Since 2004 a number of interrelated controversies have surrounded proposals to site a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal near Astoria. While public participation has impacted the decision-making process surrounding these proposals, we do not know how such public participation processes have been perceived by those who participated. Using content analysis from local newspapers and regulatory documents and 19 semi-structured interviews with active participants, I investigate the opportunities provided for public input in the Oregon LNG project. I found while participants agree that there have been numerous opportunities for citizens to attend and be informed about the project’s status, they do not feel that public input has been adequately incorporated into decisions about the project. Furthermore, I suggest when opponents believed that they were not heard, they put tremendous efforts to create their own political opportunities to advance their position. Based on the insights from Social Movement studies, when seeking for seasons, which ignited the opposition against the projects, I found safety was the first-of-all concern of the majority of opponents. However, there were also many other risks, like those concerning harms to commercial and tourism businesses on the Columbia River, to the estuary and salmon habitat, which served as sufficient frames to support the mobilization process. I also discovered the roles of an environmental non-profit, Columbia Riverkeeper, as well as the community mobilizing experience as indispensable factors to drive public participation. My results also provide important information about the limitations of public participation processes and suggestions to effectively engage and incorporate citizen concerns.

Trang, Tran C.
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School of Public Policy, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
Master of Public Policy