Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas project backers and their fiercest opponents actually agreed on something Friday.
Both sides supported contract hearings officer Peter Livingston as an even-handed decision-maker for Clatsop County's mess of LNG?land-use issues.
At a continued hearing Friday, Livingston decided to put new permit applications for the $650 million Bradwood LNG facility on hold until further notice.
Supporters and opponents of the development seemed satisfied with the wait-and-see approach to the problems raised by last week's state Land Use Board of Appeals decision on the Bradwood project.
LUBA's remand of two county approvals made in 2008 for the Bradwood project threw a wrench in the county's approach to eight supplemental applications currently awaiting approval.
Of course, opponents argued the county should abandon the new permit applications - or flat out deny them to stop the development in its tracks.
And Bradwood executives said their company has spent too much money on the applications to be forced to start over. They argued the county could still approve seven of the eight new applications despite the LUBA ruling.
But Livingston took a middle road and decided to put the requests on hold until further notice.
He said it would be a waste of county resources to move forward with the approval process right now because the company could end up changing its strategy and the contents of the new applications. But on the other hand, a successful appeal of the LUBA ruling could restore the county's 2008 approval - and make the new applications viable again.
Bradwood Landing developer NorthernStar Natural Gas Inc. of Houston has not decided how it will respond to the remand. LUBA left the door open for revamping the county's 2008 approval documents and resubmitting them, but the company can also appeal the ruling within a 21-day window.
"We're going to put it on the back burner while we let the dust settle," said Clatsop County counsel Jeff Bennett of Jordan Schrader Ramis. "It's difficult to consider supplemental applications if the whole validation of the original application is in question."
The supplemental permitting process will be continued at a future date, Livingston said, but that date is not yet known.
Livingston noted there are still two authorities, the Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon?Supreme Court, that could reinstate the county's original 2008 approval. If that happens, the county would be clear to move forward with the company's supplemental applications.
LUBA decided that two of the county's 27 original LNG approvals still don't pass muster. It was the second time the county's findings on the size of the LNG facility and the company's plan to protect salmon were kicked back for falling short of legal standards.
LUBA said the county hasn't shown the project fits within the size limitations for the Bradwood site and hasn't presented a definition of "protect" that satisfies land-use laws.
The remand presents a problem for the eight supplemental applications Bradwood submitted more recently.
Those applications, required by the 2008 approval, include several plans for managing and offsetting environmental impacts of the project, as well as road improvements, parking arrangements and plans for decommissioning the facility at the end of its lifespan.
Bradwood's attorney argued seven of the eight supplemental applications could be processed independently of the 2008 approval. The mitigation plan would be the only application that would have to be held up, she said.
But after the hearing, Bennett said there are several overlaps between the issues remanded by LUBA and the supplemental applications currently awaiting county approval.
"There are a lot of crossovers," he said.
County approval on all the company's applications will be needed before construction can begin on the Bradwood facility 25 miles east of Astoria on the Columbia River. The project includes an LNG import terminal and a 36-mile natural gas transmission pipeline.
Livingston, a former Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals attorney and currently of Portland's Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, seemed to please everyone at Friday's hearing by taking additional testimony on the remand situation, asking questions and explaining legal reasoning.
His approach met with approval from Bradwood LNG executives and project opponents testifying Friday.