Government keeps wary eye on Oregon energy projects

ASTORIA — Federal officials say they are concerned about a potential conflict of interest with an environmental consulting group that's working on two linked energy projects.

Staff from the Natural Resource Group is working on both the Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas project and the Palomar Gas Transmission pipeline.

The projects are linked by a segment of the Palomar line that's slated to serve the Bradwood LNG terminal, proposed for a site 20 miles east of Astoria.

In a letter, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission official Richard Hoffmann noted the two projects face an ethical hurdle.

"NRG's work on the Palomar pipeline could appear to provide it with a financial interest in seeing that the Bradwood Landing LNG Project gets approved," he wrote.

Natural Resource Group's Douglas Lake said his company has no financial interest in either project, but he can see why FERC is treading carefully.

The scrutiny echoes question about whether the two projects are mutually dependent.

"What FERC really needs to do is pull its head out of the sand and evaluate the Bradwood project and the Palomar project at the same time," said Brent Foster of the environmental watchdog group, Columbia Riverkeeper.

Palomar and Bradwood officials say the two projects are separate and aren't reliant on each other.

Though Bradwood has its own pipeline running east to a Williams Northwest mainline near Kelso, Wash., project developer NorthernStar Natural Gas Co. has also accepted an option to send gas from Bradwood through the Palomar pipeline.

The 212-mile Palomar line aims to join the gas distribution networks of TransCanada National Corp. and Northwest Natural with 109 miles of pipeline running from near Madras to Molalla and then 103 miles running north to meet the Bradwood Landing project pipeline at Wauna.

The 103-mile segment of the Palomar pipeline isn't likely to be built unless the Bradwood terminal is approved.

NRG's work for the Bradwood and Palomar projects has, in effect, put the company on both sides of the FERC permitting process. The company works for FERC, the LNG siting authority, on the Bradwood project, helping FERC staff scrutinize the environmental impacts of the project at the developers' expense.

On the other hand, NRG is working directly for Palomar Gas, helping that project proceed through the FERC permitting process.

In his letter, Hoffmann told Lake that individual NRG employees cannot work on both projects.

Lake said his company plans to meet all of FERC's requirements.


Information from: The Daily Astorian,

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