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State makes strong case against LNG

Two out of the three current members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made the right call Thursday when they voted against the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas plant in Coos Bay and its feeder pipeline across Southern Oregon. The decision was only temporary, however — a point emphasized by the pro-LNG commission chairman. We’ll see whether FERC respects Oregon state agencies’ objections to the project or tries to overrule them.

FERC gave no indication of when it might take up the matter again, although Commissioner Bernard McNamee, one of the no votes, said he would be ready to vote again in a week. McNamee, usually a supporter of LNG projects, said he wanted time to review a letter sent Wednesday by the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, citing “significant” adverse effects that would “negatively impact Oregon’s coastal scenic and aesthetic resources, a variety of endangered and threatened species, critical habitat and ecosystem services, fisheries resources, commercial and recreational fishing and boating, and commercial shipping and transportation, among other sectors critical to the state.”

Pembina, the Canadian company behind the Jordan Cove project, has now failed to obtain three state permits required to proceed. Applications for two of those were withdrawn by the company but not resubmitted.

That alone should be enough to stop the project, but things are never that simple when considering a $10 billion project promising jobs and economic development to a struggling seaport community. And the Trump administration has moved to make it easier to approve LNG and pipeline projects.

FERC has denied this project once before, ruling that Veresen, the previous owner, had not demonstrated enough public benefit to overcome the impact to property owners along the 230-mile pipeline. It’s hard to see how anything has changed in that regard.

This project would take natural gas from Canada and the United States — it’s still not clear how much U.S. gas would be involved — cool it into liquid form in Coos Bay and ship it to buyers in Asia. The vast majority of jobs touted by Pembina would be generated by constructing the pipeline and processing plant, and would disappear once the project was finished, leaving a relative handful of permanent jobs in Coos Bay. Meanwhile, property owners along the pipeline route could face eminent domain proceedings to force them to grant easements across their land.

The DLCD’s letter stated that only the state department could determine whether the project complied with the Oregon Coastal Management Plan, and that only Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross could overrule the state’s objection, by determining that the project is “consistent with the objectives or purposes of the Coastal Zone Management Act or is necessary in the interest of national security.”

It’s clear from the department’s 56-page document that the project is not in any way consistent, and it would be a quite a stretch to argue that a Canadian company exporting natural gas to Asia for private profit is somehow in the interest of national security. It certainly isn’t in Oregon’s interest.