“With the potential to be the largest source of greenhouse gases in the state, this project is totally inconsistent with the state’s climate goals. Hundreds of waterways, wildlife habitat areas, and private property would be impacted. And the gas terminal would be located in the earthquake and tsunami path of the Cascadia Subduction Zone. All of these impacts and more have brought together a variety of individuals and organizations to oppose Jordan Cove.” –

 

– Courtney Johnson, Crag Executive Director and Staff Attorney

For nearly two decades, out-of-state energy speculators have attempted to construct a liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal and pipeline in Coos Bay, which would export fracked gas to Pacific countries. Construction of the Pacific Connector would require a 230-mile long, 95-foot wide clearcut across fire-prone forests and private lands in southwest Oregon to carry fracked gas from the interior west and Canada to the north spit of Coos Bay.

Since 2004, Crag has been supporting community-led opposition to the proposed Jordan Cove fracked gas pipeline and terminal at Coos Bay. With our support in the development of robust public comments at the state and federal level (including for the most recent DEQ, DLCD, DSL, and FERC processes), as well as successful legal challenges to local land use permits, Jordan Cove LNG has failed to qualify for any of the necessary permits to dredge Coos Bay and trench across southwest Oregon for a 230-mile fracked gas pipeline, which risks harm to important Tribal resources, private landowners, drinking water, and fishing grounds along the way. 

We are representing Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, Surfrider and coastal community members in preventing this dangerous and environmentally-destructive project from being constructed. The campaign to stop the proposed Pacific Connector fracked gas Pipeline and Jordan Cove LNG export Terminal in southern Oregon is comprised of landowners, businesses, climate and conservation groups, Native Tribes, and concerned residents working together to protect our home from fossil fuel exports.

 

What's at Stake

The natural gas plant and export terminal would be constructed in Coos Bay on the banks of the estuary.  This potentially explosive facility would be located on of one of the most dangerous earthquake and tsunami zones in North America.  The construction and operation of the LNG plant would cause extensive damage to the Coos Bay estuary and harm other public uses of these important natural resources. Jordan Cove would also be a significant source of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, pouring more than 30 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year into the atmosphere.

The pipeline’s proposed route would cross hundreds of miles of Oregon, decimating massive swaths of public, private, and Tribal lands. Through the use of eminent domain, over 300 landowners would lose property and be forced to suffer the consequences of fossil fuel infrastructure right outside their homes. Since 2010, nearly 500 people have been injured and 100 have been killed as a result of pipeline accidents, leaks, and spills; the public safety concern for Oregon residents is unacceptable.

Meanwhile, 80 miles of old-growth forests providing imperiled wildlife habitat and serving as critical carbon sinks would be demolished. 50 feet on each side of the pipeline would be forcibly cleared to minimize wildfire risk, yet multiple miles of the pipeline will run through recent wildfire areas. The pipeline’s construction would impact 400 different waterways across the region, polluting the water we drink, destroying critical salmon habitat, and undermining the state’s fishing industry. The pipeline would also cross traditional Tribal lands and burial sites of the Yurok, Hoopa, Karuk, Modoc and Klamath Tribes.

 

Recent Developments

The decades long fight against Jordan Cove reached a critical phase in spring and early summer of 2020. Throughout the Covid pandemic, Crag has been working alongside our clients the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition and Surfrider as well as community-based allies to challenge five local land use approvals issued to Jordan Cove that would allow it to construct its proposed LNG export facility on the North Spit and dredge Coos Bay for LNG export tanker transit.

On May 5, 2021 the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) handed down another win for opponents of the controversial Jordan Cove LNG terminal at Coos Bay, overturning two permits that would have allowed major dredging in the bay. The land use permit approvals by Coos County and the City of Coos Bay would have allowed the Canadian corporation, Pembina Pipeline, to dredge Coos Bay in order to export liquefied natural gas from its proposed export facility on the North Spit to foreign markets. The sites to be dredged are natural and conservation areas of the estuary under local zoning laws. If the approvals were affirmed (i.e., allowed to stand) by LUBA, they would have allowed Jordan Cove to (1) deepen areas of Coos estuary to expand the existing navigation channel, (2) dispose of dredged material using underwater pipes, and (3) conduct maintenance dredging of the sites over and over, in perpetuity, continuously damaging bay bottom habitat as well as eelgrass beds which are crucial to the bay’s productivity.

On behalf of our long-time client Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, Crag appealed the two approvals. In the appeal of the County’s decision, Oregon Shores was the lead challenger. In the City of Coos Bay decision, Oregon Shores joined the appeal in support of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians’ (CTCLUSI) appeal. In both appeals, local Coos Bay group Citizens for Renewables challenged in support of Oregon Shores and the Tribe.

This is one of the few instances that the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) has heard appeals to permit approvals of a Goal 16 exception. LUBA agreed with us that both approvals of Jordan Cove’s plan to dredge the lower bay had misconstrued the law because neither of the alternative reasons offered by the County or the City “provide a basis for the [County or the City] to approve the reasons exceptions.” LUBA reversed the decisions completely (rather than simply remanding them back to the County and the City). The reversal means that, barring further appeals, Pembina will need to submit entirely new applications to obtain the Goal 16 exceptions required to widen the navigation channel in both the County and the City.

Currently, the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and pipeline cannot move forward because it has failed to obtain key state and local permits. In January 2020, anticipating a permit denial, Jordan Cove LNG withdrew its Removal-Fill application from the Oregon Department of State Lands. In January 2021, FERC upheld the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s denial of a key water quality certification for Jordan Cove. In February 2021, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce rejected Jordan Cove’s request to override the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development’s February 2020 Federal Consistency Objection, thus upholding Oregon’s authority under the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). Last month, in the federal case challenging FERC’s grant of authorizations to Jordan Cove, Pembina filed a motion in the D.C. Circuit arguing that that lawsuit should be put on hold because Pembina has “decided to pause the development” of Jordan Cove and Pacific Connector, as there is “uncertainty about whether [the] project would move forward in its current form.” Conservation groups, impacted landowners, and tribal governments have filed motions opposing Jordan Cove’s request for an indefinite pause.

LUBA’s reversal of the decisions by Coos County and the City of Coos Bay is further evidence that Jordan Cove is wrong for Coos Bay, Oregon, and its people. FERC’s decision in March 2020 to approve authorizations for the project was dependent in part on obtaining state and local permits. These decisions further indicate that the project cannot and should not move forward.

 

History: Timeline

Fossil fuel infrastructure projects such as Jordan Cove are enormously complex, requiring a multitude of local, state, and federal permits that span several years. Jordan Cove has gone through three major permitting rounds, each with different project proposals. Here are some key milestones in the history of this project:

In 2004, the Jordan Cove Energy Project and a 234-mile Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline project was first proposed as an LNG import facility. Between 2004 and 2009, it received a Conditional Use Permit (“CUP”) for the construction of the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline for import only of natural gas from Douglas County, and a certificate from FERC for the construction of the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline to import natural gas.

In 2010, the State of Oregon appealed FERC’s decision to approve Jordan Cove as a gas import terminal to the U.S. Court of Appeals. The suit was based on the fact that FERC issued its permit before the state had approved necessary permits, and in the face of significant adverse environmental impacts identified by state agencies and public comments.

In April 2012, FERC vacated its December 2009 approval upon notification from Canadian-based fossil fuel company Veresen (the original parent company of Jordan Cove) would no longer be pursuing an import facility in Coos Bay.

Between 2012 and 2013, Jordan Cove, which Canadian-based company Pembina took over in 2017 after acquiring Veresen, withdrew its application to build a gas import terminal and subsequently resubmitted an application to FERC to build a gas export facility.

In 2014, FERC released its long-awaited Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Jordan Cove-Pacific Connector LNG export terminal and pipeline.

In 2015, Jordan Cove submitted a local land use application to Coos County to authorize siting and construction of an LNG Export Terminal on the North Spit.

In March 2016, FERC denied applications for Jordan Cove LNG and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline to construct and operate the proposed export facility on the that Veresen failed to demonstrate a public need for the project. and “that generalized allegations of need proffered by Pacific Connector do not outweigh the potential for adverse impact on landowners and communities.”

In April 2016, Jordan Cove appealed FERC’s decision.

In August 2016, the Coos County Board of Commissioners approved Jordan Cove’s application for the LNG facility, despite FERC’s denial and serious concerns voiced by Tribal governments and the local community. Crag represented Oregon Shores in challenging the County’s decision, alongside several property owners, allied conservation groups, and the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians shortly after.

In December 2016, FERC upheld its decision to deny the certificate for the project, again ruling that the proposed project was not in the public interest. But FERC also gave the project a chance to refile the application, which Veresen did in fall 2017, just before it was acquired by Pembina.

On November 27, 2017, Crag and our client Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition secured another major victory when the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) issued a unanimous decision rejecting Coos County’s approval of land use permits for the Jordan Cove Energy Project.

On December 19th of 2019, on behalf of Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition and Surfrider Foundation, Crag filed an appeal of the most recent approval of the Jordan Cove LNG terminal in Coos Bay. In addition to this appeal, in 2019 Crag and Oregon Shores have also appealed several permits relating to the LNG terminal.

In March 2020, during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in Oregon, FERC approved the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal in Coos Bay and its 230-mile feeder pipeline. Unlike its previous March 2016 denial, this time FERC decided that the deal Pembina’s Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline company struck with the Jordan Cove Energy Project (also owned by Pembina) to buy all the LNG terminal’s capacity – essentially a deal Pembina made with itself – was sufficient to demonstrate a public need for the project. FERC’s approval was conditioned on Pembina, the Canadian fossil fuel corporation behind the project, securing several critical state permits, three of which had already been denied or withdrawn prior to the March decision.

Pembina followed up FERC’s March 2020 approval by seeking to circumvent state and local regulators, asking the U.S. Secretary of Commerce on March 19 to waive the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development’s (DLCD) denial of the Coastal Zone Management Act certification. The DLCD denied the permit for Jordan Cove in February 2020 after concluding that the project would have significant adverse impacts on the state’s scenic and aesthetic resources, endangered species, critical habitat, fisheries, and commercial shipping and was otherwise inconsistent with the state’s coastal zone land use laws. The DLCD filed a brief with the Secretary of State opposing Pembina’s attempt to override its coastal zone authority in May 2020. As of July 2020, this challenge is ongoing.

In April 2020, Pembina petitioned FERC to waive the requirement under the Natural Gas Act that it obtain a water quality certification from Oregon, arguing that the state failed to make a timely decision on that permit. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had denied Jordan Cove a water quality certification in May 2019 after Jordan Cove repeatedly failed to provide sufficient information to demonstrate compliance with state water quality standards, and because available information showed that standards were more likely than not to be violated by the project. In April 2020, DEQ opposed Pembina’s petition, arguing that FERC does not have the power to overrule the state’s authority to protect Oregon’s coastal waters from the numerous harmful impacts likely to arise from Jordan Cove. Several allied conservation groups (including Crag clients Oregon Shores and Surfrider) also signed onto a protest, led by the Western Environmental Law Center, opposing Jordan Cove’s petition in June 2020. As of July 2020, this challenge is ongoing.

In June 2020, the state of Oregon went to court to overturn the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) March 2020 approval of the Jordan Cove Energy Project. With this petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals, the state joined Tribal governments, landowners, and several allied conservation groups in asking the Court to require a new hearing on FERC’s order. FERC upheld its March 2020 approval and denied requests for rehearing in May 2020, setting up the current lawsuits. As with the local land use appeals, each of these federal challenges involved working together with our clients, coalitions, and local community allies to provide oversight of each step of local, state, and federal processes through comments and public hearings.

In July 2020, Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) reversed the City of North Bend’s approval of a permit required by Jordan Cove to transport dredge spoils across the estuary. LUBA agreed with our argument that the City of North Bend’s approval of Jordan Cove’s plan to transport and dispose of dredge spoils was inappropriate, reversing the approval completely (rather than remanding the decision back to the City). This reversal means that, barring further appeal, Jordan Cove will need to submit an entirely new application for the disposal of material to be dredged from the bay.

Each of these local land use appeals involved several months of working alongside our clients and community members to review several thousands of pages of materials and provide public comment to local decisionmakers. They are happening against a backdrop of several state and federal challenges against Jordan Cove, also arising from the work we, our clients, and community allies put in last year to make sure decisionmakers did the right thing. (See Rogue Riverkeeper’s blog for a timeline).

On December 22, 2020, the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) overturned Coos County’s permits for the construction of Jordan Cove LNG’s marine terminal and associated infrastructure. This is another setback to the struggling fracked gas export proposal, which lacks essential local, state, and federal permits to move forward. LUBA’s decision can be read here.

The state’s review board determined that the County erred in granting permits to dredge in Coos Bay and develop a fracked gas pipeline, liquefaction, and shipping facilities on the North Spit of Coos Bay which are the traditional lands of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians. The decision highlights concerns related to interference with public trust rights and the treatment and discharge of wastewater to an ocean outfall. The decision means that, barring further appeal, the company will need to go back to the County for further review.

On February 8th, 2021 the US Secretary of Commerce rejected a request to override the State of Oregon’s February 2020 denial of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) federal consistency review. This project cannot begin construction without the approval of the CZMA’s review.

In the February decision, the NOAA Administrator found that the company, Pembina, failed to prove that the pipeline and terminal project is consistent with the guiding objectives of the CZMA. In particular, NOAA noted in its decision the insufficiency of the company’s appeal regarding the project’s impacts on endangered and threatened species, cultural and historic resources, and the cumulative effects of the project over time.

On May 4, 2021, the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) overturned two local permit approvals, one by Coos County and one by the City of Coos Bay,  that would have allowed major dredging in the bay. The land use permit approvals would have allowed Pembina Pipeline to dredge protected areas in the Coos Bay estuary in order to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from its proposed export facility on the North Spit. LUBA reversed these permits because the company had not justified why the areas to be dredged, which are designated for natural and conservation uses under the Coos Bay Estuary Management Plan and local zoning laws, should be converted to deep draft navigation.

Team Effort

We have worked with Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, Surfrider as well as conservation groups, Tribes, and local landowners to fight against the development of pipelines and export terminals that would not only re-shape the landscape, but also continue to lock us into a dirty energy economy. We continue to advise and coordinate with the coalition of more than 20 local, regional, and national groups on campaign strategy, grassroots organizing, and messaging to decision-makers.

 

Celebrating 20 years of legal aid for the environment | Learn More

X