UPDATE (March 19, 5:17 p.m. PT) — A federal commission gave its conditional approval Thursday to Southwest Oregon's controversial Jordan Cove energy project, which includes a natural gas pipeline, liquefication plant and shipping terminal.
Thursday’s vote by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission does not mean the project can move forward because Pembina, the Canadian fossil fuels corporation behind the project, still needs to qualify for Oregon permits, three of which have been denied.
But the company said it is pleased with the decision and FERC's approval makes the export terminal the first West Coast natural gas export facility in the United States to be approved.
"We appreciate FERC's science-based approach to their review. The approval emphasizes yet again that Jordan Cove is environmentally responsible and is a project that should be permitted given a prudent regulatory and legal process was undertaken," Pembina's senior vice president and chief legal officer Harry Andersen said in a press release. "The FERC's decision is due in no small part to our many supporters who have turned out time and time again to voice their support for Jordan Cove and to show that the Project is in the public interest, including in Southern Oregon and the Rockies Basin."
Rogue Climate campaign director Allie Rosenbluth said the project has no viable path forward without key state permits that have previously been denied but the approval did present a new challenge.
“However, what FERC did give this Canadian fossil fuel corporation the ability to do, is start the process of eminent domain for about 90 private land owners in Southern Oregon who have refused to sell easements to the pipeline company,” said Rosenbluth, an opponent of the export terminal.
Last month the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development objected to Pembina's pursuit of a permit to build in the state's Coastal Zone. Earlier, the Department of Environmental Quality denied a clean water permit and Pembina withdrew its permit applications to the Oregon Department of State Lands.
The company followed up on Thursday's FERC vote by filing a request with the U.S. commerce secretary to overturn Oregon's denial of the Coastal Zone permit.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown objected, saying in a statement, "I will not stand for any attempt to ignore Oregon’s authority to protect public safety, health, and the environment. I have asked the state’s lawyers to consider all appropriate legal action to assure that Oregon permitting processes will be followed."
The governor also raised concerns about FERC's approval of the use of eminent domain to force the sale of property by uncooperative landowners along the pipeline route.
"And let me be clear to the concerned citizens of Southwest Oregon," Brown said. "Until this project has received every single required permit from state and local agencies, I will use every available tool to prevent the company from taking early action on condemning private property or clearing land.”
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who opposes the project, said FERC’s decision is putting corporate interests over Oregonians.
"If that's not bad enough, the Commission has decided to disregard local private property rights and environmental concerns identified by Oregonians. Both shortcomings and additional ones have been documented in the strong objections to the Jordan Cove project by three Oregon state regulatory agencies,” Wyden said in a press statement.
In 2016, under the Obama administration, FERC denied a bid for the Jordan Cove project. It was then being proposed by Veresen, which could not prove that exporting gas overseas was in the public good.
That company was bought by Pembina. It decided to try again after the election of Donald Trump, who was seen as much friendlier toward the fossil fuel industry.
The proposed 229-mile natural gas pipeline would span from Malin, Oregon, in Klamath County, to a proposed export terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon.
The proposed facility would be capable of liquefying natural gas from the Rockies and Canada, and then loaded onto tanker ships and make their way to Asia.
A 2019 report by the state of Oregon determined that If the project gets approved and built, it would become the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the state.