Whenever this era’s economic history of our area is written, the fight to regain local control over the energy import-export market will form an important chapter. The latest page in that chapter pertains to the Coast Guard’s efforts to be amenable to liquefied natural gas ships, versus the public’s concerns about them.

A federal court has agreed to delve into the USCG’s somewhat convoluted reasoning that approved use of the Columbia Estuary for LNG ships. In essence, the Coast Guard found that although the river isn’t suitable for this purpose, tanker traffic can be accommodated by undertaking a variety of onerous steps – including 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.

What this sounded like to local river users is this: LNG terminals can be made into a viable enterprise by pushing all us peons out of their way and out of business.

Coupled with the recent Oregon Supreme Court ruling that gives Clatsop County commissioners an avenue to deny a final permit for pipeline access across private property to the shoreline, the federal court’s willingness to peer into the USCG’s process means LNG is no longer a foregone conclusion. The corporate and governmental juggernaut that appeared to be greasing all the skids for it seems to be running low on flimflam oil.

Occupying the mouth of the Pacific Northwest’s greatest river, import-export deserves to be a large and growing part of our future. The key is to make certain these proposals, when they come, produce genuine economic activity and do not adversely impact long-established businesses here that have paid their dues.