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Oregon Terminal Developer Gets Blessing For Natural Gas Exports

Jan Arrhenborg

A proposed liquefied natural gas terminal near Astoria, Oregon, received the U.S. Department of Energy’s blessing Thursday to export to all overseas markets. It's a necessary approval to make the controversial project pencil out, but many hurdles remain.

The Energy Department gave a company called Oregon LNG conditional approval to export domestic and Canadian natural gas from the Port of Astoria.

The federal agency turned aside objections from environmental and utility groups. They argued that exports will create higher demand on North American supplies. That would lead to higher domestic gas prices and by extension, higher electricity rates.

Oregon LNG chief executive Peter Hansen insisted gas exports should yield a net economic benefit to the U.S.

“Market prices will go by up a little bit,” he said. “The positive impacts to the economy will be so large that it will compensate many times over for that.”

Hansen said the export approval adds “momentum” to his project, but he acknowledged the permitting process is a “marathon.” An environmental impact statement and the okay for the feeder pipeline still lie ahead.

The proposed Columbia River terminal is one of several on the drawing board to move cheap North American natural gas to thirsty Asian markets. Other locations undergoing lengthy review include Coos Bay, Oregon, and Kitimat, British Columbia.

Hansen said his company hopes to break ground for its LNG tanker terminal late next year or in early 2016. Under that scenario, natural gas exports from the lower Columbia River could start late in 2019.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.