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FERC upholds denial of pipeline through Oregon

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission turned down a request Friday for a rehearing of its denial of a natural gas pipeline through Oregon.

The 232-mile, 3-foot diameter Pacific Connector pipeline would have crossed through southwestern Oregon carrying natural gas to a processing plant north of Coos Bay for export overseas. It would have gone through 157 miles of privately owned land, impacting 630 landowners.

In a March denial, FERC found little evidence to support a need for the pipeline and said any public benefits were outweighed by negative impacts to landowners along its route.

Many property owners have opposed plans to use their land for the pipeline, while environmental groups have raised concerns the project could contaminate waterways — including the Rogue River — and contribute to climate change.

"Landowners for over 10 years have been under the threat of eminent domain, first from a proposal for an import project and then this export project," said Shady Cove resident Bob Barker, who owns land that would have been crossed by the pipeline. "There's been no documented public need or benefit. It's Canadian gas exported for private gain."

Barker said FERC's decision still could be challenged in an appeals court. He said he isn't worried that incoming President Donald Trump could revive the project.

"I don't think the decision will be influenced by politics. I think it will be influenced by its merits," Barker said.

Hannah Sohl of Rogue Climate said people who have long opposed the project are pleased by the latest FERC decision denying a rehearing on the issue.

The Jordan Cove and Pacific Connector applicants had filed requests for a rehearing, according to FERC.

"I'm really excited about this decision. This should be the end of the LNG project. We'll have to stay vigilant," Sohl said, adding opponents believe the issue will be appealed in court.

Michael Hinrichs, spokesman for the Jordan Cove Energy Project, said the Veresen board of directors will look at all available options for moving forward. Veresen is the Canadian company proposing the pipeline.

"Clearly we're disappointed with the decision," Hinrichs said of FERC's move to deny a rehearing.

Options include appealing the decision to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, appealing in court or refiling the project, he said.

Hinrichs said he does not believe the changing administration will impact the project.

"We think we have a strong project no matter who is president," he said.

In requesting a rehearing, the Jordan Cove and Pacific Connector applicants asked for time to submit evidence of demand for the project. Since the March denial, the applicants said they had entered into two agreements with foreign companies, and demand for the pipeline had grown to 77 percent of its capacity. The applicants also said FERC gave undue weight to the risks of eminent domain compared to the project's benefits.

In denying the requests for a rehearing, FERC said the applicants failed to demonstrate "extraordinary circumstances" that would overcome the need for a final decision. Prior to denying the project in March, FERC said it had sent four requests for data showing the public benefits of the project outweighed its adverse impacts.

In response to each request, the applicants said negotiations were ongoing and provided no certainty about when it would have agreements for using the pipeline's capacity, FERC said.

FERC said it gave the applicants more than three-and-a-half years to demonstrate evidence of market demand.

The applicants said since a pipeline project could take more than 10 years from concept to actual gas delivery, expecting them to have agreements from customers in place before FERC made a decision was unrealistic.

FERC noted its denial does not stop the applicants from submitting a new application in the future if they can show a market need for the pipeline and export facility.

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

The natural gas pipline would have snaked through Haynes Inlet on the left and under Coos Bay. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell