The Daily 750









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LNG: The Warrenton Vote

Friday, October 14, 2005

Last night, Warrenton's planning commission voted 4-3 to recommend to the City Council that it rezone 40 acres of shoreland as I-2, for industrial use, for the Calpine LNG facility.

Opposing the decision were chair Gillian Maggert, Colleen Keenan and Barry Smith. Voting in favor of the rezoning recommendation were Steve Hawks, Chris Hayward, Tommy Johnson and Vince Williams. Hawks is quoted as saying, "Otherwise, we're going to have a bunch of retirees and a bunch of people pumping their gas."

Well, there are a growing number of more palatable alternatives. One example: Dr. Sonny Park and his partner (and nurse and wife) Mary are days away from breaking ground on a second medical building. This one will be twice as big as the one they built four or five years ago, providing jobs for perhaps 15 doctors and more than 60 nurses, technicians, and assistants. The facility is likely to outlast any industrial plant and has none of the associated problems. Indeed, the building will be a nice addition to the area, replacing a large patch of weeds and a quonset hut that once housed a business. Many of the jobs can be filled by local residents as soon as they are available; parents can look forward to their children return to the coast as doctors or nurses or medical technicians. Taxes, granted a three-year deferral, will kick in and begin contributing to the county years before Calpine gets its final permit to begin construction.

I shake my head. The planning commission's recommendation requires the approval of ODOT and the Dept of Land Conservation and Development, neither of whom have yet to receive the required information from Calpine. ODOT, according to the Daily Astorian's report, "specifically asked the commision to continue the hearing until another date when ODOT had signed off." Citizen opposition at the meeting ran more than two to one against the recommendation.

Once again, the first concern of opponents appears to have been a terrorist attack. Can we please stop talking about this exceedingly low possibility and start talking about the actual problems and challenges, including these, listed at the end of the Daily A's report.

The lack of an outside expert to evaluate the costs and benefits or safety reports from the police and fire chiefs;

The federal government’s ability to regulate LNG terminals;

Decreases in public enjoyment of the Skipanon Peninsula;

Interference with fishing vessels and cruise ships;

Decline in housing values;

Cost of security for the plant;

The location of the pipeline that would transport LNG to Portland and effects on landowners;

Three years of construction traffic;

Air and water pollution;

Problems for the estuary.

Resident Peter Huhtala said Calpine has never built or operated an LNG terminal, and several people questioned Calpine’s financial status, the possibility it would sell the land to another energy company and its general trustworthiness.