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The bell finally tolls for Jordan Cove

After more than 15 years, a change of ownership and a flip-flop from importing to exporting liquefied natural gas, the Jordan Cove LNG terminal and the pipeline that would have fed it are history. That will come as a tremendous relief to the property owners who still faced the prospect of eminent domain proceedings that could have taken their land.

Pembina, the Canadian company behind Jordan Cove, and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline on Tuesday announced they had decided not to move forward with the project and formally asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to “vacate the authorizations” it had earlier issued, effectively ending the project. The Washington, D.C. Circuit Court last month ordered FERC to revisit its approval of the project by the end of January. Last week, FERC’s chairman said it would do so, and acknowledged that “the commission made numerous mistakes in the underlying proceedings granting the certificate and approving the LNG facility.”

None of this comes as much of a surprise. Pembina announced in May that it had paused the project because of the state’s permit denials.

Wednesday’s announcement ends a long saga that started with a proposal to import liquefied natural gas from Asia. When that project was given federal approval in 2009, domestic gas supplies were dwindling and prices were on the increase. It would have been cheaper to ship supercooled, compressed gas across the Pacific than to produce it here. And building the port and the pipeline would mean good jobs for the Oregon economy.

But in three years, new domestic wells began producing huge quantities of gas and prices fell. Importing gas from Asia no longer made economic sense. The project’s backers asked FERC to withdraw its approval and instead accept an application to export gas instead.

That made more sense for the company, but not so much for Oregonians. The export project would benefit Pembina, and U.S. and Canadian gas suppliers who would have a new way to get their gas to foreign markets. It would benefit Oregonians only to the extent that some of them might get temporary jobs building the pipeline, and it would pay tax revenue to the counties the pipeline would cross. But natural gas customers would see no benefit, and could even see their rates climb if exports limited the domestic supply. Permanent jobs at the export terminal were to number about 200.

Labor unions supported the project because of the temporary construction jobs the pipeline would generate, and some south coast officials backed it for the economic boost it would bring to Coos Bay. But many property owners along the 229-mile pipeline route across Southern Oregon staunchly opposed the prospect of a 3-foot-diameter pipe carrying flammable gas across their land.

FERC approved the project in March 2020, on the condition that Pembina secure all necessary state permits before starting construction. The approval did, however, give the company permission to begin eminent domain actions to secure easements anyway.

That threat is now lifted.