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LUBA deals Jordan Cove project another setback

Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals remanded local permits Tuesday that would have allowed the Jordan Cove Energy Project to construct a natural gas export terminal on the North Spit of Coos Bay, forming another setback for the project that would also include a 229-mile pipeline running through Klamath and Jackson counties.

The export facility, which would be the first on the West Coast if approved, would send around 6.8 million metric tons of liquid natural gas per day mostly to Asian markets. Much of the gas would come from Canada and U.S. Rocky Mountain states. Coos County approved Jordan Cove’s application for the facility’s required permits in 2016, but LUBA remanded those decisions based on “various procedural and substantive errors.”

Jordan Cove reapplied for those permits in 2019, and applied for a conditional use permit, floodplain development permit and other approvals for modifications to the project. The county approved those at the end of 2019.

Led by the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, a collection of local residents and environmental groups appealed to LUBA to revoke those permits. They argued that Coos County didn’t properly evaluate whether the construction and operation of the Jordan Cove terminal would conform to public trust standards.

LUBA agreed, citing in part concerns that increased traffic due to the presence of LNG tankers would negatively impact the area’s existing watercraft.

“Operation of the security zone potentially turns the mouth of the estuary into a bottleneck that may prevent or substantially delay the transit of fishing vessels,” LUBA’s decision read.

Petitioners also took issue with a wastewater treatment facility, which had been proposed under the modified conditional use permit application. The facility would discharge more than 2,800 gallons per minute of treated wastewater to an ocean outfall. Petitioners argued that the county didn’t adequately determine whether that would qualify as a “sewer system,” which under local law would not be permitted in that area.

LUBA agreed that the county needed to demonstrate that the treatment facility would not qualify as a sewer system — and that its accompanying wastewater pipeline qualifies as “low-intensity” — in order to legally issue the permit.

“The decision means that, barring further approval, the company will need to go back to the county for further review,” the petitioners wrote in a news release.

This week’s decision is the latest in a long line of regulatory obstacles Oregon is placing in Jordan Cove’s way. In July, LUBA similarly revoked permits issued by the city of North Bend, which would have allowed Jordan Cove to dredge several zones of the Coos Bay estuary to make room for LNG tankers. And Oregon has not granted crucial water quality certifications, coastal zone permits and state land easements.

Though it’s received most required federal permits without much of a hitch, Jordan Cove can’t construct anything until it receives a go-ahead from the state. With citizens and environmental groups’ consistent involvement in local, state and even federal permitting processes, opponents of the pipeline are confident that Jordan Cove’s plans won’t come to fruition.

“LUBA’s decision today shows that the Jordan Cove proposal is damaging at every level,” said Phillip Johnson, executive director of Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition. “It isn’t good for the climate, with all the greenhouse gases it will emit; it isn’t good for the state, crossing it with a dangerous pipeline; and as the result of this appeal demonstrates, it isn’t good for the estuary and the North Spit.”

A Bulk Carrier Ship loads wood chips from Roseburg Forestry in Coos Bay. Mail Tribune File Photo / Jamie Lusch