The Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas project has been hanging around for more than a decade in Oregon. The project resurged under the Trump administration, and now a final federal decision could come by the end of the year.
Projects like these are huge. There are a lot of moving parts.
Here’s what you need to know going into the next few months:
What Is Jordan Cove?
A Canadian company called Pembina (pronounced with a stress on the first syllable) is proposing to build a 229-mile natural gas pipeline from Malin, Oregon, in Klamath County to a new export terminal in Coos Bay. The natural gas would be liquefied (through cooling) at the terminal and then loaded on shipping vessels bound for markets in Asia.
How Does Support For The Project Break Down?
In general in Oregon, support comes from economic development advocates and construction unions that see the potential for short- and long-term jobs in the region. There’s also been a surge of support from officials and lawmakers from intermountain west states like Colorado. That’s where the natural gas is being fracked – and those businesses and their backers are looking for ways to get their product to market.
The opposition has included climate groups, some Native American tribes, and property owners along the pipeline route who fear their land will be taken through eminent domain.
Pembina says it has now convinced 62 percent of landowners along the pipeline route to voluntarily allow the use of their land. Companies generally pay for property used in these kinds of situations. This means that 38 percent of landowners are still holding out, which is where the eminent domain concerns arise.
And just this month the Jackson County Board of Commissioners came out unanimously against the project. They sent a letter to the Oregon Department of State Lands opposing a pending permit saying, “the proposed Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline Project has not been adequately planned,” and that the particular permit application to the Department of State Lands is “flawed.”
The State Will Have A Say In Whether The Project Gets Approved?
Several state agencies will have to sign off on the project, but right now the focus is on the Department of State Lands. They have to approve all of the pipeline’s river and wetland crossings, as well as dredging in Coos Bay. The agency held a series of hearings in southern Oregon and Salem earlier this month to capacity crowds.
Public comment on that particular state permit closes Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, and State Lands is scheduled to make a decision in early March. But agency staff says tens of thousands of public comments have come in and they will likely seek an extension of that deadline.
Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality also is considering a water permit for the project. That application will be under review until September.
What Has The Company Been Doing As This Unfolds?
Pembina appears to be moving full-steam ahead in anticipation of a federal decision to green-light the project.
Within the past couple weeks, the company held grand-opening events for new business offices in Klamath Falls and Coos Bay.
“I think this sends a message that we’re building a business here, that we’re serious about this project and we fully intend to move forward,” said company spokesman Michael Hinrichs. “We’ve had offices in southern Oregon for more than a decade, but now it’s time to expand those offices, open up new offices, hire more staff and really be more accessible.”
The Canadian company also made a big public-relations push late last year. They sent out a series of mailings promoting the company and project. One of the fliers announced, “we are your neighbors and friends. We are Pembina.”
When’s That Supposed To Happen?
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced it would issue a final decision on the federal permit on Nov. 29. In addition, an important environmental document – the Draft Environmental Impact Statement – is due out in February. Although, there’s some uncertainty if that timeline will hold up given the recent government shutdown. FERC didn’t respond to a request for information on this.
The other potential glitch in the overall timeline is that one of the FERC commissioners passed away at the beginning of the year. This leaves an even GOP-Democrat split on that decision-making board. The empty spot would need to be replaced by the Trump Administration in order to overcome any partisan disagreements on the project.