Opponents of LNG terminal say company's brochure misrepresents the Columbia River
By Tony Lystra
Dec 17, 2006 - 12:39:04 am PST
On a recent evening, Bill Castle opened a brochure mailed to his home from Northern Star Natural Gas, the Houston company that wants to build a liquid natural gas import terminal on the banks of the Columbia River.
He flipped through page after colorful page, each assuring the public that salmon stocks would be preserved if the terminal is built. Then, he said, as he turned to an artistically rendered map, he shook his head.
Absent was Puget Island, as well as a scattershot of sand bars and other land masses. From the illustration, Castle said, you'd think the large, fuel-hauling tankers headed for the terminal would have a wide-open path.
"It's not as simple as what that map shows," said Castle, who lives in Longview. "They do not reflect the dangers of the sandbars and islands in the river that these ships have to negotiate."
Northern Star executives, who want to build the terminal in Bradwood Landing, Ore., and run a pipeline through Cowlitz County, said this month that they never intended to mislead anyone.
But the question of the brochure and map, which has been discussed at public meetings and in e-mails circulated among activists, is a sure sign of just how distrustful opponents are of the company. It is also an indication of how closely they are paying attention to its message.
"It's certainly got some people ... rattled pretty good," said Kent Martin of Skamokawa, who has commercially fished salmon on the Columbia for more than four decades. There's all these soothing noises --'We're really part of the community; you're a neighbor'-- and then they send a map that doesn't have Puget Island on it."
Joe Desmond, Northern Star's senior vice president of external affairs, said the map is based on a Lewis-and-Clark-era chart. It "was not designed as an engineering document," Desmond said.
Rather, he said, it was intended to "illustrate and evoke the importance of salmon to the Pacific Northwest and the community."
Still, opponents, who fear the terminal will cause damage to the environment and pose safety risks to the public, say the company played a sly trick when it illustrated a shipping channel far different from the current-day river.
"This is really smoke and mirrors," said Vonda Brock, another opponent, who lives in Longview. She called the map "an acutely excellent psychological manipulation."
A letter, circulated by Astoria dentist and Northern Star opponent Tom Duncan, said the map is "clearly meant to confuse" and is an example of the company's "unadulterated, shameless mendacity."