FERC rejects LNG project

    Opposition has been building for years to a proposed LNG pipeline and terminal project, with numerous protests such as this 2011 rally in Medford. Mail Tribune file photo

    COOS BAY — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has denied Jordan Cove Energy Project's permit to operate a pipeline to carry natural gas through southwestern Oregon to a terminal on the Oregon Coast.

    The pipeline and terminal were the central pieces of a controversial project to run the natural gas line from Malin to Coos Bay, where it would be processed at the terminal and the resulting liquefied natural gas exported by ship.

    The 25-page ruling issued Friday said the project would have adverse impacts on landowners along the pipeline route, with little evidence to support the need for the line.

    Opponents reacted with glee.

    “I’m pinching myself,” said Marcie Laudani, a 62-year-old Shady Cove resident. “I’m so excited because we’ve been fighting this for 10 years. I’ve been alternating between crying and laughing.”

    Laudani owns a property that is just over three acres, and she said the pipeline proposal would have crossed her land on the north and east sides.

    “The pipeline would have wrapped around our bedroom,” she said.

    Laudani said she was one of many people who protested the pipeline project for a variety of reasons.

    “We don’t care why,” she said of the decision. “We’re just happy it’s over."

    “It’s incredible,” said Sarah Westover, a local anti-LNG organizer. “It’s fantastic news. ... This should be the end of the line for the LNG project."

    Westover said the strong opposition and protests helped sway FERC’s decision. She said Oregonians would continue to fight other LNG pipeline projects.

    “No LNG in Oregon,” she said. “No LNG, period.”

    Robin Janssen, outreach director for Rogue Riverkeeper, said she thought there might be some opportunity for the company to appeal the decision. But she doubted the project could survive, as potential investors would be unlikely to stick with it in the aftermath of the ruling.

    FERC said the two companies proposing the plan — Jordan Cove LNG and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline — could reapply in the future and the commission would reconsider their proposal if they could demonstrate "a market need" for the project.

    The Pacific Connector Pipeline would have been 230 miles long and run through about 157 miles of privately owned lands, consisting of approximately 630 landowners. It drew strong opposition from both landowners and conservation groups. It would have crossed rivers — including the Rogue River above Shady Cove — mountain ranges and a mix of private and public lands.

    Landowners cited negative economic impacts such as land devaluation, loss of tax revenue and economic harm to business operations. While there was strong support for the project in Coos Bay, opposition formed along the proposed route of the pipeline, including in Jackson County, where numerous protest rallies have been held over the years.

    The two companies first applied in December 2007 for approval from FERC for a LNG pipeline to import natural gas. But an ensuing massive increase in natural gas production in the United States caused the companies to reverse course and propose an export facility, with China as the primary destination of the natural gas.

    Ron Saddler, one of the project's more vocal opponents, told The World newspaper in Coos Bay that FERC could not just ignore the impact the project would have had.

    "Going back 12 years now, it's been obvious FERC has been trying to evade the requirements of the National Environmental (Policy) Act," Saddler said. "When they published their EIS ... it was evident their EIS was legally insufficient, in my opinion. Now what has finally happened is they are aware of their shortcomings and decided to back off the project."

    One of the leaders of the Boost Southwest Oregon group that’s advocated for this project, Mark Wall, said his group was disappointed. But he was not about to declare defeat.

    “This is just a bump in the road,” Wall told The World Friday afternoon. “The project’s not dead. This is not a deal killer.”

    Rep. Peter DeFazio, who was in Coos Bay Friday to hold a Small Ports Round Table, declined to comment, stating he wanted time to review the ruling.

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