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Jordan Cove pipeline hits federal roadblock

A proposal to build a natural gas pipeline and export facility in Southern Oregon was dealt another blow Tuesday when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decided not to overturn the state’s denial of a key permit for the project.

“This is a huge step toward stopping this project for good,” said Allie Rosenbluth of Rogue Climate, which is part of a coalition of landowners, tribes, environmental groups and other organizations that have long battled the pipeline and export facility proposal.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality denied a Clean Water Act permit for the project in 2019, saying it didn’t have reasonable assurance that the construction and operation of the project could comply with water quality standards.

The Canadian-headquartered energy company Pembina wants to build a 229-mile underground pipeline through Klamath, Jackson, Douglas and Coos counties to a proposed export facility north of Coos Bay. Canadian and American natural gas would ship overseas to Asian markets.

The export facility would be the first on the West Coast for liquefied natural gas, cutting shipping times for the industry.

The project has suffered a series of regulatory setbacks, primarily over environmental impacts.

Pembina could keep trying to move forward by challenging Tuesday’s FERC order, or it could submit a new application to try and address environmental impacts, said attorney Andrew Hawley of the Western Environmental Law Center.

“The FERC decision is very encouraging,” said Chairman Don Gentry of the Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin Tribes. “It is certainly our hope that Pembina will give up on this devastating project once and for all.”

A phone call and email to Pembina’s media relations team seeking comment was not answered by deadline.

Opponents of the project say it would pollute waterways, harm forests, disrupt fishing, boost climate warming emissions and increase global reliance on fossil fuels.

Rogue Climate would instead like to see investments that create jobs in clean energy production and improving energy efficiency.

Pembina has previously said natural gas is cleaner burning than fuels like coal. The company has said the project would pump billions of dollars into the Oregon economy during construction and provide long-term jobs, primarily at the export facility in the economically distressed Coos Bay area.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., weighed in on FERC’s Tuesday order that makes it harder for the liquefied natural gas export project to move forward.

“From day one with this project, I have insisted that Oregonians receive a fair, open, fact-based, and non-political process while FERC determines whether LNG projects are necessary and in the public’s best interest — including strict adherence to the Clean Water Act. Today’s unanimous decision by FERC is good news and the logical conclusion of that process,” Wyden said in a statement.

Gov. Kate Brown commented via Twitter on the decision about the project, which is also known as Jordan Cove.

“At every stage of the regulatory process, I have insisted that the Jordan Cove LNG project must meet Oregon’s rigorous standards for protecting the environment, or it cannot move forward. I’m pleased that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission validated that approach today,” she said.

In 2020, FERC approved the project, but only on the condition that Pembina could secure necessary permits, including from the state of Oregon.

In 2016 under the Obama administration, FERC had denied the project, saying there was little evidence exporting North American gas overseas was in the public good, and the project could harm hundreds of landowners along the route.

If the project moves forward, property owners who don’t want the pipeline buried on their land could face eminent domain. Pembina has said it has voluntary agreements with landowners along the majority of the pipeline route. It has offered payments for use of land.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

A natural gas pipeline under construction in Canada by Pembina, the company whose efforts to build a 229-mile underground pipeline through four Southern Oregon counties has faced stiff opposition over environmental concerns. (Pembina photo)