US panel approves pipeline, natural gas terminal in Oregon

FILE – In this Nov. 21, 2019, file photo, demonstrators against a proposed liquid-natural gas pipeline and export terminal in Oregon sit in in the governor’s office in the State Capitol in Salem, Ore., to demand Democratic Gov. Kate Brown stand against the proposal. The Jordan Cove pipeline is undergoing a permitting process and would end at a proposed marine export terminal in Coos Bay, Ore. Members of a federal regulatory agency on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, delayed a vote on the project, with one member saying greenhouse gas emissions and endangered species should be considered. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A U.S. regulatory agency on Thursday approved a controversial natural gas pipeline and marine export terminal project in Oregon, with one member saying the environmental impacts are acceptable considering the public benefits that will be provided by the project.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington voted 2-1 in favor of the terminal. Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee said it is now up to Pembina, the Canadian energy company behind the Jordan Cove project, to obtain all the necessary permits.

“This certificate does include a provision which requires Jordan Cove to file documentation that it has received all applicable authorizations for the LNG facility before construction begins,” Chatterjee said.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has already denied a water quality certification for the project.

Chatterjee said Jordan Cove is the first export terminal the commission has certificated on the West Coast in the lower 48 states and it would be capable of liquefying up to 1.04 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day for export to global markets.

The dissenting commissioner, Richard Glick, said the decision violates the requirements of the Natural Gas Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, fails to consider the impact greenhouse gas emissions will have on climate change and would significantly impact 20 threatened and endangered species.

Commissioner Bernard McNamee, who voted in favor of the project, said that while the commission considers local and state interests, it ultimately is required to consider the national interest in making a decision.

“After taking the necessary hard look at the project’s impacts on environmental and socioeconomic resources, the order finds that the project’s environmental impacts are acceptable considering the public benefits that will be provided by the project,” McNamee said.

The marine export terminal would be located at Coos Bay, with a 230-mile (370-kilometer) feeder pipeline crossing southern Oregon.

Last month, Oregon Department of State Lands Director Vicki Walker refused to grant another extension to Pembina to file documents in its application for a permit to dredge sediment out of Coos Bay and to construct the pipeline. Pembina reacted by withdrawing its application for the state permit.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its plans.

Klamath Tribes, a federally recognized group of three Native American tribes, said it was disappointed in the commission’s approval of a project “that would harm the cultural and natural resources that are vital to our people.”

“We will consider our options to protect those resources and we hope that the state of Oregon will stand with us,” tribes Chairman Don Gentry said.

The Trump administration supports energy export projects and in particular Jordan Cove. It has proposed streamlining approval of gas pipelines and other energy projects by limiting states’ certification authorities under the U.S. Clean Water Act.

State Sen. Jeff Golden, a Democrat, recently told demonstrators opposed to Jordan Cove that he expects the battle to go to the courts if the Trump administration tries to ram the project through despite a lack of state permits.

Opponents of the project have demonstrated against it and on Nov. 21 occupied the governor’s office until they were removed by state police.

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Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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