While reviewing and siting liquefied natural gas projects, local officials and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should work to cooperate better with communities where energy companies wish to break ground, according to the recommendations of two graduate students from Oregon State University’s School of Public Policy.
Decision-makers, they said, should communicate earlier and more regularly with citizens, and work to educate them on the rules of public participation in the LNG siting process.
“It is important for the community members to ensure that they have a say in what type of development is invited into their community, and to perceive that the siting process is fair,” said Trang Tran, who presented findings with fellow researcher, Brittany Gaustad, at the Astoria Public Library Tuesday evening.
With funding from the Oregon Sea Grant, Tran and Gaustad studied the Oregon LNG project proposed for Warrenton and Jordan Cove LNG project proposed for Coos Bay, both of which are wading through the FERC approval process.
The students analyzed LNG-related letters in local newspapers (including The Daily Astorian) and regulatory documents, and interviewed 45 people who joined in the public processes.
The goal of their ongoing research — guided by Hilary Boudet, an assistant professor in the OSU School of Public Policy — is to improve public participation processes during large-scale industrial development on the coast.
They wondered whether residents believe the processes fairly reflect their concerns, and how this belief influences the community’s response to LNG projects.
Opponents, the students said, believe they have many opportunities to be informed about the LNG siting process but that their input isn’t properly incorporated into the decision-making. Thus, opponents not only attend public meetings but stage protests and rallies to voice their concerns.
Supporters, however, believe public participation processes are dominated by opponents, so they often form alliances with pro-LNG groups to increase support.
“Political concerns are always inherent in processes like this,” Gaustad said, “so, in a way, perceptions do matter, because there’s always that political concern of who’s gaining from something and who’s losing from something.”