The proposed Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas terminal and its 230-mile feeder pipeline in southern Oregon would have some adverse and significant impacts on both Coos Bay and on 18 threatened and endangered species, according to staff at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The agency’s staff issued their final environmental analysis of the controversial natural gas export project Friday, concluding it would result in “temporary, long-term and permanent impacts on the environment.” Many of those impacts would not be significant or could be reduced to less than significant levels with avoidance and mitigation measures, the analysis said, but some would be adverse and significant, staff concluded.
The staff analysis is neither an approval nor denial of the project; that’s up to a vote of the agency’s presidentially appointed commissioners after the analysis goes through a public comment period and incorporates any subsequent revisions. A final order is expected from commissioners on February 13. Even if it wins FERC’s approval, construction of the project would be contingent on the project obtaining a host of other state, federal and local approvals.
Specifically, the regulatory staff concluded that the project would permanently and significantly impact the visual character of Coos Bay; generate significant but temporary noise and housing problems; significantly impact operations of the Southwest Oregon Regional Airport operations, and adversely affect 18 federally-listed or proposed threatened and endangered species. Jordan Cove spokesman Paul Vogel pointed to the jobs and tax benefits the project would deliver and said backers had committed to undertake extensive mitigation to preserve old growth forests, wetlands and riparian habitat.
He said the issuance of the staff analysis represented a significant step necessary before regulators can approve the project. That approval, he said, would be a proof point that the project is environmentally compliant and in the public interest.
At the same time, he said uncertainty remained regarding the timing and ultimate approval of state permits.
“State permits remain a critical component of the regulatory process for this project and will enable critical investment in Oregon through this project to move forward, Vogel said.
Opponents of the project emphasized in a news release that the project was previously rejected by FERC in 2016 because backers couldn’t demonstrate a public need for the project that outweighed its impacts on landowners impacted by the proposed Pacific Connector pipeline, which would stretch across much of Southern Oregon.
They also pointed to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to deny the projects water quality permit because it did not have “assurance that the construction and authorization of the project will comply with applicable Oregon water quality standards.”
That rejection was somewhat procedural, as the agency faced a deadline to make a decision and did not want to waive its regulatory authority. It did leave the door open for Jordan Cove to reapply for the certification, however.
Opponents are hoping the agency and the state will stick to their guns.
“FERC continues to gloss over Oregon’s findings that this project will harm the streams and rivers that our communities rely upon for drinking water and fishing. This project can’t proceed without approval from the state,” said Stacey Detwiler of Rogue Riverkeeper. “Oregon must stay strong to its values of protecting clean water and a stable climate so Jordan Cove LNG never sees the light of day.”
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Ted Sickinger | THe Oregonian/Oregonlive | november 15, 2019
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