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Guest Opinion: More reasons to oppose Jordan Cove

Three arguments for the Jordan Cove plant and pipeline connector are jobs, property taxes and the relative “cleanliness” of natural gas vs. coal or oil.

Jobs

The estimated number of local, long-term jobs is 105, quite small especially compared to Oregon and even Coos Bay employment numbers. Unemployment in Coos County has plummeted from over 14 percent in 2009 to 11 percent in 2013 to 8 percent now.

Now even those 105 jobs appear to be threatened by the current economics of natural gas pricing in both the U.S. and Asia.

Here's the problem:

The current estimated price to produce, process and ship LNG is about $12 per million cubic feet. The most recent landed prices for LNG to Asia reported by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission were $10.10 per million BTU (about 1 mcf) for China, $10.50 for Korea and $10.50 for Japan. For Europe, the numbers are $9.15 for Spain, $6.60 for the United Kingdom and $6.78 for Belgium, all in U.S. dollars. Apparently the production of U.S. LNG is currently not profitable.

Even if cyclical energy prices trend upward again, the nature of short-lived fracked wells indicates that the supply of “cheaper” natural gas is typically tapped out far earlier than projected. The results are “bad news,” says Tad Patzek, head of the University of Texas at Austin's department of petroleum and geo-systems engineering. With companies trying to extract shale gas as fast as possible and export significant quantities, he argues, “we're setting ourselves up for a major fiasco”.

Globally, the U.S.-to-Asia natural gas market is threatened not only by Russian agreements with China but also by Chinese investment in wind and solar energy. If there aren’t buyers, are there jobs?

According to Guy Dayvault, the Jordan Cove Energy commercial director, interviewed in March 2014: “In October 2013, three unnamed potential Asian buyers signed non-binding and non-exclusive agreements to purchase LNG," but non-binding means the potential buyers are free to back out of the contracts.

Property taxes

Perhaps the greatest potential local revenue line from this project is Coos County property taxes paid by Veresen.

The project facility is situated in a special rural enterprise zone in Coos County, a zone that offers extreme tax advantages to certain industries. Veresen has been offered a 15-year tax exemption for above-ground taxable improvements in return for reduced payments into a “Community Service Fee” administered by members appointed by local Coos governments. This process eliminates local representative government, eliminates revenues from going into the state education fund, and gives Veresen a $200 million reduction in total fee payments.

Fifteen years is a very long time in the fossil fuel industry. If the project terminates after 14 years because of citizen and/or legislative pressures from global warming, shifts to using other renewable energy sources, lack of Asian LNG buyers, financial collapse of the company, etc., apparently the corporation will not have paid property taxes and Coos Bay citizens will be left with nothing.

The relative “cleanliness” of natural gas vs. coal or oil

The relative “cleanliness” of natural gas vs. coal or oil is greatly misunderstood. Although the particulate pollution of coal is immediately worse than natural gas, natural gas is actually worse because of methane emissions. Methane causes up to 85 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide. Methane leaks at every collection/processing phase from fracking to burning and those leaks quantitatively eliminate any climate benefits of natural gas over coal or oil.

One issue that appears not to have been publicly debated is that two runways of the Southwest Oregon Regional Airport in Coos Bay are pointed right at Jordan Cove, where the power and ship birthing facilities are proposed. The runways are directly across the narrow bay. Can we assume that the FAA has been properly involved in siting decisions?

There is clearly a loss of value for all property owners directly affected from a pipeline right-of-way eminent domain decision. Would you purchase land and live with a gas bomb lodged under your soil?

Where are the homeland benefits from this project? Comments to DEQ have been extended to today (March 13): www.oregon.gov/deq/WR/Pages/jordancoveComments.aspx

Ray Seidler, Tamsin Taylor and Donna Swanson live in Ashland.