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State delays key decision on natural gas pipeline

The state of Oregon has pushed back its decision on a key permit a Canadian company needs to build a natural gas pipeline and export terminal in Southern Oregon.

The Oregon Department of State Lands announced this week it extended its deadline to make a decision from today until Jan. 31, 2020.

Calgary-based Pembina Pipeline Corporation had asked for an extension, according to DSL.

The company wants to build a 229-mile underground pipeline through Klamath, Jackson, Douglas and Coos counties to a proposed export terminal north of Coos Bay. The 3-foot-diameter pipe would carry American and Canadian natural gas to the coast for export to Asian markets.

The company must win approval from federal regulators and also secure state and local permits for the $9.8 billion construction project.

To get a removal-fill permit from the state, Pembina must prove its plans to cross rivers, streams and wetlands and dredge on the coast won’t harm water resources and fisheries.

Pembina submitted a batch of information Sept. 4, but state regulators are asking for more information by Oct. 20 to address unresolved issues, according to DSL.

The state wants more information to address concerns expressed by the public during a comment period, said Pembina spokesman Paul Vogel.

Among other requests, the state also wants additional information about local land use permits needed for the project, as well as more data about wetlands, he said.

Vogel said Pembina is fully capable of building the project without harming waterways.

“Absolutely we believe we can do this,” he said.

Vogel said Pembina already has 11,000 miles of pipelines in Canada with about 6,000 water crossings. He said natural gas pipeline infrastructure already in Southern Oregon, including under the Rogue River and Coos Bay, demonstrate pipelines can be put in without causing harm.

But opponents said excavating millions of cubic yards for the project, known locally as Jordan Cove, will inevitably cause environmental damage.

They point to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, which denied a Clean Water Act permit earlier this year on the grounds the agency didn’t have a reasonable assurance the project wouldn’t harm water quality and fish habitat. DEQ said Pembina could submit more information to address concerns.

“There is no way to build the Jordan Cove LNG project without significant impacts to Oregon’s waterways, and DEQ already made that clear with their strong Clean Water Act permit denial this spring,” said Allie Rosenbluth of Rogue Climate. “Every extension that the state gives to Pembina instead of denying this project is more time that our communities live under the threat of this Canadian fossil fuel corporation.”

Groups of students at Rogue Valley schools staged walkouts today to call for more action to address climate change.

Before the announcement of the decision delay earlier this week, opponents of the pipeline project had been expecting a state decision on the permit the same day as the protests.

“We urge people with decision-making power to take action,” said Phoenix High School sophomore Baylee Haywood. “We aim for this event to compel decision-makers like Governor Kate Brown to protect the climate and protect our communities. A first step would be to prevent what would be Oregon’s largest source of climate pollution, the proposed Jordan Cove LNG project, from going through our communities in Southern Oregon.”

In order to convert natural gas in gaseous form from the pipeline into liquid form — which is more compact — for shipping overseas, Pembina would have to build a facility on the coast that would emit pollution.

Students called on the governor to back a Green New Deal that would create more local jobs in renewable energy.

Meanwhile, Vogel said Pembina has also asked the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development for an extension on a Coastal Zone Management consistency review process.

If the extension is approved, it would push a certification decision out to Jan. 31, 2020 — the new deadline for the DSL decision.

“In order to bring all our pending permits into alignment, we believe it makes sense to adjust and combine timelines for many of our state permits, to allow agencies the time needed to review the information we have provided,” Vogel said.

The extension also provides a more realistic target for Pembina to win local permits, he said.

On the coast, for example, Vogel said the company needs permits from the city of Coos Bay as well as Coos County for dredging in their jurisdictions.

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

File photo of a pipeline under construction in Canada / courtesy of Pembina