By Ted Gleichman
IMPORTANT: At the end of this post are two Action Items!
FERC Headquarters, Washington, D.C. Francis Eatherington, a Landowner on the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline route planned for Douglas County, Oregon, participated in a fast and vigil at FERC in September 2015. Photo: Ted Gleichman
What kind of a Federal agency ignores both Senators and the Governor of a state, rejecting a simple request from the top three elected officials, for a request it had approved quickly in the past? Tragically for Oregon, it’s an agency that was always generally terrible, and is now in the process of being taken over by the Trump Regime: the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Thirteen Years of Fighting
This is all about the bitterly-controversial new version of the proposed joint Jordan Cove Energy Project & Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline (JC/PC) in Southern Oregon. It consists of a plan to run a new 235-mile explosive 36-inch-diameter fracked-gas pipeline across four counties, linking from the Rockies and Canada, to transport the methane to a massive new industrial-plant export terminal in Coos Bay that would convert it to liquefied natural gas (LNG) to sell in Asia. This $8 billion-plus scheme by a Canadian energy speculator has bedeviled a broad coalition of Oregonians in opposition for more than 13 years, and is now into its third major attempt to win approval.
Now On Tap: A New EIS
So now it is time for FERC to manage a new Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). A month ago, FERC suddenly announced 30 days to receive “scoping” comments, and set three narrowly-constrained public hearings to launch that scoping process: taking advice on what the scope of the DEIS should include.
When this was done before in 2012, the agency began with a 30-day comment period, but scheduled open public hearings in all four “affected counties”: Coos, Douglas, Jackson, and Klamath, with a total population of almost half a million people. That ultimately led to a Final EIS (FEIS) for the Federal eminent domain and construction permit approval process that FERC finally rejected twice, in 2016.
The clearcut in Klamath County above the path of the Ruby Pipeline, delivering fracked gas from Wyoming and Colorado to Malin, Oregon, where Pacific Connector would begin its 235-mile run to the Pacific Coast. Photo: Ted Gleichman
Oregon’s top elected leaders then requested more time – 90 days – for residents and stakeholders to evaluate and comment on thousands of pages of documents concerning the largest proposed construction project in state history. FERC quickly agreed.
What’s Jackson County? Chopped Liver??
This year, when FERC abruptly launched scoping again with a 30-day window, they also left out Jackson County, which includes almost half of the total population of the four counties – and has been the heart of the resistance to the pipeline. And they changed the process from open testimony at a microphone in front of all the attendees to private testimony to a court reporter — so no one else attending can hear others’ thoughts, and build on them or avoid repetition.
Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Governor Kate Brown then formally told FERC that Oregonians deserved 90 days, and Jackson County deserved its own hearing. Others, including the Jackson County Commissioners and the Medford Mail Tribune, joined in.
These requests for a cleaner, more open process, allowing genuine input, were almost completely ignored by FERC. To be fair, the agency said that they would continue to review new scoping comments after the July 10 deadline they’d set. But they also emphasized that an open scoping process is entirely voluntary on FERC’s part, not required by law but only an operational procedure to allow community input that they are not required to consider. FERC cannot be sued for ignoring scoping comments, for example.
Why Does “Inside FERC” Matter? Because Here Comes the Trump Regime!
This pruning of the process does not bode well for Oregon’s future relationship to the agency, as Trump nominees will be coming in to take it over this summer. Therefore, with FERC looking strongly like it is now already in the pocket of the Canadian energy speculator and the fossil fuels industry for JC/PC – the way FERC has behaved traditionally for almost every other project! – we need to be extra vigilant.
It seems increasingly likely that our work to stop this dangerous and destructive project is going to depend on state and local action. As usual: stay tuned!
Two Opportunities For Action Right Now!
First: Statewide. We appreciate the Big Three advocating for a better process. But it would be even better if Wyden, Merkley, and Brown actually came out against this terrible project. Please ask them to take a stand against the Trump fracked-gas export agenda for Oregon! They cannot be “climate champion” and “pro-Paris Accords” if they let Jordan Cove / Pacific Connector happen on their watch.
Tell them to take a stand for Oregon and the planet:
Second: In the Portland Metro area. We are helping to lead the development of a broad new coalition in Portland to help stop Jordan Cove. Please come to our organizing meeting if you can:
WHAT: Portland Area Stop Jordan Cove Organizing Meeting
WHEN: Wednesday, July 19th, 7:00pm – 8:30pm
WHERE: Multnomah Friends Meetinghouse, 4312 SE Stark, Portland
MORE INFO: 503-705-1943, email@example.com
Please join us to protect Oregon and block this dangerous climate wrecking project.
Ted Gleichman is policy advisor for the Oregon Chapter Beyond Gas & Oil Team and a member of the National Strategy Team for Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign.