Tuesday, February 8, 2011

LNG Fast-Track Bills Threaten Landowners, Salmon, and the Climate

Feb 2, 2011 by Nick Engelfried http://www.blueoregon.com/2011/02/lng-fast-track-bills-threaten-landowners-salmon-and-climate/

With the legislative session kicking off this week, Oregon lawmakers should protect private land and our state’s natural resources from an egregious case of big energy corporations trying to overrule the needs of communities. Allies of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry are looking to introduce legislation to re-define the word “applicant” for wetland removal and fill permits, so they can more easily move forward on unpopular pipeline projects that threaten rural economies. . .

2011 has seen the emergence of not one but two versions of the LNG fast-track bill—a legislative concept which companies like Bradwood LNG and Oregon LNG have been pushing for years. In 2009 and 2010 other versions of the fast-track bill were defeated in the legislature, and rightly so. Though the exact language differs from one bill to another, each is designed to make it easier for energy speculators to apply for and receive permits for pipeline construction on private land—without prior permission from landowners.

This is perhaps first and foremost a land rights issue. Though clearly designed to accommodate the LNG industry, the fast-track bill would change the permitting process for every project on private land that requires a wetlands fill permit. Supporters argue it wouldn’t allow companies to set foot on private land without property owners’ consent, but the entire purpose of the fast-track bill is to streamline permitting to allow property rights to be overruled more quickly in the future. . .

Two versions of the LNG fast-track bill have reared their heads this session. House Bill 2589 and Senate Bill 265 would delete the current definition of “applicant” for wetland removal and fill permits, allowing private companies to apply for permits without the permission or knowledge of landowners. The other version, House Bill 2206/Senate Bill 261, would expand the definition of applicant with the same convenient implications for LNG. So far none of these bills have been assigned to a committee, but we’ll how long that lasts.

If Oregon lawmakers want another drawn-out fight over LNG this year, I’m confident the public will give it to them. But I hope legislators concerned about public interest will take the initiative early on, and speak out against any and all forms of an LNG fast-track bill. Lawmakers will have to make many tough decisions this session—but this shouldn’t have to be one of them.