Vote on Pembina propane terminal planned today

Controversial zoning change in North Portland to be debated before a vote is held.

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The Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission will hear five hours of public testimony before voting on a zone change that would clear the way for Calgary-based Pembina Pipeline project. writes:

Pembina Pipeline and the Port of Portland say the $500 million project would constitute on of the biggest industrial developments in city history. The project would generate several dozen permanent jobs and more than $90 million in property tax revenues during the first 10 years of operation, they say. 

Opponents call it a deal with the devil, moving the city away from its focus on sustainability while posing substantial public safety and environmental risks. They are particularly concerned with the risk of a catastrophic fire or explosion – either  at the facility, from a derailment of one of the 100-car trains that would supply the terminal every other day, or on one of the ships that would travel 100 miles of the Columbia River twice a month.

The commission is considering a $6.2 million annual carbon tax to offset the potential emissions, the Portland Tribune reports.

Pembina has argued that much of its propane will be used in Asia to displace coal and oil, thus reducing carbon emissions, or to make plastics. When propane is used as an ingredient in plastics manufacturing, the carbon is embedded in the products and doesn’t get emitted as a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

A subcommittee of Planning and Sustainability Commission members, including Chairman Andre Baugh, devised the new carbon offset proposal. They presumed that half the propane would be used to make plastics, and another 30 percent would be used to displace coal and oil. But the emissions resulting from the remaining chunk of fuel would be sizable, the equivalent of 921,352 metric tons of carbon emissions a year. Using the 2014 price of carbon emissions from Europe’s cap-and-trade system, $6.77 a ton, that translates into more than $6.2 million a year.

The money could be used to promote clean energy options locally, but it is unsure if such a tax would be a “deal breaker” for Pembina.


Vancouver sets up road block for oil terminal proposal

The city of Vancouver is requiring a full environmental assessment before NuStar Energy can convert a bulk terminal into a oil-by-rail export station.

Environmental advocates lauded the decision, Portland Business Journal reports.

NuStar Energy wants to handle about 22,000 barrels of crude per day at what is now a bulk terminal. The project has been largely eclipsed by the far-larger play by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies to handle 360,000 barrels per day at its Vancouver Energy project, now being reviewed by Washington’s Energy Facilities Siting Council.

The Stand Up to Oil Coalition praised Vancouver for the decision. Environmental Impact Statements are far more detailed and costly than the cursory environmental review initially sought by project developers. The process can often take years to complete.

Public comments on the scope of the project will be held May 4.

Oregon Legislature mulls fracking moratorium

A legislative committee will consider rules that would deter fracking in Oregon.

The state isn’t a target by the fracking industry, but opponents don’t want it to be caught off guard, the Statesman Journal reports. 

“I thought it might be a good time to get ahead of the curve on that issue before we have the industry knocking at our door,” [Rep. Ken] Helm said. “Our research tells us over 20 states in the country have some sort of regulation, and three states have decided to ban it outright.”

Helm said he plans to introduce an amendment to the bill that would allow the moratorium to be lifted early if state agencies adopt appropriate rules. The legislation would specifically exempt two projects already operating in Oregon, Helm said.

The projects are in Northwest and Central Oregon. Neither employs “traditional hydraulic fracturing techniques.”