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Jordan Cove means opportunity, jobs

We are deeply disappointed by Sen. Jeff Merkley’s opposition to Jordan Cove and, by extension, his rejection of a unique opportunity for rural Oregon. The Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal will provide U.S. allies in Asia with a cleaner form of energy while creating thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs in Southern Oregon and paying tens of millions of dollars in taxes to rural counties every year it operates.

Natural gas is a much cleaner alternative to coal without the risks associated with nuclear power. This is why countries such as Japan and South Korea want to purchase North American natural gas and Jordan Cove already has half of its output committed to Japanese buyers.

But more importantly for us, Jordan Cove will provide a positive, lasting economic opportunity for Southern Oregon. While the Portland area benefits from multi-billion dollar investments from companies such as Intel and Nike and their suppliers, there’s a political reality that people don’t like to acknowledge: the urban-rural divide is very real and actions like Senator Merkley’s prove how real it is.

We don’t begrudge Portland’s economic success, but the reality is that because the Portland metro area is home to about 43 percent of Oregon’s registered voters, we in rural Oregon are only allowed to have the economy those urban voters will let us have. It’s time that changed. Rural counties have tremendous natural resources but most of our land is owned by the federal and state governments; that means our destiny is often in the hands of people who don’t live here and don’t have to worry about finding a family wage career here.

That’s why Jordan Cove is so important for Southern Oregon. It will create 6,000 high-wage construction jobs at peak with an average of 2,000 jobs over four years of construction. It will create more than 200 permanent jobs with an average salary of $75,000 per year. That’s a lot of money in Southern Oregon. And it will create hundreds of indirect jobs through the increased spending power of its employees and annual maintenance.

And the taxes Jordan Cove will pay are staggering. It will pay $40 million in annual payments in lieu of taxes in Coos County and $5 million annually each to Coos, Douglas, Jackson and Klamath counties. Together, that’s $60 million every year to support county governments that are currently struggling to pay for basic public services.

Rural Oregon counties are suffering from years of disinvestment in schools, roads, law enforcement and other basis public services as our natural resource-based economy has been choked. Jordan Cove will allow us to turn that around. Sixty million dollars a year means better schools for our kids, safer communities, re-opened libraries and healthier communities.

We shouldn’t be treated like we aren’t worthy of success and discriminated against any longer. Jordan Cove is an opportunity we want to seize to make Southern Oregon prosperous again. There are thousands of constituents in Southern Oregon that support this project. As your elected leaders, we should let the regulatory process work and not make this about politics.

— Derrick DeGroot is a Klamath County commissioner, Tim Freeman is a Douglas County commissioner and John Sweet is a Coos County commissioner.