Forest Grove Council Opposes Pipeline

By Nick Christensen
The Argus

FOREST GROVE - Loggers, farmers, fishermen, environmentalists and wood lot owners have all come together in opposition of two proposed compressed natural gas pipelines through northwest Oregon.

Now, opponents can start to add cities to the list of pipeline foes.

After a 30-minute hearing, the Forest Grove City Council voted unanimously Monday to oppose the proposed pipelines through northwest Oregon, both of which pass through the city's watershed.

"I've worked for 20 some years in this community for clean air and clean water," said city councilor Victoria Lowe. "This fails on both counts, miserably."

The pipelines, which would connect to liquefied natural gas import terminals near Astoria, cross the Coast Range en route to central Oregon - one ending near Molalla, the other near Maupin.

Both cross the Gales Creek Valley, which Forest Grove owns the water rights to. They also cross the water line feeding the Tualatin Valley from the reservoir at Henry Hagg Lake.

"It's not just Forest Grove's water in potential jeopardy, it's Beaverton's and Hillsboro's and the surrounding farmers'," Lowe said.

Forest Grove is the first city in Oregon to oppose the pipelines, although Woodburn Mayor Kathryn Figley has asked that the pipelines be located outside of that city's urban growth boundary. Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Stern said that county is forming an advisory committee to study the pipelines.

Seven people spoke in opposition to the projects at Monday's meeting, including Timber resident Martha Neuringer.

"We've marched and we've rallied, and we've appealed to you," Neuringer said. She said the pipelines would "irreparably harm" constituents, in part because of the impacts on lands that help subsidize the Forest Grove economy.

Gales Creek resident Anne Berblinger said the pipeline would diminish Forest Grove's green reputation.

"Forest Grove should be known for its beautiful setting, for having way more than its share of gold-certified green buildings, its livability, its trees and its wonderful sense of community," Berblinger said. "It should not be known as the second-biggest city in the path of the destructive LNG pipelines."

Nobody spoke in favor of the pipelines, something that perturbed City Council Pete Truax, who drafted the resolution.

"I'm a little bit offended that something this important to this community and this part of the state of Oregon appears to be blown off by them, as not even worthy of an effort to come out and see what the opposition looks like," Truax said.

Oregon LNG CEO Peter Hansen was also disappointed in the vote, saying in an e-mail he never received an invitation to or notification of the meeting. He said he'd be glad to meet with Truax or others to discuss the project.

Hansen said Oregon needs gas imports as demand increases and domestic supplies decrease, and will work with stakeholders on the pipeline's route.

"Wherever possible, we follow existing utility corridors, such as transmission lines, so we minimize the inconvenience to landowners," Hansen said.

In a statement, Palomar Project Manager Henry Morse Jr. did not explain his company's absence, but expressed frustration with the council.

"We are disappointed that the City Council has taken this action to oppose the development of important energy infrastructure that is critical to providing reliable natural gas service to meet the future needs of Portland and the Willamette Valley," Morse said.

Truax said his opposition wasn't based solely on local concerns.

"To me, the Columbia River defines the Pacific Northwest," Truax said. "To mess with the Columbia in the way they would mess with the Columbia is unconscionable."

All six councilors at the meeting voted in favor of the resolution. Mayor Richard Kidd was in Washington, D.C., for a conference, and met with members of Oregon's Congressional delegation.

"They said they would take their cue from the governor," Kidd said, adding that he approved of the city council's vote.