NO QUICK ACTION FROM BOARD PENDING ON PIPELINE APPLICATION
The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners will not move immediately to finalize its reconsideration decision rejecting the land-use application from Oregon Pipeline LLC, despite a recent legal ruling in its favor.
On the advice of legal counsel, the board will instead await the outcome of a challenge to that ruling, a process that will likely take several months.
The advice is based on a ruling from the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), issued in April and re-confirmed last month, that effectively suspended the county’s review process.
On May 16 Circuit Court Judge Phil Nelson dismissed a request for a writ of mandamus from Oregon Pipeline, which argued that Clatsop County exceeded the mandated deadline to review and act on its consolidated application to build 41 miles of natural gas pipeline.
Following Judge Nelson’s ruling, on May 24 LUBA issued an order denying Oregon Pipeline’s motion to dismiss the LUBA proceeding concerning the county’s first decision approving the pipeline application in November 2010, and suspending the appeal process until the mandamus issue is fully resolved. This includes any appeals of Nelson’s ruling.
On June 6 Oregon Pipeline filed an appeal of Nelson’s decision with the Oregon Court of Appeals.
In a June 1 letter to the board of commissioners, one of the project opponents, Columbia Riverkeeper, argued that Nelson’s mandamus ruling confirms the county’s jurisdiction over the application, and urged the board to move forward and adopt the proposed findings rejecting the application.
According to attorney Jeff Bennett, Clatsop County’s legal counsel on the Oregon Pipeline issue, the county’s review process is frozen until the mandamus issue is settled, including any appeals.
The board of commissioners originally approved the Oregon Pipeline application in November 2010. That ruling was appealed by Columbia Riverkeeper and other project opponents, and in January the board, with three new members, voted to withdraw that approval in order to reconsider the application.
On March 9 the board of commissioners gave preliminary approval to findings rejecting the application. The board was scheduled to adopt the findings March 30, but on March 29 the Oregon Supreme Court, on a motion from Oregon Pipeline, issued a stay on the county blocking further action until the mandamus issue was resolved in the circuit court.
LUBA’s May 24 ruling reads “The Circuit Court’s May 16, 2011 letter opinion has no immediate effect on the reasoning that leads us to conclude that we should (1) deny Oregon Pipeline’s motion to dismiss this appeal and (2) continue the suspension that we ordered on April 8, 2011.”
Community Relations Coordinator