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  • Jess Smart Smiley

Mayor Charlie Hales' office has pulled a June 10 hearing over zoning changes that would allow a massive propane terminal in North Portland, with no plans to take up the matter going forward.

Barring intervention from another commissioner, the move effectively ends Pembina Pipeline's plans to build the $500 million terminal at a plot of Port of Portland land on the Columbia River—at least as currently envisioned. The project needs permissions to criss-cross protected beach land with propane piping. Pembina was counting on city council to enact zoning changes to allow that use.

"The mayor is taking the ordinance off the agenda because he doesn't support the proposal," says spokesman Dana Haynes. "That doesn't prohibit any of the commissioners from submitting it. They could, but I don't speak for them."

No commissioner plans to do that, if my discussions with commissioners and staff members hold.

That probably ends discussion of a pipeline over the shoreline. It might not end Pembina's overtures. The Alberta, Canada-based company has said it will press on with its proposal in the face of the mayor's surprising new opposition. The Port of Portland, which began talks with the company last years, backs that.

"Entering a partnership with Pembina meant that we are committed to supporting them through the entire proposed development process, and they are interested in taking next steps in that process," port spokesman Steve Johnson tells the Mercury.

As I write in this week's Hall Monitor (online and on newsstands shortly!), Johnson declined to give specifics on whether the Port sees a viable path forward for the terminal, which would receive millions of gallons of propane by train, transporting it to ships bound for Asia.

"We have no interest in trying to predetermine the outcome of this process before it runs its course," Johnson says.

The decision to ditch the zoning ordinance is interesting, because of how the ordinance came before council. It was forwarded by the city's Planning and Sustainability Commission last month, with a recommendation council make the zoning tweak. For such recommendations, relevant city code dictates "the City Auditor will schedule a public hearing."

Haynes says that scheduling doesn't matter, if no commissioner puts it on the agenda.

Sit tight. Pembina's almost certainly not done, and new options it comes up with probably won't involve as much public process as the current plan did (which was a fluke).