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FERC on Jordan Cove comments: Take a number

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will hold comment sessions on a proposed natural gas pipeline through Southern Oregon, but people will have to take a number, get in line and then deliver their comments one-on-one with a staff member joined by a court reporter.

FERC is also warning that disruptive protests could bring a halt to the sessions.

In Jackson County, a session will be held from 1 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, at the Ramada Medford Hotel and Conference Center, 2250 Biddle Road, Medford.

Sessions are planned June 24 in Coos Bay, June 25 in Myrtle Creek and June 27 in Klamath Falls.

The Canadian-headquartered company Pembina hopes to build a 229-mile underground pipeline through Klamath, Jackson, Douglas and Coos counties to a proposed export terminal north of Coos Bay.

The Jordan Cove LNG proposal is under review by FERC, which previously denied the proposal, and the state of Oregon, which has said Pembina needs to provide more information to show the project won’t cause erosion, increase landslides and harm waterways and fish.

In a notice issued this week, FERC said it’s not required to hold the public comment sessions but is doing so to allow people to comment on a draft Environmental Impact Statement about the project that was released March 29.

“These comment sessions have been purposefully designed to efficiently and effectively allow for the greatest number of individuals to provide comments on the draft EIS,” FERC said in the notice.

People who want to make statements will be issued numbers, then called to speak to a FERC staff member with a court reporter.

To reduce potential wait times, four court reporters will be at each session to receive comments, FERC said.

People who want to skip the lines can submit electronic comments via FERC’s website or mail in their comments.

FERC pointed out the sessions will last seven hours.

“Recognizing significant public interest for this project and in anticipation of a large turnout, FERC staff has chosen to allot more time for the public comment sessions than is typical,” the notice said.

FERC expects most people to come between 5 and 7 p.m. and is urging people to come earlier if they can. There will be reduced staffing between 4 and 5 p.m. for a break, and the sessions will end at 8 p.m.

FERC may stop issuing numbers before 8 p.m. so the sessions end on time.

The federal agency also issued a set of rules about crowd conduct.

Loudspeakers, lighting, oversized visual aids, disruptive video or photographic equipment or other visual or audible disturbances are not permitted, according to FERC.

Conversations must be kept to a “reasonable volume,” and recorded interviews are not allowed within the session space.

“FERC reserves the right (to) end the session if disruptions interfere with the opportunity for individuals to provide verbal comments or if there is a safety or security risk,” FERC said in the notice.

FERC was criticized in 2017 for the one-on-one format of its public comment sessions on the project.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners and project opponents also objected to FERC skipping over Jackson County and scheduling hearings in Coos, Douglas and Klamath counties.

Pembina says the one-on-one format is a good way to collect meaningful comments on the project.

“This approach puts the emphasis where it should be — on quality and substance of input from all individuals,” said Tasha Cadotte, community and communications manager for Jordan Cove LNG. “It encourages broader participation by people with something to say rather than on public spectacle and dramatic displays by individuals or organizations that rely on conflict and attempted intimidation through crowd theatrics.

“Pembina, the Jordan Cove project and its many supporters are looking forward to continuing to engage with our neighbors in Coos, Douglas, Klamath and Jackson counties at the June FERC meetings that have now been scheduled,” Cadotte said.

Project opponent Susan Brown, staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center, said the proposal has been rejected in the past at the federal level. She pointed out that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality recently denied a Clean Water Act permit, saying Pembina hasn’t submitted enough information to show the project isn’t harmful.

“These upcoming hearings provide the public an opportunity to raise their concerns about Jordan Cove LNG and have their voices heard,” Brown said.

Veronica Silva of Rogue Climate said opposition continues to grow across Southern Oregon.

“FERC needs to follow the lead of the state of Oregon and deny this permit for Jordan Cove LNG. What our communities need is a faster transition to clean energy, not new fracked gas export pipelines that threaten water, climate and local economies,” Silva said.

Pembina argues the project will supply Asia with cleaner-burning natural gas.

The company says on its website that construction of the pipeline and export terminal will create more than 6,000 good-paying construction jobs during peak construction and more than 200 permanent jobs.

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

Pembina has offered minimum payments of $30,000 to landowners along the pipeline route. The company previously announced it has reached voluntary agreements with a majority of landowners for use of their property.

Written comments can be mailed to Secretary Kimberly D. Bose, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First St. NE, Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426. Reference the project docket numbers CP17-494-000 and CP17-495-00 with the submission.

Comments can be submitted electronically via https://ferconline.ferc.gov/QuickComment.aspx.

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

Protesters gather outside the Jackson County Expo before a public hearing concerning the Jordan Cove Pipeline in January. Mail Tribune file photo