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FERC releases environmental impact report

A proposed liquefied natural gas terminal and pipeline in southwest Oregon would have limited adverse environmental impacts, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's final environmental impact statement released Friday.

However, the report stressed that limiting those adverse impacts would require the implementation of the applicants' proposed mitigation measures and additional measures recommended by staff, a FERC spokeswoman said in an e-mail to the Mail Tribune.

Nor does the staff's report mean the controversial Pacific Connector Natural Gas Pipeline and Jordan Cove terminal is a done deal, Celeste Miller wrote.

The project now will be considered by the commission which will either approve it, incorporating staff recommendations; call for evidentiary hearings before a FERC administrative law judge to explore a specific concern or reject it outright, she said.

No timetable has been set for that decision.

The 36-inch-diameter underground pipeline, which would be roughly 230 miles long, would start in Coos Bay and cut through the Upper Rogue corridor, ending in Malin at the southern end of the Klamath Basin.

The project, which has drawn widespread opposition from private property owners throughout the region since it first was proposed in 2006, calls for a terminal to be built in Jordan Cove in Coos Bay where ships carrying liquefied natural gas would unload their cargo. The liquid would be turned into a pressurized gas to be pumped via the pipeline to Malin where it would connect to a major existing pipeline.

Williams Pacific Connector Gas Operator, a Salt Lake City firm, is proposing the project along with Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. and Fort Chicago Energy Partners.

In addition to being built on private land, the pipeline would cross some 30 miles of national forestland and about 40 miles of U.S. Bureau of Land Management property.

The report hasn't change the view of Lesley Adams who oversees the public water program for the Ashland-based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.

"At first glance, we have some really significant concerns about water quality and coho salmon impacts," she said of a quick review of the report. "We are also very concerned about the multiple impact on public land. We share the concerns of affected private land owners."

Those concerns expressed by private landowners ranged from potential danger of a gas leak to reduced property values and environmental damage.

In the 218 bodies of water expected to be crossed, some of them multiple times, the pipeline will traverse six rivers, including the Coos, Coquille, South Umpqua, upper Rogue, Klamath and Lost River, according to the report.

The report noted 29 federally listed endangered or threatened species that potentially occur in the project's path. "We conclude that the proposed project would likely adversely affect eight federally listed species," it added in the summary.

Adams said she isn't satisfied any of the mitigations measures would substantially reduce those impacts on species such as coho salmon, northern spotted owls and marbled murrelets.

"This indicates a flawed national energy policy," she said, noting she believes there is no need for the projects, given the low demand and adequate domestic supplies of natural gas.

Meanwhile, she hopes the state's opposition will result in blocking the permits the proponents will need if the FERC approves the proposal.

Earlier this year, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger took a strong stance against all three of the proposed liquefied natural gas terminals and pipelines in Oregon, maintaining they are bad for landowners, the environment and energy independence.

In July, Jackson County's Board of Commissioners passed a resolution asking the federal government to halt the project until need is proven.

However, others have supported the project, noting it will mean jobs and an economic boost for the region.

The FERC report was prepared in cooperation with the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Transportation and Douglas County.

The entire document may be accessed through a link found under "What's New" on FERC's Web site, www.ferc.gov.

Additional information from a variety of viewpoints is also available at www.umpqua-watersheds.org, citizensagainstlng.googlepages.com and www.pacificconnectorgp.com

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.