Proposed site of a $500 million propane terminal
  • Denis C Theriault
  • Proposed site of a $500 million propane terminal

The fate of a $500 million propane terminal proposed in North Portland remains doubtful, but two city commissioners are planning to tour the site where the controversial project would emerge.

Commissioners Nick Fish and Steve Novick are scheduled to visit the Port of Portland's Terminal 6 tomorrow morning, a meeting staffers say has been in the works for weeks—well before Mayor Charlie Hales revealed his surprise decision to reverse course and oppose the massive propane facility.

"This is a visit scheduled over a month, maybe two months, ago for both commissioners to go out and look at the site so they understand the lay of the land," says Jim Blackwood, a staffer in Fish's office. According to his public calendar, Fish plans to be at Terminal 6 from 11 am to 1:30 pm tomorrow.

The propane terminal, proposed by Canadian firm Pembina Pipeline, would serve as a loading point for ships bound for China. Millions of gallons of propane would hauled by train to Portland and stored on port property until they could be offloaded onto outgoing vessels.

Blackwood insists tomorrow's tour is wholly unrelated to a question his boss recently put to the Portland city attorney. Last week, Fish asked for an opinion whether city council is required to consider a zoning change that's one of the only things standing in the terminal's way.

As we've reported, city law is confusing on that point. In April, Portland's Planning and Sustainability Commission formally recommended council make the zoning changes—along with a $6.2 million annual "carbon tax" meant to pacify environmental concerns. For such recommendations, relevant city code dictates "the City Auditor will schedule a public hearing."

Hales' office has said such a requirement doesn't mean city council has to actually hold a hearing. Fish is seeking clarity on that issue.

"This is not about the merits of their proposal," Fish told the Mercury earlier this week. "This is about due process. As an elected city commissioner, my first commitment is to good community process and transparency."

Novick hasn't returned an inquiry about the planned visit to the site, just east of Kelley Point Park, but last week he told activists opposing the terminal that "Pembina is off the table," according to a release from the Climate Action Coalition.