US panel delays vote on Oregon pipeline amid process issues
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A U.S. regulatory agency on Thursday delayed a vote on a proposed natural gas pipeline and marine export terminal in Oregon, with one member saying greenhouse gas emissions and endangered species should be considered and blasting the decision-making process as “rotten.”
The issues bluntly raised at the meeting of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington came on top of objections to the mega-project by Oregon’s Department of Land Conservation and Development. In a letter released late Wednesday, the department said the Jordan Cove Energy Project would harm the environment and had failed to obtain necessary permits and to provide information requested by the department.
“Coastal effects analyses show that the project will negatively impact Oregon’s coastal scenic and aesthetic resources, a variety of endangered and threatened species, critical habitat and ecosystem services, fisheries resources, commercial and recreational fishing and boating, and commercial shipping and transportation, among other sectors,” the department said in the letter to a Jordan Cove official.
The proposed natural gas terminal and 230-mile (370-kilometer) pipeline would permit shipment of natural gas from the United States and Canada to Asia and would be the West Coast’s first liquefied natural gas export terminal. The Trump administration supports energy export projects and in particular Jordan Cove, a project of Pembina, a Canadian company. It has proposed streamlining approval of gas pipelines and other energy projects by limiting states’ certification authorities under the U.S. Clean Water Act.
The three members of the federal commission were all appointed by President Donald Trump. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, urged Trump last month to appoint a full and bipartisan five-member commission before a ruling is made on Jordan Cove. Otherwise, a decision could be interpreted as politically motivated, he said.
While the commission delayed the issue Thursday, member Bernard McNamee said he was giving it an initial “nay” until he could study Wednesday’s decision by the Oregon agency. Commissioner Richard Glick had harsh words for the way the panel operates, saying it ignores environmental impacts.
“We really don’t consider or include those environmental impacts in our decision-making process,” Glick said at the meeting. “Something’s really rotten with that.”
Glick also said Oregon’s goal to limit greenhouse gas emission should be considered because a pipeline across southern Oregon and an export terminal on Coos Bay would produce around 15% of the 14 million metric ton limit Oregon wants to reach by the year 2050.
“This is going to really make it difficult for Oregon to reach its standards,” Glick said. He pointed out that the project is expected to have significant impacts on 20 threatened or endangered species, among other negative effects.
The Natural Gas Act requires public-interest benefits to be weighed against adverse impacts, Glick said.
“We’re not doing that in this particular case, and that’s why I think this commission has earned its reputation for being a rubber stamp for these types of pipeline and LNG projects,” Glick said.
After Glick and McNamee spoke, commission chairman Neil Chatterjee said he was disappointed there was no final vote on the project, but he respected the other commissioners’ need for more time. He said the application remains pending.
Jordan Cove spokesman Paul Vogel said company officials are reviewing the letter from the state land conservation department and look forward to a final decision by the federal regulatory commission.
Opponents of the project, including the group Rogue Climate, applauded the actions by McNamee and Glick.
“Tens of thousands of people across the region have spoken out against this Jordan Cove LNG for over a decade,” said Allie Rosenbluth of Rogue Climate. “It’s time to put an end to Jordan Cove LNG for good this time so our communities can focus on creating local jobs in clean energy instead.”
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has already denied a water quality certification for the proposed project. Pembina withdrew its application for another state permit, saying it would await a decision by the commission.
State Sen. Jeff Golden, a Democrat, recently told demonstrators opposed to Jordan Cove that he expects the battle to go to the courts if the Trump administration tries to ram the project through despite a lack of state permits.
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