A liquefied natural gas pipeline application is going to the Oregon Supreme Court.
Oregon Pipeline LLC wants the court to reverse a ruling made by the Clatsop County Circuit Court last week which kept decision-making powers over the pipeline application in county hands.
The application has been approved once by a previous county board of commissioners and effectively denied by the current board.
The appeal to the Supreme Court is one of "Oregon LNG's latest legal shenanigans," wrote Dan Serres, conservation director for LNG-opponent Columbia Riverkeeper, in an e-mail. "We anticipated that Oregon LNG would likely try to appeal the Circuit Court's decision, so this is not a surprise."
Earlier in March, Oregon Pipeline LLC argued that the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners had no right to reconsider the company's pipeline project application and the company sought a Writ of Mandamus from Circuit Court.
But on March 17, Judge Cindee Matyas dismissed this, ruling that the commissioners did have a right to hold a hearing and come to a decision about the application.
So on Tuesday, Oregon Pipeline went to the Oregon Supreme Court, and filed a Writ of Mandamus, asking that the court overrule Matyas' decision, said Tom Bennett, Clatsop County communications coordinator.
Oregon Pipeline seeks to run approximately 41 miles of a 121-mile LNG pipeline through Clatsop County.
Last year, the application and the county staff's findings and recommendations to deny the application were brought before a county-hired hearings officer. He held a public hearing and approved the project with conditions. His decision was later appealed and the application came back in front of the board of commissioners.
After holding another public hearing, this board - made up of commissioners Jeff Hazen, Robert Mushen, John Raichl, Patricia Roberts and Dirk Rohne - approved the pipeline application with conditions. Rohne was the only "no" vote.
Then, following the results of a May 2010 election, three new commissioners replaced Hazen, Raichl and Mushen in January. This new board voted 4-1 to reconsider the previous board's decision.
A hearing was set for March 9. In the week before the hearing, Oregon Pipeline sought a Writ of Mandamus at Circuit Court, arguing that the commission had no right to reconsider the application. It had already been approved by a previous board, Oregon Pipeline attorney Mike Connors said.
The county went ahead with the scheduled hearing and the board established conditions that (if approved by the board next week) will likely lead to a denial of the application.
County staff has published a new draft findings document, reflecting the current board's denial of the application. This draft is available on the Clatsop County website, http://www.co.clatsop.or.us/index.asp. Click on "Oregon LNG/Oregon Pipeline" under the "Hot Topics" side bar.
A continuation of the reconsideration hearing is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., next Wednesday, at the Judge Guy Boyington Building, 857 Commercial St., Astoria. At this hearing, the commissioners will have a chance to publicly review the draft findings document and make a decision regarding the application.
Connors could not be reached for comment on the recent appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court.
To comply with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees the siting, construction and operation of LNG projects, Oregon Pipeline has to show that its project falls in line with the Coastal Zone Management Act where portions of the pipeline travel through jurisdictions that are both within the Coastal Zone and have a certified plan under the Oregon Coastal Management Plan.
Clatsop County is in the Coastal Zone and has a certified plan. Oregon Pipeline was required to submit its pipeline application to county staff for review. Staff recommended denial of the project.