People opposed to exporting liquefied natural gas in Oregon say Monday’s explosion along the Columbia River points out safety problems at these types of facilities. But project supporters say the explosion should not affect decisions about their facilities.
The explosion at a liquefied natural gas -- or LNG -- storage tank in Plymouth, Washington, sent five people to the hospital. Hundreds more were forced to evacuate a two-mile zone around the facility.
The explosion quickly drew the attention of opponents to LNG export projects on the Oregon coast. One is proposed for Coos Bay on the south coast. The other would be built in Warrenton near the mouth of the Columbia River.
Dan Serres is with Columbia Riverkeeper. He’s concerned that the communities where these export projects would be built are far more densely populated than the small town of Plymouth in south central Washington.
“Imagining how you would evacuate the schools, the nursing homes, all the facilities that are within that two-mile radius, it’s just almost unimaginable,” says Serres.
The Jordan Cove LNG project in Coos Bay could store almost triple the amount of natural gas as the Plymouth facility.
Michael Hinrichs is the spokesman for Jordan Cove. He says the facility would have its own fire department. Storage tanks would be more than a mile from the nearest home.
“This is an industry that has been around for a very long time, and it definitely had some lessons to learn from. And our facility is going to take those lessons into consideration, build according to the applicable standards, and make sure that we operate above and beyond for safety,” says Hinrichs.
In Plymouth, nearly all of the residents have returned to their homes.
The day of the explosion evacuee Dawn Wallem sat in the back of a blue pickup truck at the Umatilla County Fairgrounds. Her house is about one-quarter of a mile from the LNG storage tanks.
Wallem had already rented a hotel room for the evening and wasn’t concerned about returning home quickly.
“I’m not going to push to go back there. I need to know it’s safe. We need to be sure it’s safe first,” says Wallem.
Wallem says she’s learned over the years to be prepared for just about anything.
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