Pacific Northwest
The Oregonian / Google Maps

West Coast LNG Project Setback: Oregon Denies Jordan Cove Water Quality Permit for Export Terminal, Pipeline

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality denied a water quality certification for the proposed Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal and its feeder pipeline, the Pacific Connector pipeline, though the agency left the door open for the company to reapply.

In a letter to the project backers, the agency said “DEQ does not have a reasonable assurance that the construction and authorization of the project will comply with applicable Oregon water quality standards.”

DEQ is in charge of administering the federal Clean Water Act in Oregon and the certification is required for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue permits for the project.

Not a deal killer: Pembina can request contested hearing, or submit new application

The decision was applauded by opponents of the controversial project, but it is not a deal killer. Jordan Cove can request a contested case hearing within 20 days. DEQ also said it was making its decision “without prejudice,” meaning the company can also resubmit a new application.

This isn’t the first time the project has faced regulatory opposition. Federal regulators denied a license for the project in 2016 because backers didn’t show sufficient demand for the facility to overcome the impacts of the pipeline on landowners. Various iterations of the project have been under consideration since 2004.

DEQ’s letter to Jordan Cove described a lengthy back and forth between Jordan Cove and the agency, with multiple requests for additional information by DEQ, incomplete and inadequate responses by Jordan Cove, and late responses that provided inadequate time for the agency to review them.

The agency said it was denying the application because there “is insufficient information to demonstrate compliance with water quality standards, and because the available information shows that some standards are more likely than not to be violated.”

DEQ’s pipeline concerns

Specific concerns included impacts on water quality from construction and operation of the Pacific Connector pipeline:

  • The 36-inch diameter pipe would affect more than 352 bodies of water and traverse mountainous, landslide-prone areas in its 230-mile path from an interstate gas hub in Klamath County to the proposed export terminal in Coos Bay.
  • It would also need a 95-foot right of way across Southern Oregon, a massive path that would require clearcutting timber and building roads — creating the potential for significant erosion.
  • DEQ also raised concerns about the release of release of drilling materials from the crossing of the Coos Bay estuary.

This is ‘great news’: Klamath Tribal members worried about protecting fisheries

“Today’s denial is great news for our Klamath Tribal members and other Oregon citizens that have been concerned about protecting fisheries and Oregon’s waters,” Don Gentry, chairman of the Klamath Tribes, said in a news release. “The impact this project would have on our waterways is only one of many reasons the Jordan Cove LNG project should be stopped for good. The Klamath Tribes are very encouraged that the state of Oregon is making this move to protect clean water, cultural resources and our traditional territory.”

Pembina Pipeline delays FID for a year, slashes forecast spending

The project’s Calgary-based owners, Pembina Pipeline Corp., announced last week that they were delaying their final decision on the project for a year and slashing their forecast spending as they waited for federal and state permits.

DEQ said it had expected to issue its decision on the permit in September, but accelerated the process in order to assure it doesn’t unintentionally waive the state’s authority to review the project’s water quality impacts. The Corp of Engineers had originally instructed DEQ to complete its review by May 7, 2019, but extended that date until September after Jordan Cove withdrew and resubmitted its application.

DEQ said recent court decisions have raised questions about whether that extension was valid, so it made its decision by the original deadline.

The agency said that if Jordan Cove resubmits an application along with information addressing its concerns, it will work to make its decision in line with the ongoing federal review of the project. “But this will depend on the applicant submitting the requested information in a timely manner,” the agency said.

“Pembina’s Management team is working to better understand this decision and its impacts and will communicate updates when appropriate,” said Tasha Cadotte, a spokeswoman for the company.

From Oregon DEQ

Jordan Cove Energy Project L.P. proposes to construct a liquefied natural gas export facility on 500 acres of the North Spit across the Coos Bay from the Southwest Oregon Regional Airport. The facility would have the capacity to export up to 7.8 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas per year. Pembina, the parent company and applicant, also proposes to build a natural gas pipeline called the Pacific Connector between the Jordan Cove facility and Malin in Klamath County. The approximately 229-mile, 36-inch diameter pipeline’s capacity would be up to one billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

Background

Latest updates

May 2019 – DEQ issues a decision on a water quality certification for the Jordan Cove project

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued a decision on Jordan Cove’s application for a Section 401 Water Quality Certification.  The certification is required for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue permits for the project.

DEQ’s decision is to deny the requested certification at this time.

[Read DEQ letter denying Jordan Cove water quality certification here.]

However, DEQ’s action is being made “without prejudice.”  This means that the applicant may reapply for the certification, and submit additional information that could result in a different decision.

If Jordan Cove resubmits an application along with information addressing DEQ’s concerns, DEQ will work to keep the timing of its review in line with the overall federal schedule for the project, but this will depend on the applicant submitting the requested information in a timely manner.

DEQ had expected to make its decision on certification in September of this year.  However, DEQ accelerated the schedule and is making a decision now in order to assure that it does not unintentionally waive Oregon’s authority to review the water quality impacts of the proposed project. The Corps initially instructed DEQ to complete its review by May 7, 2019.  However, last fall the Corps extended that date to Sept. 24, 2019 following the applicant’s withdrawal and resubmittal of its application.  Recent federal court and agency decisions have raised significant questions about whether this extension was valid. As a result, DEQ is making a decision by the date initially provided by the Corps – May 7, 2019.

DEQ is denying the requested water quality certification at this time because there is insufficient information to demonstrate compliance with water quality standards, and because the available information shows that some standards are more likely than not to be violated. Through further analysis, and possibly through project changes and mitigation, the applicant may be able to show the standards for certification will be met, but the current record does not allow DEQ to reach that conclusion today.

DEQ’s specific concerns, among others, include:

  • Expected effects of the construction and operation of the proposed pipeline and associated road and work areas on water temperature and sediment in streams and wetlands
  • The risk of release of drilling materials from the construction of the proposed crossing of the Coos Bay estuary

DEQ requested additional information from Jordan Cove in September 2018, December 2018 and March 2019 relevant to the project’s effect on water quality. Jordan Cove has provided some, but not all, of the information requested.

From Jordan Cove LNG

The proposed pipeline is a 36-inch diameter pipeline designed to transport natural gas approximately 229 miles from interconnections with the Ruby Pipeline and the Gas Transmission Northwest (GTN) Pipeline near Malin, Oregon, to the LNG Terminal in Coos County, Oregon.

The pipeline will cross approximately 40 miles of BLM-managed lands, approximately 30.58 miles of Forest Service managed lands in the Umpqua, Rogue River-Siskiyou, and Fremont-Winema National Forests, and approximately 0.31 mile of lands managed by the Bureau of Reclamation.

West Coast LNG Project Setback: Oregon Denies Jordan Cove Water Quality Permit for Export Terminal, Pipeline - Oil & Gas 360

Source: Jordan Cove LNG

Wyoming speaks out on Jordan Cove rejection

From the Casper Star-Tribune

Oregon blocks natural gas terminal over water permit, echoing Washington coal port decision

A liquefied natural gas terminal proposed for the Oregon coast to take natural gas produced in Western states to overseas markets was denied Monday by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, which relied on a state authority provision granted in the Clean Water Act that conservative lawmakers in Wyoming and President Donald Trump have criticized.

Section 401 of the act allows states to approve or reject projects according to how those projects may affect state waterways. Though at other times strongly in favor of state autonomy over projects within state boundaries, lawmakers like Sen. John Barrasso have argued that the provision is being used to block energy projects that should go forward. Trump recently signed an executive order forcing the Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite its guidance related to the controversial Clean Water Act provision, given that current guidance had created “confusion,” the order stated.

Wyoming lawmakers have been broadly critical of West Coast states’ perception of energy projects that may benefit Wyoming’s fossil fuel industries — such as a proposed coal export terminal, which was denied a water quality permit by Washington state. Washington’s Department of Ecology said the coal port would cause “irreparable and unavoidable harm.”

Wyoming legislators recently considered avenues to sue Washington over the permit denial and the governor’s office, under then-Gov. Matt Mead, added its voice to an existing suit against the state and governor for the water permit decision.

It was under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act that Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality rejected the Jordan Cove LNG terminal.

A representative from Jordan Cove requested Wyoming’s support in the development, which was provided via a letter to federal regulators last year under the Mead administration. The LNG project wasn’t directly targeting Wyoming gas, but it would have been a rising-tide-floats-all-boats boon nonetheless, experts said.

Oregon’s decision was criticized Tuesday by the Western States and Tribal Nations, formerly the Western States Rural Natural Gas Initiative, an advocacy group formed to support natural gas infrastructure development and liquefied natural gas terminals on the West Coast, including Jordan Cove.

“Decisions made on Jordan Cove in Oregon impact rural economies in western Colorado,” said Rose Pugliese, a county commissioner in Mesa County, Colorado. “For us, this is an issue of job creation and rural economic development.”

See Oil & Gas 360 article . . .