The Columbia River estuary is at the center of an unprecedented effort to site dirty energy export projects in the most critical salmon nurseries in the Pacific Northwest. The Port Westward rezone is at the heart of this effort. You are holding the line.
Message from the Legal Team, Port Westward Rezone
My oldest daughter was in diapers when the Port Westward rezone saga began. This fall she’ll start second grade. Protecting high-quality farmland and salmon habitat from dirty fossil fuel development doesn’t happen overnight. Thanks for hanging in there with us! Yesterday Columbia Riverkeeper filed a petition for review to the Oregon Supreme Court. As someone who cares about clean water and the future of Columbia County, I wanted to share a breakdown of the latest legal development.
- Riverkeeper challenged Columbia County’s decision to rezone 837 acres of farmland for industrial development adjacent to Port Westward in 2014 and again in 2017. The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) ruled in our favor in both cases, sending the rezone decision back to Columbia County. Earlier this year Riverkeeper decided to appeal LUBA’s decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals (i.e., on the arguments we lost); the Port of Columbia County also appealed.
- On May 22, 2019, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld LUBA’s finding that Columbia County ignored Oregon law when it doubled the size of Port Westward and opened high-quality farmland to polluting industrial development. Without the rezoned property, a controversial fracked gas-to-methanol refinery cannot move forward with plans to site a massive refinery in Oregon.
- The Court of Appeals upheld LUBA’s ruling that the County’s rezone decision violated legal requirements to demonstrate the industrial uses would be compatible with adjacent uses like farming. As a result, the Port of Columbia County must: (1) address those legal errors through a new zoning process before the County, and (2) the County must approve the rezone. This means the rezone cannot move forward without a new public process and vote by Columbia County.
- Riverkeeper filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court that asks the Court to find additional legal errors with Columbia County’s rezone approval. In particular, we’re concerned that part of the Court of Appeals’ ruling undercuts Oregon’s legal framework that protects farmland from industrial development.
Throughout the long-running legal saga, we’ve had support from the incredible lawyers at the Crag Law Center. Since the Supreme Court gets to choose whether to review the Court of Appeals’ decision, we are also prepared to work with Crag and community members to try—once again—to convince Columbia County to deny the Port’s industrial expansion plans.
Enough legalese. Here’s the big picture: The Columbia River estuary is at the center of an unprecedented effort to site dirty energy export projects in the most critical salmon nurseries in the Pacific Northwest. The Port Westward rezone is at the heart of this effort. You are holding the line. Stay tuned on social media and email for the latest developments on the rezone.
We need your help to protect Columbia County from crude oil trains along the Columbia.