19 May

Hales switching sides on propane plant set to backfire

Should Mayor Charlie Hales support or oppose the Pembina propane project?

Here’s my advice:

Pick one.

Because the mayor taking both positions, one after the other, has gotten the city to a worse place than consistent support or opposition would have. No business can now feel confident proceeding in Portland – let alone spending $15 million in preparations – because it has the mayor’s support.

And it’s hard to accept that the mayor was astonished – and forced to back away – by some angry meetings and letter writing.
I mean, this is Portland.

If you’re waiting for a major project with no opposition, good luck.

I can’t speak to seismic safety, in a particularly liquid part of town. But propane is a relatively low-impact and safe fossil fuel, and if you’re going to ban all new fossil fuel plants in favor of renewables, sometime in the next 40 years you may have trouble turning on the lights.

Better to dedicate part of the $12 million in property taxes the facility would pay to environmental or low-carbon transportation projects.

Pembina says it’s going to proceed with the project despite Mayor Hales’ opposition, although getting three of the remaining four votes on the City Council will be a challenge.

But who knows? Maybe the mayor will switch again.

NOTE: This commentary appeared on KGW-TV, 5/16/15.

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