By JEFF BARNARD
AP Environmental Writer
GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) - A natural gas company halted development Tuesday of a liquefied natural gas terminal near the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon that was on track to be the first facility of its kind on the West Coast.
Extended delays in state and federal permits and a difficult investment environment led to the decision to stop the Bradwood Landing project, NorthernStar Natural Gas President Paul Soanes said in a statement.
"In particular, the challenging regulatory environment gives investors pause," Soanes said, asserting the project would have had a positive impact on the economy and environment of the Northwest while supporting its transition to renewable energy.
Spokesman Joe Desmond said the Houston company would have no other comment.
Mike Carrier, natural resources adviser to Gov. Ted Kulongoski, told The Oregonian newspaper that a company official said the private equity fund that had put $100 million into the project had pulled the plug.
Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, which has opposed the project in court, called the decision to halt the project a major victory.
"It's time for Bradwood to withdraw from all the permitting processes, to stop wasting the public's money, to allow farmers to get back to their livelihoods, to allow fishermen to stop worrying about access to the river," he said.
NorthernStar started work on Bradwood Landing near Astoria six years ago with the hope of building the first deep water port to receive liquefied natural gas tankers on the West Coast and a 36-mile pipeline to connect to existing pipelines serving the state.
Two other liquefied natural gas port projects by other companies remain in development in Oregon.
Bradwood Landing won federal approval, but state officials and conservation groups opposed it, saying the energy source was not needed and posed environmental problems.
Last month, the state Land Use Board of Appeals rejected Clatsop County's approval of the project for the second time, sending it back to resolve questions over whether it was too big for the site and whether enough was being done to protect salmon in the Columbia estuary.
NorthernStar had appealed the decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals.
Jillian Schoene, a spokeswoman for Kulongoski, who had objected that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted approval before state agencies had a chance to weigh in, said the governor was surprised at the announcement.
"I think their statement makes it clear that the company made a business decision," Schoene said.
NorthernStar had estimated the project would have created 450 construction jobs over three years, 65 permanent jobs, and $7.8 million in taxes for Clatsop County, along with driving down the cost of natural gas.