Climate activists and the broader public won a dramatic victory on Friday, March 11, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) denied permits for the Jordan Cove liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal in the International Port of Coos Bay, Oregon, and for the Pacific Gas Connector pipeline that would have transported the LNG under 230 miles of public and private lands and streams.
It is extraordinarily rare for the FERC to deny a fossil fuel infrastructure project of this scale. Climate activists throughout the state, from Southern Oregon Climate Action Now to Portland’s 350PDX, called the unexpected ruling “amazing”. Maya Jarrad, Volunteer Coordinator for 350PDX, jubilantly stated that the development was “unprecedented”.
FERC had originally approved the project in December 2009, but vacated that approval in April 2012 when notified that the terminal was no longer being planned as an import facility. Jordan Cove filed applications with FERC for approval of an LNG export facility and pipeline in May 2013. A coalition of 18 environmental groups vigorously lobbied FERC in opposition to the project, as well as individual landowners, and local Native American activists who testified that it would pose grave threats to their cultural heritage resources in Jordan Cove. Advocates of the project argued that it would provide needed jobs in the Coos Bay area. In a remarkably explicit recognition of environmental concerns, the FERC ruling stated that “the record does not support a finding that the public benefits of the Pacific Connector Pipeline outweigh the adverse effects on landowners.”
This does not mean that the project is absolutely dead. Vereson, the Canada-based energy company that proposed the terminal, could still try to gain approval by changing the proposal to increase the “public benefit” and then resubmitting it. Therefore, we should remain vigilant. However, this is a big victory and, along with other recent victories such as the final cancellation of the proposed propane terminal in Portland, it shows that there has been a fundamental shift in the social landscape. Such victories are important both because they will directly keep carbon out of the atmosphere and because they give heart to all of us who desire a healthier environment and a more just and egalitarian society. Many people have not felt it possible that projects which appeared to be a done deal could be cancelled. But changes that previously seemed out of reach are becoming possible. It is time to take heart and dare to think even bigger!
by Mark Polonsky