Oregon environmental regulators delivered a blow Monday to a controversial energy export proposal on Oregon's south coast, saying the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas pipeline and terminal project falls short of meeting clean water standards.
The state Department of Environmental Quality announced in a press release its decision that Jordan Cove doesn't meet standards required under the 401 Water Quality Certification program, which regulates the extent to which projects like this can pollute or otherwise degrade waterways.
For Jordan Cove, this would include impacts to rivers and streams from pipeline crossings, dredging, filling in wetlands and stormwater runoff.
DEQ, which is in charge of enforcing Clean Water Act standards in Oregon, says Jordan Cove still will have the option to reapply for the certification, submitting “additional information that could result in a different decision.”
DEQ concluded that "some standards are more likely than not to be violated," although it's possible that additional information could show otherwise.
DEQ spokesperson Katherine Benenati said DEQ requested additional information from Jordan Cove last September, December and March.
“Jordan Cove has responded to some of those information requests, but not all of them,” she said.
DEQ also said the project could be changed and that other steps could be met to demonstrate that these anticipated violations of water-quality standards can be avoided.
Regulators specifically pointed to construction and operation of the Pacific Connector Pipeline, a 230-mile pipeline that would run from Malin in south-central Oregon to the export terminal on Coos Bay. The pipeline threatens to increase water temperatures and put more sediment in streams and wetlands. There are more than 300 water crossings planned
The DEQ also flagged water-quality risks at Coos Bay estuary, where drilling for a proposed crossing could release materials into the water.
Benenati says the DEQ water quality certification is not technically a permit, but instead an approval required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in order for that agency to issue permits for the project.
The Canadian company Pembina is proposing the Jordan Cove project. It would pipe natural gas and then liquefy it (through cooling) at the terminal in Coos Bay before loading it on shipping vessels bound for markets in Asia. According to a recently released environmental review, Jordan Cove would be Oregon's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
In an emailed statement, Pembina said it was working to understand the decision and its impacts. Jordan Cove still will have the option to reapply for the certification, providing further information that could result in approval being granted.
Jordan Cove critics have been lobbying, organizing and campaigning for years to prevent it from getting built. One of the groups working to defeat Jordan Cove, Cascadia Wildlands, said in a statement Monday that the DEQ's decision was a potentially fatal blow.
Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry was of several opponents quoted in the Cascadia Wildlands press release. He said the Klamath Tribes were "very encouraged that the state of Oregon is making this move to protect clean water, cultural resources, and our traditional territory."