By Ted Gleichman
Here’s a quick update on the regulatory and grassroots status of the fight against the deceptive fracked-gas export scheme on Oregon’s southern coast, the Jordan Cove Energy Project, and the 229-mile pipeline necessary to feed it, the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has published its latest Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on Jordan Cove & Pacific Connector (JC/PC). This opened up a comment period that will close Friday, July 5 (right in the middle of a long holiday weekend for a lot of folks).
In May and June, we will be providing guidelines on different ways to submit comments on the DEIS, highlighting key issues that the Trump FERC is ignoring, distorting, and failing to address. (With all attachments and appendices, the DEIS comprises some 6,000 pages.) FERC plans to produce a Final EIS late this fall, and is scheduled to vote on whether to approve the $10 billion JC/PC in early 2020.
In the meantime, here are some key push-points to keep in mind:
- We can’t trust FERC.
The Trump regime has taken a pretty lousy agency and made it much worse. FERC officially ignores the climate crisis in every way that it can, and has fought back hard against every effort to bring its behavior in line with the science on fossil fuels, greenhouse-gas emissions, and environmental destruction.
- Fortunately, it’s not just about the Trump FERC.
Federal power against the climate is terrible, but it is not the only piece of the puzzle. States still have significant regulatory authority. The State of Oregon has direct power over key permits that JC/PC must have to go forward.
- The Department of State Lands is scheduled to decide by September 20.
Oregon DSL has authority to protect state waterways of all types from damage by dredging and filling — and JC/PC would require a lot of that, attacking 485 waterways: the five major rivers in Southern Oregon and hundreds of tributaries, streams, and wetlands, crossing both the Cascades and the Coast Range. All the information that we have so far is that DSL is taking this responsibility really seriously. This decision date may change, but the process generally seems to be operating with adequate integrity.
- The Department of Environmental Quality must decide by September 29.
Oregon DEQ must decide by September 29 whether JC/PC complies with state approval authority under the Clean Water Act (Section 401). As with DSL, all the information that we have so far is that DEQ is taking this responsibility really seriously. This decision date is a hard deadline, and DEQ is working hard to meet.
- Our statewide coalition fighting JC/PC continues to grow.
The struggle for climate sanity and a just transition continues to strengthen, among dozen of organizations. We’ve reached critical mass among grassroots activists and climate leaders on an understanding of the insanity of new fossil fuel infrastructure like Jordan Cove. Comment periods for DEQ and DSL, last year and this, generated almost one hundred thousand comments to the State of Oregon! — a totally unprecedented number. Almost 60% came through Sierra Club. Early this year, more than a thousand people attended DSL hearings in Southern Oregon and Salem — also unprecedented.
- Sierra Club plays a vital role.
The Oregon Sierra Club has been a key part of this struggle for more than a decade, with critically-important assistance from National Sierra Club. Sierra has been supporting the the front line groups, working for environmental justice, and staying deep in the regulatory and legal battles in various ways. That won’t change.
For this summer, before these critical Oregon agency decisions in September, many of the most vital chores will focus on more community organizing. We have a lot more work to do: both grassroots, and “grass-tops”: educating and persuading legislators and other leaders that their responsibility is to serve and protect. Please stay tuned!
The proposed site of the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal, in Coos Bay on the Oregon coast, in the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake / tsunami junction. Photo: EarthFix
Ted Gleichman is a policy advisor with the Oregon Sierra Club Beyond Gas & Oil Priority Campaign, and has been a member of the National Strategy Team for Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign. He has been fighting against the export of LNG (liquefied natural gas) through Oregon since 2006.