Though the Jordan Cove liquified natural gas project was denied by federal regulators in March, a television ad began running in prime time during the Olympics touting its economic benefits.
"When the Jordan Cove Energy Project is built," says the ad, "it will create hundreds of permanent, real jobs for local workers."
The NBC spot is part of a campaign of television, print, radio and website ads kickstarted by Boost Southwest Oregon, a group lobbying for the pipeline.
Boost co-chairman Mark Wall declined to say how much the organization has spent on the television ad or the campaign. NBC affiliate KOBI-TV also declined to say how much such an ad might cost.
FERC denied the Jordan Cove and Pacific Connector pipeline projects that would have carried LNG to a plant north of Coos Bay for export overseas because it found there was insufficient demand for the product and public benefits were outweighed by negative impacts to landowners along its route. The 232-mile pipeline would have cut through Jackson County, including under the Rogue River.
The years-long battle for the project is not necessarily a closed case, however. FERC is currently deciding whether to rehear the project. Jackson County commissioners have sent a letter to FERC asking that regulators stick to their denial.
"It could be any day, it could be in two or three months," says Robyn Janssen, a member of Rogue Riverkeeper, an organization that has spoken out against the pipeline. "If history repeats itself, FERC has usually stayed with its original decision."
FERC's opening the door to a possible rehearing didn't come as a shock to Janssen.
"We expected this," she says. "So we continue to put pressure on the governor, on state agencies. ... There's concern for sure, but people are still really adamant."
Rogue Riverkeeper doesn't intend to counter the ad, but will continue to encourage community opposition to the pipeline.
Michael Hinrichs, spokesperson for Jordan Cove LNG, the company that would build the LNG terminal in Coos Bay's North Spit port, says he was pleased with the ad and reviewed it before it aired. Jordan Cove LNG is one of Boost's funders.
Hinrichs says Jordan Cove "corrected the records and updated numbers" for the rehearing process. Among these was an updated projection of affected homeowners, which he says has been reduced from 630 to 254.
As Jordan Cove awaits a rehearing decision, it continues to seek clients for its natural gas. According to Hinrichs, the project has attained agreements for 50 percent of the clients, including Japan-based energy companies JERA Inc. and ITOCHU Corp., and 77 percent of the pipeline's gas capacity.
Citizens Against LNG Executive Director Jody McCaffree says her requests for copies of these agreements have been unsuccessful.
"They need investment dollars," McCaffree says of the ad. "That doesn't mean it's going to go forward."
The ad prompted concern from Bob Palzer, vice chairman of the Rogue Group, part of the Sierra Club's Oregon Chapter.
"It's extremely deceptive. It paints a rosy picture of jobs," he says of the ad. "Many [jobs] will only be relevant during the construction stage."
A 2013 economic analysis from FERC's draft environmental impact statement estimated 2,100 people would be employed during construction; 154 total permanent jobs would be required to staff the pipeline and terminal. The ad's statement that the project "will create hundreds of permanent, real jobs" refers to the "direct and indirect jobs for support industries," Wall says.
As to why Boost decided to run the ad, Wall says, "There's a sense that after FERC's decision the project is dead. We want to remind people that it's still a viable project. It's far from dead."
Despite the hurdles the project still faces, including gaining two favorable decisions from FERC, he adds, "There's nothing insurmountable here."
The Rogue Group, like Rogue Riverkeeper, is continuing to push for community awareness about the pipeline.
"This thing is not dead until someone drives a stake through the heart of this ill-thought-out proposal," Palzer says.
Reach reporting intern Hannah Golden at firstname.lastname@example.org.