Decision Delayed on Jordan Cove Appeal

Citing a wide range of errors and oversights, Oregon Shores appealed Coos County’s administrative approval of the proposed Jordan Cove LNG (liquefied natural gas) facility on the North Spit. The public hearing on our appeal took place May 29, we subsequently filed our rebuttal arguments to the developer's counter-claims, and we awaited the decision. And waited. And waited. We have now learned that the county has extended its deadline for deciding to Dec. 1.

Our appeal challenged the massive amount of dredging and filling that the county would permit as part of the development process for the facility, among many other issues decided by the county in favor of the would-be developers and challenged by us. Oregon Shores’ testimony was submitted by attorney Courtney Johnson of the Crag Law Center, our partners in the Coastal Law Project. We were joined in the appeal by local resident Jody McCaffree.

The public hearing at the Coos County Courthouse Annex was a classic David vs. Goliath confrontation. Courtney Johnson was up against four high-powered lawyers representing the applicant. Coos County essentially rubber-stamped the Jordan Cove application, relying on findings from years ago when the proposal was for an import facility. Courtney explained in detail that this is a very different project now that it is to be an export facility, and in particular made the case that the dredging impacts on the Coos Bay estuary, and the public health threats posed by an export facility, would be different in character and much more severe than for the import facility the county originally approved.

The applicant, Jordan Cove Energy Project, requested seven land use determinations from the county which would have smoothed the path toward development. However, we argue that the county made a fundamental mistake in deciding these peripheral (if important) issues at this point, because the basic project has never been fully reviewed and approved as an export facility. The county approved the land use plans for the original Jordan Cove proposal, in 2007, for an LNG import facility. It is our strong contention that the county must start from the beginning with its land use review of the current proposal, now that the purpose has switched to export. Our appeal lists a large number of differences between the original project and the one currently under consideration, many of which pose substantially greater environmental and public safety risks. We note changes such as more ship traffic, greater releases of potentially flammable vapor, and increased water quality impacts.

Most fundamentally, we argue that Jordan Cove failed to demonstrate that the project provides a public benefit that would override its deleterious effects on the environment, and failed to make the case that the facility needs to be built on the North Spit, rather than in another location that would not cause damage to an important estuary.

Now all we can do is wait to see if the county's hearings officer finds in our favor. We'll report on the result as soon as we get the news.

The appeal notice and related documents, including our pre-hearing testimony, can be found on the Coos Bay Planning Department’s website (you’ll find the documents in the middle of the stack under Applications: 2015, under AP-15-02 Johnson).

For more information contact Jill Rolfe, the county’s planning director, at (541) 396-7770 or [email protected].

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