Fish question brings life to Pembina plan

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales pulled his support for the $500 million project earlier this month

Pembina is planning to construct and operate the facility on land adjacent to the east end of the Port’s marine Terminal 6 in Rivergate Industrial District, May 26, 2015 (KOIN)
Pembina was planning to construct and operate the facility on land adjacent to the east end of the Port’s marine Terminal 6 in Rivergate Industrial District, May 26, 2015 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Pembina propane pipeline project, once thought to be dead, may be getting new life in Portland.

Opponents to the plan to bring a propane storage facility and pipeline into North Portland on land along the Columbia River are not happy, but many in the business community are smiling.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales pulled his support for the $500 million project earlier this month and cancelled a City Council hearing. The proposed site next to the Port of Portland’s Terminal 6 sat quietly.

A private property sign at the Port of Portland, May 26, 2015 (KOIN)
A private property sign at the Port of Portland, May 26, 2015 (KOIN)

“We were incredibly pleased and excited he was listening to the public instead of a Canadian pipleline corporation,” said Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky with Columbia River Keeper.

The plan would bring 37,000 barrels of propane into Portland by train, store it at the port  and then pipe it into ships in the Columbia River.

Those who opposed it on environmental and safety reason thought they carried the day when Hales pulled his support.

“The mayor pulled his support because the citizens of Portland asked him to,” Zimmer-Stucky said. “There couldn’t be a truer form of democracy.”

Protesters outside a public hearing on a plan to bring a propane pipeline by Pembina to the Port of Portland, April 7, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Protesters outside a public hearing on a plan to bring a propane pipeline by Pembina to the Port of Portland, April 7, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

But Commissioner Nick Fish has now asked the city attorney if Pembina has a right to a hearing in front of the City Council since they received approval from the Planning and Sustainability Commission.

If so, that gives the plan new life.

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Sandra McDonough of the Portland Business Alliance said it’s only fair Pembina gets a city council hearing.

“They followed the city process for securing a zone change, which went before the Planning and Sustainability Commission and got a recommendation for approval with conditions. The next step, in a typical process, would be for City Council to take up the Planning Commission recommendation,” McDonough said.

A Pembina executive told KOIN 6 News they had nothing to do with Fish asking the question, but they are appreciative and tried to win the support of councilmembers.

“All the reasons we came to Portland, they’re still really, really great reasons to be in Portland,” said Eric Dyck,  a Pembina vice president of marine terminals. “We believed it then and still believe it.”

The project, Pembina claims, would create 40 permanent jobs and add $12 million in annual property tax revenue.

Fish said he has not taken an official position for or against the project. Instead, he said, his questions about bringing this to a council hearing are centered around a good community process and transparency.

“This is not about the merits of propane,” Fish said. “This about the rule of law and good public process.”

“I don’t think the city council, the mayor, Commissioner Fish owes Pembina any favors,” Zimmer-Stucky said.

The City Council was to hear the issue on June 10. Fish said he has not yet heard back from the city attorney.

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