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LNG Looms in Southern Oregon

The proponents of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline and export facility proposed for southern Oregon say it’s in the public interest to extract natural gas through fracking, pipe it through public and private lands and export it overseas. Conservation groups and landowners beg to differ. “Incredibly, they claim they need to increase fracking in the Rocky Mountain basin,” says Francis Eatherington of Cascadia Wildlands. 

Eatherington is also a landowner whose property could have the Pacific Connector LNG pipeline running through it if the project goes through. Public meetings to discuss the issue are underway in southern Oregon, and public comments can be submitted on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) website through Sept. 4. Eatherington criticizes the project for its negative environmental impacts on forests, streams, farms and other private property, as well as for ethical and economic reasons.

The Pacific Connector Pipeline and Jordan Cove LNG project in Coos Bay were originally proposed as import facilities for liquefied natural gas, which is moved in pipelines as gas but converted to liquid for shipping on tankers. Opponents who predicted the terminal and pipeline would be “flipped” to become export facilities were proven correct earlier this year when the Jordan Cove Energy Project filed paperwork with FERC to change the project to an export terminal. 

According to Eatherington, the company asked FERC to add “export” to “import” on its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and “just modify it.” She says FERC originally agreed, but opponents “raised a fuss,” arguing that that the certificate allowing the project to exercise eminent domain over swathes of private property was given under false pretences. “They lied,” Eatherington says. FERC regulators changed their minds and pulled the certificate.

“But we weren’t given much time to revel,” she continues. Scoping is now under way to see what should be in the new EIS for the project.

According to its notice of application to export posted in the Federal Register, Jordan Cove argues that “LNG export authorization will serve the public interest in multiple ways,” including job creation and economic and international trade benefits. However, according to Cascadia Wildlands, a study by the Department of Energy found that natural gas prices could rise by up to 54 percent when the U.S. starts competing for gas on the world market. 

And in its application to the Department of Energy, Jordan Cove writes it would export shale gas from Western Canada and the Rocky Mountain states. Shale gas is extracted through the controversial practice of fracking, linked to issues such as water contamination and earthquakes. 

Eatherington says the public comment period is already plagued by problems. Citizens who try to email their comments to the FERC project manager Paul Friedman get an autoreply telling them to upload their comments through the FERC website, but Eatherington says the website is clunky and difficult for even the above-average user, let alone for “Joe Blow sitting on a farm in rural Oregon where high-speed internet hasn’t come yet.”

Eatherington says that public meetings have not been publicized in the local papers, clear maps for the pipeline and project have not been provided, and there’s conflicting information on how long the public has to give input. One concern residents in the earthquake- and landslide-prone pipeline area have is that the pipeline is planned as Class 1, a rural designation that Eatherington says provides the weakest protections. Eight people were killed in a September 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif.

The International Port of Coos Bay, where the Jordan Cove export terminal is proposed, is also the proposed home of a controversial coal export terminal. For more information on LNG, the public meetings and commenting, go to http://cascwild.org and http://citizensagainstlng.com