Sen. Jeff Merkley has publicly opposed the proposed Jordan Cove Liquified Natural Gas export terminal. He claims that Jordan Cove would be the “biggest” greenhouse gas emitter in the state, and that burning natural gas shipped from Jordan Cove will pollute as much as burning coal.
I was one of the first people in the United States to testify against the air pollution from an LNG export terminal. In 2011, I spoke at a hearing in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, against the Cheniere LNG export facility, and assisted in preparing a 32-page critique of that plant’s air permit.
So I know a little about this topic. I opposed the Cheniere proposal. But I do support operation of Jordan Cove as a clean and efficient proposal.
Merkley’s criticism of Jordan Cove is simply wrong.
Oregon’s DEQ permits show Jordan Cove is not the largest polluter of anything in Oregon. There are a half -dozen existing power plants in Oregon with higher than, or comparable greenhouse gas emissions to Jordan Cove.
Jordan Cove was always a cleaner-operating facility, with air emissions that were only half the proposed air pollution from the comparable Cheniere plant in Louisiana, and a fraction of the emissions from the Weyerhaeuser paper mill that preceded it.
Jordan Cove’s latest application cut its air pollution even more. Maybe Merkley didn’t read that revised application. At any rate, he is mistaken to call Jordan Cove the “largest” polluter in the state.
Merkley is farther off base when he asserts that natural gas produces as much greenhouse gas pollution as coal. Obama’s Department of Energy among others, carefully studied the “life-cycle” of LNG vs coal, and reviewed these emissions from wellhead and mine to smokestack. The Department of Energy concluded that exporting natural gas to Asia was still far cleaner than allowing continued coal combustion.
Yet Merkley’s worst error is ignoring the massive emissions of air pollution from Asian coal combustion. Coal pollution sickens and kills thousands of folks in Asia every year. Those emissions are so vast that Oregonians are breathing in pollution, including toxic mercury, that was emitted thousands of miles away in Asia.
Asian countries like China and India are intently seeking alternative fuels to reduce their air pollution. Oregon could play a part in cleaning up Asia’s air by allowing shipments of cleaner-burning liquefied natural gas to Asia, from the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal in Coos Bay.
Coal emits almost 10 times as much pollution as natural gas. Operation of the Jordan Cove plant could replace as many as six coal-fired power plants in Asia with cleaner burning gas fired plants. That would reduce air pollution by as much as 42,000 tons per year, and eliminate emissions of highly toxic mercury. That would save lives and reduce human suffering in Asia and even in the Pacific Northwest.
If Senator Merkley opposes these reductions, then he owns the Asian air pollution that will continue. I’m just going to call him Senator “Mercury” from now on, as a reminder of the mercury air pollution he’ll allow from continued coal combustion.
— John Paul Williams is director of the World Without Coal campaign.