Friday, October 24, 2014

The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners voted Wednesday to reject a land-use application for construction of a natural gas pipeline to serve a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal.

Following a public hearing the board, by a 5-0 vote, found that the consolidated application from Oregon Pipeline LLC did not meet several criteria among the county's land-use standards.

The vote brings to an end a review process that was put on hold for almost two and a half years by the applicant's legal challenge to the board's jurisdiction.

Testimony in Wednesday's hearing was allowed only from representatives of Oregon Pipeline and project opponent Columbia Riverkeeper, but the board also reviewed written comments submitted by citizens and other parties prior to the hearing.

Wednesday's decision reverses the original ruling made by the board of commissioners in November 2010 to approve the application. In January 2011 the board, with three new members, voted to withdraw the approval and reconsider the application. In a new hearing in March of that year the board tentatively rejected the application, but was prevented from finalizing that decision when the Oregon Supreme Court issued a stay on the county at the request of Oregon Pipeline.

The company argued that the board's move to withdrawn the original November 2010 approval was done after the mandated deadline. The company's motion was denied by a Clatsop County Circuit Court judge and the Oregon Court of Appeals, and in April 2013 the Oregon Supreme Court declined to review the appeals court ruling. In August the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals approved a motion from the county to resume the reconsideration process.

At Wednesday's hearing the board deliberated whether Oregon Pipeline's application met the standards of twelve comprehensive plan land-use goals, eight zoning designations, four land-use overlays and other criteria. As they did at the March 2011 hearing, the commissioners largely accepted the findings of Community Development Department staff, who recommended denial of the application based on their findings that the proposed project did not meet several of the criteria.

In particular, staff determined that the pipeline meets the definition of a "transmission" line, which is not allowed in two of the affected zones, versus a "distribution" line, and that the project was not compatible with other uses on surrounding lands.

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