The Jordan Cove project dies. What this means for FERC, gas

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The developer of a liquefied natural gas export terminal in Oregon first told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission yesterday that it would not go ahead with the troubled project, ending years of uncertainty for landowners.

Citing difficulties in obtaining the necessary permits from state agencies as the reason for the abandonment of the Jordan Cove project, Pembina Pipeline Corp. asked FERC to revoke approvals for the LNG terminal and associated Pacific Connector pipeline, which would have transported natural gas from Canada to the proposed facility. in Coos Bay, Ore.

“Among other considerations, applicants remain concerned about their ability to obtain necessary state permits in the immediate future in addition to other external hurdles,” Pembina said in his brief to FERC.

The announcement adds to a debate over the role of natural gas in an era of high prices and as industry groups lobby the Biden administration to clarify exactly how LNG exports fit into its climate agenda more large (Energy wire, July 8). It may also influence FERC’s ongoing review of how it approves gas projects.

Pembina’s move is a victory for landowners who have firmly opposed the project for years, said David Bookbinder, chief attorney for the Niskanen Center and counsel for some of the landowners affected by the pipeline. The Niskanen Center and others submitted their own brief yesterday, urging FERC to accede to Pembina’s request to remove the certificate.

“I can say that the landowners are utterly delighted that this chapter of their 15 year nightmare is over and I hope that this will truly be the end of Pembina’s hopes of building this project,” he said. .

The company suspended the export project indefinitely in April after failing to get key state and federal approvals.

But Pembina’s decision to cancel the project altogether means affected landowners can now move forward with plans to improve or sell their property, Bookbinder added.

The committee did not respond to a request for comment on the brief as the matter remains open.

Christine Tezak, chief research officer at ClearView Energy Parnters LLC, said she would expect FERC to accede to the request.

“It’s no mystery as to what Pembina is doing, and that will be the end of it, in my opinion,” Tezak said.

Scott Lauermann, spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, called the Jordan Cove cancellation “yet another unfortunate example of a much needed US energy infrastructure project being shut down due to unnecessary regulatory delays.”

The cancellation of the project, which was to transport LNG to Asian markets, meant that the United States had “lost an opportunity to export its success in reducing emissions,” said the president of Western states and tribal nations. , Andrew Browning, in a statement.

He noted that Asian countries buying US LNG were looking to replace coal consumption.

“It is also a loss for US energy producers and the economic development they are creating in sovereign tribal nations and rural western communities,” Browning said.

Originally proposed in 2007, Jordan Cove has been contested for more than a decade by landowners, environmental groups, Indigenous communities, and nearby Oregon state officials. Opponents raised concerns about the project’s contributions to climate change, the impacts on tribal lands and waterways, and the consequences for the tourism and fishing industries.

The proposal was also a symbol of FERC’s purported deference to the industry in its assessments of natural gas projects. When the commission approved the latest iteration of the project in a 3: 1 vote last year, critics – including then commissioner and current FERC chairman Richard Glick, who was dissenting – accused the majority of the commission of ignoring signs that the project’s benefits lacked. t offset the costs.

“[The] The Commission’s public interest analysis does not adequately address the negative impacts of the project, ”Glick said in a statement at the time. “The project will significantly and negatively affect several threatened and endangered species, historic properties and the supply of short-term housing near the project. “

Now that it has been quashed, the Jordan Cove case provides further evidence that FERC needs to review the natural gas proposals and fully consider whether they are in the public interest, said Gillian Giannetti, an attorney at the FERC Sustainable Project of Canada. Natural Resources Defense Council.

She noted that the Jordan Cove cancellation comes at the same time as another project, the Spire STL pipeline in Missouri and Illinois, faces an uncertain future in part due to the plan’s review by the FERC. Earlier this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit revoked the federal agency’s 2018 authorization for the Spire pipeline, after finding that FERC had disregarded evidence showing that installation was not necessary.

The agency plans to study a wider range of factors, including impacts on environmental justice and climate change, when determining the need for a new pipeline in light of this and other court decisions.

“Apart from the Speyer case, [Jordan Cove] is the worst endorsement FERC has ever given for a gas project, ”said Giannetti. “This is an example of the lack of control that FERC has applied to these kinds of projects in the past. “

Pembina’s brief comes in response to a DC Circuit ruling that ordered FERC to reconsider the company’s certificate in light of the company’s decision to put the project on hold in April. Last month, the court gave the commission 90 days to decide whether to suspend the certificate that authorized Pembina to build Jordan Cove (Energy wire, November 2.

In response to the court, FERC ordered the developer of the project to clarify its intentions with the pipeline by December 1.

But by completely revoking the certificates, the question of a stay “would be moot, since there would be no residence permit,” Pembina said in her brief.

Once the independent agency responds to Pembina’s request, the Court of Appeal will also need to approve the FERC decisions, said Susan Jane Brown, director of the Wildlands program and an attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. The organization represented a coalition of groups who challenged the project.

“Finally, landowners, tribes, the state of Oregon and environmentalists may finally have some clarity that this project is in fact dead and buried,” Brown said in an email. “Now we are waiting for FERC to act. “

The project’s cancellation also means that the DC Circuit will not yet determine whether the natural gas law allows companies to use eminent domain to seize land to build pipelines specifically for export projects. This issue was at the heart of the FERC certificate dispute.

After filings with FERC, landowners will ask the DC Circuit to resend the certificate so that FERC can revoke it, Bookbinder said.

‘Nail in the coffin’

Pembina first received a certificate from FERC to operate Jordan Cove as an import facility in December 2009, before reapplying in 2013 to export LNG instead.

That same year, the developer of the Pacific Connector pipeline asked the commission to allow it to transport 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to the export facility (Energy wire, June 10, 2013). Pacific Connector and Jordan Cove are affiliates of Canadian energy company Pembina.

The project was on the verge of approval when in 2014 commissioners estimated that the pipeline would have minimal environmental impact. Environmental groups at the time called the Obama administration’s analysis a “soft denial of climate change” (PM E&E News, November 7, 2014).

But in 2016, FERC issued a surprise decision refusing to authorize the project, saying the project developers had failed to show sufficient demand for the project that would outweigh the damage to owners.

The fortunes of the project changed again under former President Trump. Jordan Cove and Pacific Connector re-applied for the project, and the Republican-controlled FERC commission approved it in March 2020. The majority of commissioners said at the time that the pipeline was “necessary” to the public good and that the LNG terminal was “not incompatible with the public interest.

“The proposal would have economic and public benefits, including benefits for the local and regional economy and providing new market access for natural gas producers,” FERC said in its order.

But the project also encountered other issues that ultimately caused the company to put the project on hold.

In January, FERC refused to rescind the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s 2019 determination that the project did not meet state water quality standards and has refused its certification under Section 401. The Commerce Department had also ruled that the damage from the project to the Pacific coast and indigenous communities outweighed the benefits of the project. NOAA had also ruled the project “incompatible” with the Coastal Zone Management Act (Green wire, April 23).

Responding to the Jordan Cove cancellation, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) Said in a statement that the country must “invest in infrastructure and create good jobs that are accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. as quickly as possible. possible.”

Bookbinder predicted that the cancellation would have limited impact on planned LNG terminals elsewhere in the United States.

For the Oregon project, 30 percent of landowners affected by the pipeline had resisted the surrender of their land, an unusually large opposition that continued for 15 years, according to Bookbinder.

“I would like to say it’s a nail in the coffin, but it’s unrealistic,” he said.

Since Jordan Cove was first proposed, the chances of its construction have been low, said Erin Blanton, senior researcher at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Local opposition has been strong from the start, and its “unique location” has also put it at a disadvantage, Blanton said.

“I’m not surprised by this,” Blanton said. “I don’t think this reflects a general trend in the industry.”


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