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Commissioners make strong case

Jackson County commissioners have called on the Department of State Lands to deny a key permit for the proposed pipeline that would carry natural gas across Southern Oregon to a liquefied natural gas export terminal in Coos Bay. It’s the strongest statement yet from county leaders, and state officials should listen.

Meanwhile, a judge in Douglas County issued a setback to the pipeline project on Wednesday by nullifying a county-issued permit.

The LNG venture, now owned by Pembina, a Canadian corporation, has been controversial from its beginnings in 2006, when it was first proposed as an import project to bring liquefied gas from Asia to domestic markets that were experiencing shortages and high prices. New drilling techniques led to a huge increase in domestic production, and importing gas no longer made economic sense, so backers withdrew the proposal, only to bring it back as an export terminal instead.

The project is now moving through the approval process after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied it in 2016 and the company filed a new application.

For the project to proceed, the Department of State Lands must issue a remove and fill permit allowing construction in and around state waterways, including rivers, streams and the waters of Coos Bay.

The commissioners’ letter raises concerns ranging from contamination of waterways from excavated soil washing into wetlands, streams and the Rogue River to leakage of drilling fluid when boring under the river. In addition, the commissioners oppose the company’s plans to use water from reservoirs, a lake and an irrigation canal in Jackson County to fill the 3-foot-diameter pipeline and test its strength. Withdrawing a large quantity of water from a drought-stressed region to test a pipeline built to export a fossil fuel in the midst of efforts to combat global climate change seems a bit counterintuitive.

Also this week, a Douglas County judge invalidated a key permit. County rules require a conditional use permit for the pipeline to cross seven miles of county-owned forestland near Camas Valley. The county issued a permit in 2009, on the condition that construction must begin within two years and the project had to win FERC approval. Douglas County commissioners issued seven one-year extensions since 2009, but FERC denied the pipeline application in March 2016. The judge invalidated the permit, saying the applicant failed to meet the two conditions. A Jordan Cove project spokesman said the company is reviewing its options, including an appeal or a new application.

The Department of State Lands is accepting public comments on the project until Feb. 3. For the reasons listed here and many others, the department should deny the permit.