On March 19 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a conditional approval of the Jordan Cove Pipeline and Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Terminal in Southern Oregon, despite the fact that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has denied necessary permits for the project. The proposed pipeline, a project of Canadian company Pembina, would stretch 229 miles from Malin, OR to an export terminal in Coos Bay, affecting more than 485 rivers, streams and wetlands including the Rogue, Umpqua and Klamath Rivers. Since first proposed in the early 2000s, this project has been opposed by environmental groups, private property owners whose lands would be crossed by the pipeline and the Klamath tribes. Nearly two dozen people were arrested in November 2019 for occupying Governor Kate Brown’s office in protest of the project.
Pembina claims that this project will result in up to 8500 jobs and $60 million per year in tax revenue, but according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), there are an average of 124 gas pipeline construction accidents causing more than $336 million in damage annually, making it unclear whether the supposed financial benefits will pencil out. In its final environmental impact report, issued last fall, FERC stated that the project would result in “temporary, long term and permanent impacts to the environment.” That report came from FERC staff, while the conditional approval came from a 2-1 decision by FERC’s presidentially appointed commissioners. Richard Glick, the dissenting commissioner, said the decision violates the Natural Gas Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, fails to consider the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change and would significantly impact 20 threatened and endangered species.
This conditional approval came as much of the West Coast was under shelter-in-place orders due to COVID-19. The Klamath tribes, impacted landowners and over 25 public interest organizations have petitioned FERC for a rehearing and are waiting for a reply. Additionally, 29 members of Congress, including North Coast Rep. Jared Huffman, have called on FERC to enact a moratorium on the approval or construction of any new LNG pipeline or export facility during this public health crisis. As their letter states, “Far from pausing to make sure the public voice can be fairly heard and administrative process properly respected in this frightful and chaotic period, the majority of this Commission seems to view this national public health catastrophe as an opportunity to further entrench an institutional bias towards the building of natural gas-pipeline projects.” Conspicuously missing from the letter are the signatures of any Oregonian Congressional Representatives.
Rogue Riverkeeper and KS Wild are calling on Oregonians to contact their representatives to ask them to sign on to the letter to FERC, and to ask Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to stand strong for Oregon’s clean water, communities, and climate by challenging any federal override of the state’s Coastal Zone Management Act denial for the Jordan Cove LNG project.