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Jackson County to FERC: Uphold pipeline denial

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners has sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking it to stand firm in its decision to block a 232-mile natural gas pipeline that would have crossed through Southern Oregon.

On March 11, FERC denied the Pacific Connector pipeline and Jordan Cove projects that would have carried liquefied natural gas to a processing plant north of Coos Bay for export overseas. FERC found little evidence to support a need for the pipeline and that any public benefits were outweighed by negative impacts to landowners along its route.

Veresen, the Canadian company proposing the pipeline, has since reached preliminary agreements for 50 percent of the plant's capacity, and FERC is in the midst of deciding whether it will rehear the company's proposal.

The letter sent by Jackson County to FERC this month and signed by Commissioners Colleen Roberts and Rick Dyer asks FERC to uphold its denial.

The letter states Jackson County opposes the use of eminent domain for private economic benefit.

A significant portion of the private property needed for the pipeline would have been acquired through eminent domain rather than through payments to willing property owners, the letter said.

Deb Evans, who lives in the Greensprings area east of Ashland and has timberland in Douglas County that would be affected by the pipeline, said she's pleased Jackson County commissioners are supporting Southern Oregonians opposed to the pipeline.

"Affected landowners have been on their own trying to stand up for their property rights," Evans said. "County commissioners are taking a stand against this. I think it's great and the right thing to do. The commissioners really focused on property rights and whether eminent domain should be used for private gain. If we allow private corporations to use eminent domain for private gain, where does that stop?"

The Jackson County letter to FERC says many landowners have been living under a cloud of uncertainty for over a decade because of the length of time the process has taken.

"This has dramatically impacted their ability to develop, sell or otherwise make decisions on their property because of the potential eminent domain action, all along, without any compensation for this continued cloud over their rights as a property owner," the letter says.

Commissioner Colleen Roberts said this week any potential benefits from the pipeline don't outweigh the hardships imposed on landowners.

Opponents of the pipeline also have said the project would be too environmentally risky, especially since plans called for crossing numerous waterways, including the Rogue River.

Supporters have argued building the 232-mile pipeline and an export terminal north of Coos Bay would create jobs and boost natural gas exports.

Pacific Connector spokesman Michael Hinrichs has said eminent domain would be used only as a last resort. A judge or three-person commission would decide the fair value of the land and the property owner would be paid, he has said.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.