Temporary Victory on Jordan Cove Land Use Appeal
For the time being, at least, Oregon Shores has succeeded in thwarting the would-be developers of an LNG (liquefied natural gas) export facility at Jordan Cove on Coos Bay’s north spit.
The Jordan Cove Energy Project (a branch of Canadian corporation Veresen) had sought to “verify” all the land use approvals it had received from Coos County for an earlier version if the development, when it would have been an import facility. Jordan Cove sought blanket approval from the county on a number of points, notably dredging and filling, even though the potential impacts of an export facility would be different from those for an import terminal. The county went along and issued new approvals, at which point Oregon Shores appealed, joined by local resident Jody McCaffree. Our appeal, among other things, challenged the massive amount of dredging and filling that the county would permit as part of the development process for the facility. The hearing on our appeal took place May 29, and we have been waiting ever since to learn the results.
Instead, we have received a copy of a letter from Jordan Cove’s attorney to the county, withdrawing its entire application. It would appear that they could see they were likely to lose (i.e. Oregon Shores would have won the local appeal) and therefore opted to pull the application. We are expecting a new version of the application at any moment, and we’ll see how they’ve changed their approach to try to evade our arguments. A “victory” like this may not be as satisfying as an outright win, but it keeps the process honest and, at the very least, delays the project.
Coos County had essentially rubber-stamped the Jordan Cove application, relying on findings from years ago when the proposal was for an import facility. Representing Oregon Shores, through our Coastal Law Project, attorney Courtney Johnson of the Crag Law Center 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.
Jordan Cove Energy Project requested seven land use determinations from the county which would have smoothed the path toward development. We argued 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 listed 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 noted changes in everything from more ship traffic, to greater releases of potentially flammable vapor, to increased water quality impacts.
Most fundamentally, we argued 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 Jordan Cove will have to start from scratch to demonstrate why an LNG export facility posing serious public health and safety risks while threatening the environment of the North Spit and the Coos Bay estuary is in the public interest.