On behalf of a diverse national coalition, including conservation, commercial fishing and private property owners, the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) and Sierra Club submitted comments today to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) opposing what would become the first gas export terminal on the West Coast. In addition, more than 25,000 citizens, including businesses, ranchers, youth, climate activists, property rights advocates, anglers, and a Native American tribe sent comments critical of FERC’s analysis of the project.
The Jordan Cove and Pacific Connector Pipeline Project, a gas export scheme proposed by Canadian-based Veresen Incorporated, would export about one billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per day. The terminal would be built in Coos Bay, Oregon and the Pacific Connector pipeline would run the gas 232 miles through a 36-inch pipeline from an existing hub in the Klamath Basin at the Oregon/California border. The company has stated that target markets for the exported gas include China, Japan and Korea.
“As evidenced by the sheer length and complexity of our comments, it is clear that this project is legally, ecologically, and socially flawed,” said Susan Jane Brown, attorney for WELC. “Oregon and America do not need this project, and there is no basis for a rational person to conclude that it benefits the public.”
The project would have significant environmental impacts. These include logging streamside forests, dumping sediment into waterways that are critical habitat for imperiled salmon, fragmenting important wildlife habitat, and extensive dredging in the Coos Bay estuary. The coalition asserts that FERC’s examination of these impacts is insufficient, and important aspects of the analysis have not yet been made available to the public.
“This project would be very bad news for Oregon’s water and salmon,” said Jared Margolis, staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Oregonians have made it clear they don’t want our fragile coastal environment put at risk to ship climate-changing fossil fuels to Asia.”
The proposal also creates a wealth of safety concerns, including the possibility of spills and explosions. The export terminal would be built on a sand spit that is vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis, while contaminated soil problems were noted last month by a whistleblower that was contracted by Veresen.
Committed opponents to the project include affected landowners who risk losing private property like those contesting the Keystone XL pipeline. Landowners who are threatened with eminent domain see no public benefit. Rather, they note that a Canadian company would profit off the landowners’ loss by exporting gas.
“In the 1970s we were always talking about energy independence. Now we have this gas and they want to export it by stealing my land. It just doesn’t make sense,” said Bill Gow, whose family ranch sits in the proposed path of the pipeline and is threatened by eminent domain. “This is not just a environmental fight being opposed by the left. Opposition to this project is across the spectrum and reaches to the far right.”
The project would increase controversial fracking, yet FERC chose not to analyze the impacts of accelerated fracking to feed the export terminal. Once Oregon’s lone coal power plant closes in 2020, the Jordan Cove gas export terminal would be the state’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, but the federal analysis fails to consider the climate impacts of the project.
“FERC needs to consider the fundamental fact that exporting LNG will mean more drilling and fracking, and that means more climate pollution, more risk of contaminated groundwater, and more threats to the health of people who live near gas wells,” said Sierra Club staff attorney Nathan Matthews. “FERC should be standing up for the public good, not the interests of dirty polluters.”
“It’s time we left fossil fuels in the past and turn toward a robust economy of clean energy that creates more jobs than big oil and gas for the same level of investment,” said Lesley Adams, Western Regional Coordinator for the Waterkeeper Alliance. “This dirty energy company wants to profit as much as possible and pollute our water before fossil fuels become passé. It’s clear that that the movement for solutions to our fossil fuel crisis, including ending fracking and gas exports, is growing in diversity and strength every day.”
WELC and Sierra Club submitted comments on behalf of Waterkeeper Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, Umpqua Watersheds, Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, Crag Law Center, Pipeline Awareness Southern Oregon, Southern Oregon Rural Community Partnership, Bob Barker, Coast Range Forest Watch, Rogue Climate, Rogue Riverkeeper, Klamath Riverkeeper, Columbia Riverkeeper, Food & Water Watch, Rogue Flyfishers, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, 350EUGENE and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.
Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center, 503-914-1323, *protected email*