Decision Awaited on Jordan Cove LNG Land Use Approvals

Jordan Cove LNG terminal, artist's conception.
Jordan Cove LNG terminal, artist's conception.

A Coos County hearings officer received testimony on an application for land use approvals from the Jordan Cove Energy Project on Friday, December 18. Oregon Shores had already filed its pre-hearing testimony, opposing the application. For the hearing itself, we filed additional comments. Now we wait for the hearings officer's decision. It is a near certainty that the decision will be appealed, whether it is to approve or deny the application.

There is still time for members of the public to comment on the Coos County land use issues.  The hearings office left the record open until Jan. 12.  To comment, e-mail [email protected].  Even if you e-mail, though, you should also mail a hard copy to Planning Department, Coos County Courthouse, 250 N. Baxter, Coquille, OR  97423.  You can view the application record online (scroll down to the file for both “Pacific Connector” and “Jordan Cove”).

Oregon Shores earlier won a temporary “victory” in our battle to block the LNG (liquefied natural gas) export journal proposed for Jordan Cove on Coos Bay’s north spit. The Jordan Cove Energy Project (a branch of Canadian corporation Veresen) had persuaded Coos County to reissue all the land use approvals the company received six years ago when the project was to be an LNG import facility. Oregon Shores, represented by attorney Courtney Johnson through our Coastal Law Project (a partnership with the Crag Law Center), argued that an export facility is very different and poses more severe impacts. After arguments before a hearings officer, Jordan Cove withdrew its application, apparently seeing that we would win the appeal.

Jordan Cove returned with a somewhat more comprehensive application, seeking the county’s approval for Conditional Use, Compliance Determination and Floodplain Development applications for the new project. Again represented by Courtney Johnson, Oregon Shores argued that the county’s comprehensive plan, zoning ordinance and estuary management plans don’t contemplate a major project like this on the North Spit, dramatically impacting the Coos Bay estuary, and simply won’t accommodate the project. We further argued that the company’s application doesn’t come close to addressing the real risks the facility poses both to human health and safety and to the ecological health of the estuary.

We also contended that the applicant does not come close to demonstrating a public benefit sufficient to justify the interference with “public trust rights”—such as navigation, harvesting (crabs, oysters and so forth) and recreation—that the project and subsequent LNG shipping would create. For instance, LNG tankers require wide safety zones which would seriously interfere with the passage of fishing boats and other shipping on the bay. We do not believe that the desire of a Canadian corporation to ship fracked gas to China through Coos Bay outweighs the impacts to the estuarine environment and to local uses of the estuary.

We further note that the applicant has failed to adequately address the risks of developing a dangerous facility directly opposite the North Bend airport, and of potential flooding at the site. In addition, we consider that the applicant's proposal for "mitigating" the severe impacts that dredging for the project would have on the Coos Bay estuary is neither adequate nor demonstrably effective.

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