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Gas pipeline meeting moved to Medford library

Jordan Cove LNG will host an open house to present information about its proposed natural gas pipeline through Southern Oregon from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 23.

The company was able to book the large meeting room at the Medford library, 205 S. Central Ave., after the Ramada Medford Hotel and Conference Center canceled Jordan Cove's reservation for a room that same evening.

Jordan Cove and pipeline opponents had each booked rooms at the Ramada, setting up dueling open houses. The hotel, which didn't respond to a request for comment, canceled the reservations of both groups.

"The open house will be held during the same previously announced time frame," said Michael Hinrichs, spokesman for Jordan Cove.

Hinrichs criticized the hotel's decision to cancel both open houses, saying protests that have taken place for years against the pipeline project always have been respectful, peaceful and driven by a sense of public participation.

Opponents of the project have not booked space at the library, but they do plan to rally outside beginning at 4 p.m. and have speakers at 5:15 p.m., said Hannah Sohl, a Rogue Climate representative who is part of a coalition against the project.

"We'll have information and ways to get involved," Sohl said. "We definitely encourage people to go in and ask questions and learn what Jordan Cove has to say about the project. It's important for our community to show up — not only to share our concerns with Jordan Cove, but also to show our elected officials and state agencies our community opposes this project."

Jordan Cove is proposing a 232-mile, 3-foot-diameter pipeline that would stretch from near the California border through Southern Oregon to the coast north of Coos Bay. It would build an export facility to ship North American natural gas overseas to Asian markets.

The pipeline would be buried underground on the land of hundreds of property owners and cross about 400 bodies of water, including the Rogue River.

Critics say eminent domain would be used to force unwilling landowners to provide use of their property. American property owners would take on the risk, while Jordan Cove's Canadian-headquartered parent company, Veresen, would profit, they say.

Jordan Cove says it has voluntary agreements with about 100 landowners — or roughly 35 percent of affected property owners — and is working to get more agreements.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied the project in March 2016, then reaffirmed the denial in December 2016, saying benefits were outweighed by negative impacts to landowners along the pipeline route. Jordan Cove is now in the pre-filing phase as it tries to apply for approval again.

Trees would have to be kept 15 feet back from the underground pipeline and no large permanent structures, including houses or swimming pools, could be built over the pipe. The company would continually monitor for gas leaks and prioritize safety, Hinrichs said.

Building the pipeline would create construction jobs for about four years, and the export facility on the coast would create some permanent jobs. The whole project would generate tax revenue for local governments, he said.

Hinrichs said sending the natural gas to Asian markets, including Japan, will help in the fight against global climate change because natural gas burns cleaner than coal.

But Sohl said the project will not help the climate when the whole process is considered, including natural gas fracking that releases methane, energy used to pressurize the gas for transport through the pipeline and the massive amount of energy needed to convert it to a liquefied form for shipping.

The ships would also use energy, and the natural gas would be burned in Asia. The increased availability of natural gas there would dampen renewable energy development, Sohl said.

Japan, already one of the largest natural gas importers in the world, is increasing its imports of natural gas, according to global experts who plan to attend an April natural gas exhibition and conference in that country.

A tsunami that hit Japan and damaged a nuclear plant in 2011 led to a two-year nuclear power shutdown across the nation as new safety requirements were introduced. The country's use of natural gas has continued to rise even after Japan began restarting its nuclear rectors, the experts said.

— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

People protest on Crater Lake Highway againt the LNG pipeline in October 2015. [Mail Tribune / file photo]