Warrenton - If the city of Warrenton wants to set requirements or conditions for any future liquefied natural gas facility, they should start doing so now, Boston attorney Dianne Phillips, who worked for an LNG facility in Everett, Mass., told a joint work session of the Warrenton City Commission and Planning Commission Tuesday evening.
"Now is the right time, I think, to be thinking about these things," Phillips said. The city is considering making changes to its development code in response to proposed LNG facilities on the Skipanon Peninsula and at Tansy Point.
"We want to make sure that our ordinances are going to give the city the control the city needs," City Attorney Hal Snow said in introducing Phillips.
Phillips went over the regulatory layers for the commission members and said that while the Energy Policy Act of 2005 gave sole siting authority for onshore LNG facilities to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, it also outlined a role for local and state agencies.
The act gave local communities the "ability to have more direct input, and project applicants are required to address the safety and security concerns of a community," she said.
The role that local zoning laws play in the siting process is still unclear, she said; if it's a matter where the federal government has jurisdiction, such as regulating foreign or interstate commerce, the federal laws will pre-empt local laws, but "FERC does not believe that it can ignore local zoning," Phillips said.
She added that the state also has siting-related rights under the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act.
The Energy Policy Act also has a cost-sharing provision, she said, under which the applicant has to pay "reasonable costs" that the community incurs as a result of an LNG facility, such as for added police or fire resources.
These cost-sharing provisions apply to any municipality along an LNG vessel's transit route, and she suggested that Warrenton and other lower Columbia River cities start thinking about the effects of the Bradwood facility.
"I think it's incumbent for communities to make themselves heard," she said.
The city could set conditions for the facility such as the energy company providing training for local law enforcement, paying for third-party inspectors, and parking and traffic-flow standards, said Warrenton City Planner Carol Parker.
But Phillips said the city couldn't impose conditions that would reverse FERC's requirements, or which would prohibit a facility from being built.
"You can't have a height restriction that prohibits a plant," she said.
The commission members also discussed having another joint meeting with the Port of Astoria to talk about possible changes to the city's development code.