Despite the federal government urgently grappling with how to contain the coronavirus pandemic, apparently it’s not slowing down in certain sectors — like fossil fuel development. One of its agencies, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has gone ahead and conditionally approved the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas project. The commission voted 2-1. After the vote, environmental, property owners and tribal governments pledged to keep fighting the project.
It’s the 12th LNG export project approved by the FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee, who was nominated to the position by President Donald Trump. Chatterjee said that it’s also the first export terminal FERC has approved on the West Coast, according to a statement. The project can liquefy up to 1.04 billions of cubic feet of natural gas per day that can be sold to global buyers.
The Jordan Cove LNG project is a 230-mile natural gas pipeline. According to the project’s website, it’s touted as a project that has proximity to Asian markets and has four stations along the way: Jordan Cove, in Douglas County, Shady Cove in Jackson County and in Klamath County. It crosses five major rivers: Coos, Coquille, Rogue, South Umpqua and Klamath rivers.
It was originally touted as an LNG import project.
Sen. Ron Wyden issued a statement opposing FERC’s decision today, saying the commission was stacked by Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell. FERC is no longer the independent and bipartisan commission it’s supposed to be, he said.
“A few days ago, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell stacked the decks when yet another Republican commissioner was confirmed to FERC, leaving the Commission unbalanced. This is despite current law that says the FERC should be an independent and bipartisan commission,” he said.
He added that FERC disregarded property rights and environmental concerns identified by Oregonians.
“All this adds up to a clearly rigged process designed to advance Trump-McConnell coporate interests over Oregonians,” he added.
The commission said the approval is based on the Canadian fossil fuel corporation Pembina qualifying for the necessary permits from the state of Oregon. Three permits have already been denied or withdrawn.
“Pembina has been unable to secure any of the necessary state permits to build in Oregon because there’s no getting around the fact that this project would pose an unacceptable threat to Oregon’s communities and waterways and is clearly not in the public interest. It’s disappointing that FERC failed to recognize this, and we plan to seek a rehearing on this misguided decision,” Sierra Club Senior Attorney Nathan Matthews said in a statement. “Regardless, FERC’s approval does nothing to change the fact that this fracked gas export terminal has no path forward and will never be built.”
On Feb. 20, the previous time the agency met, members voted 2-1 against Jordan Cove LNG. One of the commissioners voting to reject the project said the agency needed more time to review permit denials from the state of Oregon, and the other commissioner said the project is not in the public interest.
Before social distancing canceled events in Eugene and the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference was planned, David Bookbinder, one of the keynote speakers, told Eugene Weekly that he planned to represent landowners should the “idiots at FERC” OK the project.
Bookbinder said the project is screwing over property owners. Even if the project is implemented well and goes as planned, landowners are stuck with a huge pipeline running through their land and sometimes near their home, “screwing farmers’ ability to access their fields [and] homeowners’ ability to access their wells.”
In a statement, Bookbinder said it’s impossible to see how the Pacific Connector is a public use or a public benefit under the Natural Gas Act or under the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment.
And landowners aren’t happy about the agency’s decision.
“Evidence in the record clearly indicates this Canadian project is anything but in the U.S. public interest,” said Ron Schaaf in a statement. His Klamath County land is on the pipeline route. “On behalf of landowners defending our rights, this decision will be challenged. Every American who cares about private property rights should be paying attention to the facts of this case.”
Landowners, tribal governments, environmental organizations and others have a 30-day window to appeal for a rehearing at FERC. The state of Oregon can also petition FERC for a rehearing.
This article has been updated.