By Francesca Varela
How does this sound for a bad-news proposal? Stretch a 232-mile pipeline across forests and backyards, old-growth cedars and mushroom-sided streams, halfway across the state. Gouge the forest. Scar it. Fill said pipeline with natural gas—one of the dirtiest fuels available to us. Build a terminal in Coos Bay. Convert natural gas to liquid—AKA liquefied natural gas (LNG). Ship LNG to Asia. Stand at the edge of the wide Pacific and know that, across from it, the fuels will be burned and the greenhouse gases will rise and glisten and warm, and the entire world will be altered by it, perhaps beyond all retrieval.
This proposed export facility (at first intended to be an import facility) was named the Jordan Cove Energy Project, and for over a decade its impending construction was fervently opposed by environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club. Activists held protests and raised awareness, collaborating with landowners whose properties would have been intersected by the adjoining Pacific Connector Pipeline. Their hard work paid off when, on Friday, March 11, the project’s application was denied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
According to the FERC report, the denial has been issued “because the record does not support a finding that the public benefits of the Pacific Connector Pipeline outweigh the adverse effects on landowners.” And because the Jordan Cove export facility would be useless without the Pacific Connector Pipeline feeding it natural gas, FERC denied that application as well.
This is a victory for the many volunteers involved, for the communities who would have been impacted by eminent domain, and, of course, for the environment. Had the pipeline been approved, its construction would have led to expansive clear-cuts, denuding streams of important riparian shade that salmon and other fish rely on, and reducing habitat for endangered species like the northern spotted owl. Had the oceanside export facility also been approved, the Coos Bay estuary would have been dredged and degraded, negatively impacting already fragile marine life.
The FERC denial is a good sign, but it’s not the end; there’s still a chance that the proposal could be reconsidered if the companies behind it—Veresen Inc. and Williams Partners—are able to convince officials of the market value and economic need of their project during the rehearing process. In fact, the entire approvals process is a complicated, many-stepped ordeal involving multiple permits and regulating agencies, both state and federal.
There are still many permits pending with various agencies of the State of Oregon, and it is not clear that those processes will be halted just because of the FERC denial. In order to ensure that the Jordan Cove Energy Project is killed, officially and completely, we need to continue voicing our own disapproval by contacting Governor Kate Brown and asking her to support the FERC decision and shut down the project for good. See volunteer leader Ted Gleichman’s blog post for more info!