Two state approvals needed to build the Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas terminal have been delayed until developer NorthernStar Natural Gas Inc. can provide the state with more detailed information about its project plans.
NorthernStar recently asked the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to restart the time clock on the 401 Water Quality Certification and agreed to push back the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development decision on Coastal Zone Management Act consistency from Sept. 21 to Jan. 19.
The moves came as the two state agencies were nearing the deadlines for making decisions on Bradwood's applications, which were still missing project data the state requested in May. The DEQ and DLCD decisions are required state approvals in the federal LNG permitting process, which is headed up by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
FERC has not made a licensing decision on the Bradwood project, but if the project receives a federal license, NorthernStar will need several permits from the state of Oregon before it can begin construction on its proposed LNG terminal 20 miles east of Astoria on the Columbia River.
More information requestedIn May, DEQ asked NorthernStar to submit more information about the dredging it proposes to do at the terminal site and its water use for ballast water and terminal operations, along with a number of other requests needed to complete the state's water-quality review.
According to Alex Cyril, water quality permit manager for DEQ, in order to approve a water quality certification, the state needs to know how the project's dredging would affect water flows in Clifton Channel and how the water use for ballast and terminal operations would affect the temperature of the water in the Columbia River.
But as the Oct. 17 deadline approached for DEQ to make a permitting decision, the state still didn't have that information from the company. NorthernStar withdrew its request for 401 Water Quality Certification last week to restart the one-year review period DEQ has to issue the water-quality permit as required by the federal Clean Water Act.
NorthernStar officials say the delays in the state approvals will be minor and won't disrupt the overall project. They say they plan to submit the requested information by Monday.
"It's just a slight delay in the timing," said Joe Desmond, vice president of external relations for NorthernStar. "We expect a two-week delay with no overall setback in the overall project. It doesn't change the processing of the timeline for moving forward."
Because many of the project permits are tied together, he said, the delays will also push back the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' review of the company's application for a dredge permit by about a month.
Bradwood Landing project opponents are criticizing the company for wasting taxpayers' time and money by withholding information needed to complete the state permitting process.
"It's starting to look like they are hiding something," said Brent Foster, executive director of the LNG opponent group Columbia Riverkeeper.
In an e-mailed response, NorthernStar spokesman Chuck Deister called Columbia Riverkeeper's claim "outrageous" and said: "We have been open in providing information."
Cyril said her agency will hold a public meeting to collect comments on the company's new permit application once it is complete.
Meanwhile, DLCD had a deadline of Sept. 21 to rule on the project's Coastal Zone Management Act consistency certification, which is contingent upon the DEQ's water quality certification approval. The state and the company recently agreed to delay that approval deadline until Jan. 19.
Other state permits, including a water discharge permit and an air-quality permit from DEQ, are waiting on a complete Land Use Compatibility Statement from Clatsop County. Though the county approved the Bradwood project in March, Columbia Riverkeeper has challenged the decision at the State Land Use Board of Appeals.
The county's Sept. 16 ballot measure on LNG pipelines could also punch a hole in the Bradwood land-use approval if voters decide natural gas pipelines should not be conditionally allowed on land zoned for open space, parks and recreation.