Oregon County Officials Push Back Against Pipeline

(P&GJ) – County officials in southern Oregon are asking the federal government to deny construction of a 230-mile natural gas pipeline, alleging that project developer Pembina has overstated its economic benefits and downplayed its environmental impact.

Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline Route (Pembina)

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners submitted a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) unanimously opposing the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline, which could carry natural gas to the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal near the port town of Coos Bay.

According to The Medford Mail Tribune, Pembina told FERC the $9.8 billion project would bring new jobs and more than $5 million in county tax revenues annually. Commissioners, however, contend that most of the jobs will be temporary and disappear once the project is complete.

Pembina’s Jordan Cove website states the entire project “will create more than 6,000 good-paying construction jobs at peak. This will include approximately 1,000 jobs per year during the construction of the LNG Terminal, and approximately 1,400 jobs per year for the construction of the pipeline.

Once construction is complete, it says, the Project will continue to require more than 200 people to operate the LNG Terminal, pipeline and offices in Coos Bay, Medford and Portland, in addition to indirect jobs.

“During construction the Project would create over ~8,500 spin off jobs in sectors like hospitality, retail, tourism, and healthcare, including ~1,500 permanent spin-off jobs during operations,” according to Pembina’s website, which does not provide specific figures related to Jackson County.

The Board also said that Pembina is seeking exemptions to federal environmental regulations and questioned the assurances made in its FERC filing.

“If the agencies must amend their environmental rules to allow the project, then it is perplexing how the laws and regulations of those agencies will somehow limit impacts (to the environment),” the commissioners wrote.

Pembina told the Mail Tribune that it has received a copy of the commissioners’ letter, and that it hopes to address their concerns in future meetings.

“We’re reviewing these along with many other comments of note and look forward to addressing them in upcoming meetings with the Commission,” Pembina said.

In addition to the environmental and economic concerns, the Commissioners cited land use concerns as well. Pembina representatives said they checked with Jackson County to ensure that no large buildings were planned within a quarter-mile of the route but according to the Board, the County has no record of that request.

Several local landowners are worried about eminent domain issues but the company said it has entered voluntary agreements with 75% of the landowners and has offered generous payments.

An earlier proposal by Pembina was rejected under the Obama administration, but the plan was resubmitted shortly after President Trump took office in 2017. Federal regulators will decide whether to approve the project by early 2020.

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