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FERC to reconsider Jordan Cove in wake of state permit denials

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced last week it would reconsider its conditional permit for the Jordan Cove Energy Project and Pacific Connector Pipeline.

The viability of the project is in question because the state has refused Pembina the environmental permits that were required under the conditions of the FERC permit.

But given the long history of setbacks for the pipeline developers that have failed to end the project for good, landowners in the proposed pipeline’s path — many of whom have been fighting the project for more than a decade — are uncertain whether it’s time to celebrate just yet.

Sandy Lyon, whose Days Creek ranch lies in the proposed pipeline’s path, said she would love to see the project denied or, even better, for the company to pull out and end the project for good. But there’s a limit to how hopeful she can be at this point.

“They’ve been denied, turned down, withdrawn and next year they come back, so my husband and I quit breaking out the champagne,” she said.

She said she’s taking it day by day at this point.

“We’re thankful for the years we have that it’s been put off,” she said.

Landowner Stacey McLaughlin said she’s not counting any chickens before they hatch, either.

“I don’t want to presume anything with this pipeline, because we just don’t know. We never know,” she said.

Until the permit is taken away, she said, she won’t be able to relax.

The project would involve creating a 36-inch pipeline that would cross 229 miles in four southwestern Oregon counties, including Douglas County, to transport natural gas to a Jordan Cove liquefaction plant in Coos Bay. From there, the gas would be loaded onto ships for export to Asian markets.

The FERC decision to review its permit for the project came in the wake of a group of lawsuits from opponents, including landowners and the state of Oregon, among others.

These called for FERC’s conditional permit to be overturned. Among their arguments were that the facility would impact private property rights, the resources of Native American tribes and the environment. Opponents also argued the project is not in the public interest.

A top concern for many landowners is that authorization of the project would empower the developers to use eminent domain to seize their property, or at least the portions of the property on and around where the pipeline would be laid. Such a move could be allowed on the basis of the project being in the public interest, but opponents have argued for years that it is not, since the intention is to export the natural gas rather than offer it to American consumers.

The developers have said the project would bring permanent jobs at the terminal in Coos Bay and temporary jobs laying the pipeline.

The company has until Dec. 1 to submit briefs to FERC about whether the project should be authorized, and opponents will have until Dec. 15 to reply.


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Fans cheer during the rivalry game at Autzen Stadium between Oregon State and University of Oregon in 2017. Masks are no longer required for this weekend’s game, but still recommended.


Education
Oregon will lift outdoor mask mandate, implement testing program for students

Oregon health officials announced the outdoor mask mandate required for large gatherings will be lifted, along with an implementation of a new testing protocol aimed at keeping students in school.

The announcement comes just before this weekend’s rivalry game at Autzen Stadium.

University officials said masks are no longer required in outdoor spaces, but are still recommended.

The change in protocol for schools comes as an adequate supply of COVID-19 testing kits have become available for all public and private schools in the state, according to health officials. This testing will be intended for unvaccinated, asymptomatic students exposed in indoor and outdoor school settings, where masks remain present.

With the help of the test-to-stay protocol, more students and staff will be able to participate at school while reducing the burden created by quarantine on educators, students and families, said Colt Gill, the director of the Oregon Department of Education, in a statement.

Roseburg School District Superintendent Jared Cordon said the new protocol may help other districts, but it will make little difference for schools in his district. This is because the district is following existing guidelines and not quarantining entire classrooms like other districts, Cordon said.

The district continues to work with state health officials to figure out ways to assist students who experience at-home exposure, he said.

As COVID-19 cases in Oregon continue to decrease, health officials announced Tuesday they are immediately lifting statewide mask requirements in crowded outdoor settings.

Oregon was the first state in the U.S. to reimplement an outdoor mask mandate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents in August as the delta variant spread.

At the time, Oregon was in the midst of its worst surge during the pandemic. Record daily COVID-19 cases were set day after day and hospitalizations overwhelmed the health system. A majority of people hospitalized were unvaccinated.

However, over the past six weeks, health officials say Oregon’s daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have steadily declined. Last week, cases decreased by 12% from the previous week.

“We took decisive measures. And, as has been the case over the course of this pandemic, Oregonians resoundingly responded,” Director Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, said Tuesday. “Together we have managed to turn back the tsunami of new infections that very nearly swamped our health care system.”

Oregon has had some of the strictes statewide coronavirus-related restrictions and safety measures during the pandemic.

Gov. Kate Brown reopened the state in July, weeks behind most other states. But in August, as cases and hospitalizations surged, officials announced a reimplementation of many restrictions.

While the outdoor mask mandate has been lifted — which included large outdoor events where physical distancing is not possible, such as festivals and concerts — other safety measures are still in effect.

Oregon has a statewide indoor mask mandate for all public settings — including grocery stores, restaurants, schools and gyms — regardless of a person’s vaccination status.

“I think the best guidance that we can provide is that people should expect to continue to be wearing masks indoors for some time, certainly into next year,” Allen said.

In addition Brown required that state employees, health care workers and K-12 school staff be fully vaccinated by mid-October.

On Tuesday officials also announced that they are introducing test-to-stay protocol for students this week. The protocol means that after an exposure, most students — whether they are vaccinated or not — will be able to stay in school if they take a COVID-19 test and it comes back negative.

About 80% of Oregonians have received at least a single dose of a vaccine, and while cases and hospitalizations related to the virus continue, Oregon has the fourth lowest case count in the country and is the sixth lowest when it comes to deaths, officials say.

On Monday Oregon surpassed 5,000 deaths due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


Government
Rental assistance available for those impacted by COVID-19

Local renters who need help paying rent after being impacted by COVID-19 are encouraged to start the process now to beat a Dec. 1 deadline for the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

The city of Roseburg, Roseburg-based United Community Action Network and the state of Oregon are encouraging renters in need to apply for federal assistance through this program by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 1, to avoid eviction. The program can even help with past-due rent but is no longer providing utility payment assistance.

At 12 a.m. on Dec. 2, the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program will stop taking applications. That means the Oregon Housing and Community Services, which administers the program with community partners, can process up to $300 million in federal assistance that has already been requested and assess funding availability, according to the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program website.

Rental assistance is provided on a fair and equal basis. The program does not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, gender/gender identity, religion, marital status, citizenship, disability, familial status or sexual orientation.

After Dec. 1, renters can apply to local programs in their community for rent and utility assistance, according to the state program’s website.

The online portal will reopen after six weeks if additional funds become available, according to the state. This won’t affect anyone who’s already submitted an application.

If COVID-19 has had an impact on at least one member of your household and impacted your household’s ability to pay rent, you may qualify for rent assistance, according to UCAN.

To apply, go to the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program website at oregonrentalassistance.org.

If you have questions or trouble completing the online application, call UCAN at 888-596-1925.

UCAN may have other ways to help you if your Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program application is not approved. If the application is approved, payments will be made directly to your landlord. UCAN has assisted more than 1,100 households with getting help through this program.


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