Dredge/Fill Permit.

The purpose of the upcoming informational meetings is to provide the public with an opportunity to ask questions about DEQ’s 401 water quality certification process. Representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Oregon Department of State Lands and the Oregon Department of Land Conservation & Development will also attend the meetings.

The focus of the meetings will be to answer questions regarding the permitting and certification process, and will not focus on the technical aspects of the project. This is not a public hearing to submit oral comments on the proposed project or its related permits.

Comments can be mailed to: 

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Northwest Region 

Attn: 401 Public Comments 

2020 SW 4th Ave., Suite 400 

Portland, Oregon 97201 

Fax: 503-229-6957 

Email: 401publiccomments@deq.state.or.us

 

For more information about the project go to the Oregon LNG web page at http://www.oregonlng.com.