The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted last week to evaluate whether to revoke federal approval of the Jordan Cove Energy Project. The decision comes after months of continued setbacks to the natural gas project dealt by state permitting agencies.
Jordan Cove is a proposed liquid natural gas export facility in Coos Bay accompanying the Pacific Connector pipeline, which would connect the terminal over 229 miles across the Cascades and Coast Range to a station near Malin.
The project has drawn staunch opposition from landowners in Klamath, Jackson, Douglas and Coos counties, whose private property lay in the pipeline’s path, along environmental advocacy groups and local tribes, including the Klamath Tribes.
Pembina, the Canadian energy company behind the project, received federal approval to construct and operate the terminal and pipeline from FERC under Section 7 of the Natural Gas Act in March of 2020. But it can’t begin construction on either until it receives environmental permits required under state and local laws.
The following year saw numerous challenges to Jordan Cove’s permit applications, many of which were denied, reversed or have since expired. Notably, Pembina still lacks Oregon’s approval under the Clean Water Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act, both of which have been upheld by federal agencies.
This May, Pembina announced that they had paused development of the Jordan Cove project in light of the permit denials. Additionally, a coalition of affected landowners, tribes and environmental organizations challenged FERC’s approval of the project in the D.C. Circuit Court, arguing that the agency did not adequately consider impacts to private property rights, tribal resources and the environment.
Earlier this month, the court found that “circumstances have changed substantially” since the project first received federal approval, creating grounds for the commission to re-examine the authorization.
During FERC’s November meeting last Thursday, Chairman Richard Glick shared the court’s sentiments.
“This case is yet another example, in my opinion, where the commission made numerous mistakes in the underlying proceedings granting the certificate and approving the LNG facility. These mistakes were well-addressed during the recent oral arguments, and I say we need to do a better job — and we will.”
As ordered by the court, FERC now has until the end of January to revisit Jordan Cove’s approval. They’ve that requested Pembina confirm whether they plan to move forward with Jordan Cove and, if so, why the commission should not suspend the approval.
Even though federal approval doesn’t automatically grant Pembina the ability to begin construction without state and local permits, Section 7 of the Natural Gas Act still allows approved energy projects to claim eminent domain on private lands necessary to their construction. Landowners along the Pacific Connector pipeline route have been dealing with Pembina land agents for years and fear that the corporation could seize their land even if they don’t have full authorization to begin constructing the pipeline.
If FERC stays Jordan Cove’s Section 7 NGA approval, it could render Pembina unable to seize private land for their project.
“South Coast and Southern Oregon communities have been clearly saying that this proposed gas pipeline and export terminal is not in the public interest,” said Deb Evans, who owns land in Klamath County traversed by the proposed pipeline route. “It is past time for this proposal to be canceled for good so that our communities and impacted landowners can move on without the looming threat of eminent domain.”