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Jordan Cove defends pipeline project

The company proposing a natural gas pipeline and export terminal in Southern Oregon has submitted a 1,636-page defense of the project as it fights to gain key state permits for the project.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality denied a Clean Water Act permit May 6, but said the Canadian-headquartered energy company Pembina could apply again and submit new information to address concerns.

“DEQ does not have a reasonable assurance that the construction and operation of the project will comply with applicable Oregon water quality standards,” DEQ said in a letter to the company.

On Thursday, Pembina sent its more than 1,600 pages of documents to the Oregon Department of State Lands, which is considering whether to grant a permit to remove and then backfill dirt and rocks during construction of the massive project.

Opponents expect a decision from DSL on the removal-fill permit by Sept. 20 unless the agency files for an extension.

State agencies have been flooded with thousands of public comments about the proposed 229-mile underground pipeline through Klamath, Jackson, Douglas and Coos counties and the Jordan Cove export facility north of Coos Bay.

In their comments, opponents said Pembina hasn’t demonstrated a need for the project.

But the company said in its response to DSL that global demand for natural gas is expected to double by 2030, driven largely by growth in Asia.

The company said natural gas prices in America are projected to be higher for consumers here, but it claimed the country as a whole would gain economic benefits from exports of the resource.

Pembina said its project would create 6,000 jobs during the peak of construction, plus another 215 jobs for port and pipeline operations.

Those workers, in turn, would spend $95.7 million per year locally during construction, and $14.2 million annually if the project were operating, the company said.

“The project is a $10 billion private investment in the state of Oregon, making it the largest private economic development investment in Southern Oregon’s history,” the company said in its response to DSL.

The project would generate $60 million in property tax revenue for the four counties, plus $50 million annually for the state, Pembina said.

Property owners would receive a minimum of $30,000 for use of their land for the underground pipeline, the company said.

“This financial infusion represents substantial public benefit,” Pembina said.

More ships would visit the improved port at Coos Bay if the project moved forward, benefiting the local community and region, Pembina said.

Opponents of the project have said construction of the pipeline would harm water quality, cause erosion, hurt fish habitat and threaten drinking water supplies.

Pembina said it developed its stream and river crossing plans in consultation with a range of agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Plans calls for drilling far beneath the bed of the Rogue River to create a pipeline crossing. Pembina said it has a contingency plan in place to contain any leaks of drilling fluid.

The company said it has erosion control and revegetation plans for the project, and is working with landowners to protect wells and irrigation facilities.

An environmental impact statement on the project said construction would temporarily impact water quality and groundwater.

Pembina said it has plans to minimize impacts to water bodies and has restoration plans for wetlands, water bodies and riparian areas. Scientists will monitor sites after construction to check for any negative impacts.

The company has asked for an exemption from a federal rule requiring gravel or small stones to be placed in fish-bearing streams after construction. Many of the locations are in steep or remote areas, making it hard to haul rock to the sites. Pembina wants to backfill streams with excavated material if those streams didn’t have gravel or stone bottoms to begin with.

Some fish species use gravel and stone-bottomed streams and rivers for spawning.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has identified long-term impacts, including sediment from access roads, warmer waterways due to a loss of riparian canopies and destabilized stream channels and banks. The state agency is recommending a number of restoration and mitigation steps.

After clearing trees along the pipeline route, Pembina plans to spread slash, wood chips and brush along the ground to act as mulch. The slash would be distributed based on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management fuel-loading regulations.

In the event of a pipeline leak or explosion, Pembina said it has developed an emergency response plan.

Project opponents are urging DSL to follow DEQ’s lead in denying key state permits.

“Pembina cannot paper over the impacts of their fracked gas export proposal,” Allie Rosenbluth of Rogue Climate said Tuesday. “They continue to push their reckless LNG export and pipeline project even though it clearly conflicts with Oregon’s clean water and climate goals. Our state should be focused on transitioning to renewable energy, not new fossil fuel projects.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is also reviewing the project.

FERC denied the project during the Obama administration, saying the potential public good didn’t outweigh the potential public harm.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

A Bulk Carrier Ship loads wood chips from Roseburg Forestry in Coos Bay, near where a proposed LNG terminal would be built. Mail Tribune file photo