Correction on Thursday, Jan. 16: A previous version of this article stated that Congressional Representative Peter DeFazio received donations totaling $7,000 from the Jordan Cove LNG PAC between 2016 and 2017. Those funds were refunded by the campaign and not accepted, according to Carly Gabrielson, DeFazio for Congress campaign manager. Records of the refunds can be found on the Federal Election Commission’s website.
The Jordan Cove Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Project has been in the headlines since the idea was conceived in 2007. The project has divided political leaders and communities between those wanting to bring economic stimulation into the Coos Bay area and those worried about the project’s harm to the environment.
But what is it, where is the project now and where is it going?
The Jordan Cove Energy Project was proposed in 2007 as two separate but connected projects—the LNG Terminal and the Pacific Pipeline Connector, according to a document from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The LNG terminal would take up about 240 acres of land on the Port of Coos Bay and be a site for liquify the natural gas from the pipeline and place it in shipping containers. The Pacific Pipeline Connector would consist of a 229-mile, 36-inch diameter pipeline that runs from the LNG Terminal to the town of Malin located in Klamath County. The pipeline would connect to the already existing Ruby Pipeline and the Gas Transmission Northwest (GTN) Pipeline, according to the Jordan Cove Project website.
The project has many tangible benefits like an estimated $100 million a year in state and local taxes as well as 6,000 jobs during peak construction and 200 permanent jobs. But the project would also have tangible drawbacks for the surrounding environment.
On Jan. 7, Coos Bay city councilors voted 4-3 in favor of increased dredging in the channel serving Jordan Cove — dredging makes the channel bigger for the large transport ships that pick up the liquified natural gas.
“You saw four city counselors tonight who sold out their community and sided with a foreign multinational fossil fuel company instead of listening to their constituents and the community who are dead set against this project,” Congressional Candidate Doyle Canning said over the phone directly following the vote.
David Sutherland, a physical oceanographer and professor in the Environmental Studies department at the University of Oregon said that even small amounts of dredging can have an impact on the composition of the waters in the channel affecting everything living there.
“If you’re an organism that lives there then there are immediate local effects obviously and then there are these other impacts on salinity which is a really key variable or water property for some organisms,” Sutherland said. Even dredging a few feet more of the rocky beds in the channel would change how the salt-filled ocean and freshwater river interact in the estuary, causing a change in the make-up of the waters in the area.
But what really worries Sutherland the most about the project is extracting the natural gas when “we should really be keeping that stuff in the ground,” Sutherland said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a statement on Jan. 10 issuing their final biological opinion that the Jordan Cove Terminal and pipeline would not jeopardize protected species in the area.
"NOAA's opinion on Jordan Cove will pave the way for more American jobs and vastly expanded exports of domestically sourced liquefied natural gas to prized Asian markets," Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in NOAA's announcement. "The speed of this decision was only made possible by recent reforms to the infrastructure permitting process, while still allowing the relevant authorities ample time to determine that no species or critical habitat would be jeopardized."
Multiple high-profile politicians have been on both sides of the argument at certain points in time. In 2013 Senator Ron Wyden said “There’s no anti-poverty program as good as a good-paying family-wage job,” according to an article in the Umpqua Post in reference to the Jordan Cove Project.
But this past August, Courthouse News acquired a letter from Wyden calling for a federal investigation into Pembina, the project’s parent company. The letter goes on to say that Wyden has received a troubling letter from an elderly constituent that leads Wyden to believe Pembina is taking advantage of elderly property owners in order to utilize their land for the proposed pipeline.
Congressional Representative for the Coos Bay Peter DeFazio came out against the pipeline in December reported The World, saying “the project tramples on private property rights, and it will exacerbate the urgent and immediate threat of climate change" in a letter to campaign supporters.
“Congress does not have a role in approving or denying this project — the sole authority lies with FERC, which is an independent bureaucracy managed by Trump political appointees at the agency,” DeFazio said.