BREAKING? BROKEN! Three Agencies Tackle Jordan Cove

May 29, 2018

Hot news: One key Oregon agency and two Federal have launched formal comment periods on the combined Jordan Cove Energy Project & Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline (together, JCPC).  So now Round Three of this abominable project, opposed by most Oregonians, gets real!

Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) must evaluate JCPC under the Clean Water Act §401, which gives states broad, definitive authority to assess the risk of unacceptable damage to water quality.  If DEQ denies JCPC’s application for the §401 permit, it cannot be built.  Pacific Connector (PCGP) would cross almost 500 wetlands, waterways, streams, and rivers; Jordan Cove (JCEP) needs the largest dredging project for any coastal bay or estuary in Oregon history.  What could possibly go wrong with  that?

Proposed Jordan Cove Construction Site-OPB-EarthFix

The site of the proposed JCEP fracked-gas export terminal on (and in) Coos Bay.  Photo: Earthfix.

DEQ has struggled mightily in recent years, with undercutting by the Legislature and notable failures on air pollution especially.  But it seems to be on a better path now… Is it going to “break” under the pressure of the largest construction scheme of any kind in Oregon history? — or do its duty to fully protect Oregon’s people, land, and water?

Simultaneously, working in rough tandem with DEQ, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is tasked with assessing potential water quality damage by JCPC from removal and fill operations during construction, under the Clean Water Act §404.

The Corps is known for its by-the-numbers rigidity, but occasionally that has shown benefits.  Will they do the right thing?

And in a timing coincidence, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has launched a review of its fracked-gas pipeline approval procedures, as structured under the Natural Gas Act.  The new Trump-regime FERC wants comments from industry — but fortunately, by law, they also must accept comments from the millions of people and thousands of communities being damaged by fracking, pipelines, and that industry’s contribution to climate change.

FERC-Francis Eatherington-September 2015

Oregon activist Francis Eatherington participated in a protest fast at the FERC headquarters in Washington, D.C., in 2015.  Photo: Ted Gleichman

FERC has clearly been “broken” under Trump, and was designed to be inherently pro-industry.  It was only rarely helpful under prior presidents.  We are focused on a long slog toward reform into making FERC serve our true needs for the just transition; how much impact can we have on it now?

Sierra Club has been working actively, both locally and nationally, against fracked-gas infrastructure for years.  Please click here to help #FixFERC!

We have more than a month on each of these comment periods — we’ll stay in touch on how to get involved and write powerful comments to these agencies. 

Ted Gleichman
Policy Advisor, Beyond Gas & Oil Priority Campaign, Oregon Chapter
Member, National Strategy Team, Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign