Two federal agencies are going to court over last year's approval of the Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas project.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency that protects threatened and endangered salmon, has filed a petition in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals asking the court to decide whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission broke the law when it conditionally approved the Bradwood project in September 2008.

The NMFS petition joins three other pending appeals of the Bradwood approval filed in the 9th Circuit by the states of Oregon and Washington and a consortium of environmental groups led by Columbia Riverkeeper.

Challengers argue federal energy regulators broke the law when they granted the Bradwood project conditional approval before the states and the federal fisheries service had weighed in on the environmental impacts of the $600 million LNG terminal and pipeline.

Bradwood project developer NorthernStar Natural Gas Inc. counters that FERC's approval included conditions that satisfy all legal requirements and that all state and federal concerns will be addressed before construction of the facility begins.

NorthernStar has been working since 2005 to obtain the permits needed to build the Bradwood Landing LNG import facility 20 miles east of Astoria on the Columbia River. Last fall, FERC voted 4-1 to approve a conditional LNG license for the company that required 109 additional actions be taken before construction can begin. Those actions include obtaining several air and water pollution permits from the states of Oregon and Washington and a ruling from the National Marine Fisheries Service that the project will not jeopardize threatened and endangered species.

But state and federal agencies say FERC should have waited for those permits to be approved before it issued a license.

After trying unsuccessfully to get FERC to reconsider the approval, the states of Oregon and Washington, NMFS and Columbia Riverkeeper are taking the issue to court.

In its recent 9th Circuit filing, NMFS, represented by the U.S. Department of Justice, argues FERC violated the Endangered Species Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which require fishery regulators to be consulted on the impacts of an LNG development before it is approved.

In an e-mailed statement, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger, who heads the Oregon Department of Justice, said he is happy to have U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on his side of the case.

"I am delighted that U.S. Attorney General Holder agrees the FERC order is unlawful," he said.

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