The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed a petition from the state of Oregon and opponents of the Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas development. The ruling released today says, basically, the petitioners’ concerns about the project are moot now that there is little to no chance of the LNG terminal and pipeline ever being built.
However, the court also granted the opponents’ wishes by vacating the 2008 federal approval of the Bradwood Landing LNG license.
If NorthernStar’s bankruptcy filing and land-use rejection last year were nails in Bradwood’s coffin, the court’s ruling to invalidate the license throws dirt on its grave.
Project opponents, who fought nearly every permit the company needed to build a $650 million LNG import terminal on the Columbia River, said they believe now the project is truly dead.
“That’s what we were asking for all along – that the court vacate the license,” said Columbia Riverkeeper Executive Director Brett VandenHeuvel, who said there was still some concern among opponents that the license approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could be transferred to a new developer to keep the project alive.
But the court was explicit in quashing that possibility, noting that the pipeline and the terminal licenses are part of one project that is in “grave doubt” following the developer’s bankruptcy filing (the pipeline approval is called a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity):
“While FERC may authorize a permittee to transfer a Section 3 permit to a new project proponent, 18 C.F.R. § 153.9(a), the (Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity) “is not transferable in any manner,” id. § 157.20(e). Once NorthernStar is liquidated in the bankruptcy proceeding, it will no longer exist, and thus will not be able to renew its efforts to obtain Washington’s certification under the CWA or Oregon’s concurrence in the proponents’ federal consistency determination under the CZMA, or proceed with the pipeline project in any other manner. Nor can it transfer the CPCN to a third party.
While Bradwood’s Section 3 permit is theoretically transferable, the petitioners concede that the terminal and the pipeline essentially constitute a single project that will go forward together, or not at all, even though the terminal and the pipeline are formally subject to two different permits. Given that the project proponents have filed Chapter 7 petitions, and failed to demonstrate compliance with Washington state water quality standards or consistency with Oregon’s land use policies and project authorization requirements, the future of the project as currently permitted is in grave doubt.”
There are still a few lingering questions about what this ruling means for investors in the Bradwood project, including Palomar Gas Transmission and Northwest Natural, who have filed claims in the NorthernStar bankruptcy case to recoup around $17 million. I put in a call to Palomar and asked whether this court ruling has any implications for them, but I haven’t heard back yet.