A U.S. federal court will review a lawsuit that involves the U.S. Coast Guard’s approval of proposed transportation of liquefied natural gas at the mouth of the Columbia River.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Friday to review the legal challenge, which was filed by Columbia Riverkeeper, Columbia-Pacific Commonsense and Wahkiakum Friends of the River in October.

The citizen groups have engaged in a nearly four-year process, appealing analysis done by the Coast Guard that determined tanker ships could be used in LNG import/exports along the Columbia River.

The Coast Guard found that tanker traffic would be feasible, but would require tug and escort boats as well as a 500-yard security zone around them while in the shipping channel and a 200-yard zone while berthed. They submitted a recommendation in 2009 that determined the river was not suitable, but could be made suitable for the proposed LNG transportation.

The citizen groups criticize the analysis, citing environmental impacts and potential safety threats were not adequately addressed.

“This challenge is about holding the Coast Guard accountable,” said Lauren Goldberg, staff attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper.

The goal, Goldberg said, is to have the Coast Guard do an Environmental Impact Statement (EIC), which was not conducted before their recommendation.

In a statement released by the conservation group, Cheryl Johnson, a retired librarian who lives in Astoria, said the LNG project isn’t what’s best for the community.

“Whether we’re talking about the exclusion zones around LNG tankers displacing boaters or LNG pipelines condemning farmland, Oregon LNG’s project is out of step with what’s best for our communities,” she said.

The Coast Guard was not available for comment on the lawsuit.

The 2009 recommendation followed a period when plans for the terminal at the mouth of the river were still moving forward.

On March 28, the Oregon Supreme Court struck down an appeal made by LNG developers to review the Clatsop County Commission’s denial of a land-use permit in March 2011. The decision clears the way for county commissioners to finalize a denial of the permit for proposed development.


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