190110-nrr-jordancove-01 (copy)

People raise their hands during a January public comment session in Canyonville for the Jordan Cove Energy Project’s removal-fill permit application to the Oregon Department of State Lands.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will hold public comment sessions for the Jordan Cove Energy Project in four Southern Oregon counties next week.

In Douglas County, the session will be from 1-8 p.m. June 25 at South Umpqua High School in Myrtle Creek.

The first session will be in Coos Bay the day before, and there will be sessions in Medford and Klamath Falls later in the week.

Agency staff will be present to hear comments on the 229-mile natural gas pipeline’s draft environmental impact statement, which was released May 29. People can submit comments to the agency electronically via its website, or they can mail them to FERC’s offices in Washington, D.C. until July 5.

In April, Oregon U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sen. Ron Wyden submitted a letter to the agency requesting an extension to the public comment period, stating many rural landowners in the pipeline’s path don’t have enough time to fully review the draft impact statement and submit comments. The document is more than 1,100 pages and includes 34 appendices.

Less than a week later, state lawmakers in Douglas and Coos counties submitted letters opposing an extension to the public comment period, arguing the 98-day period is sufficient, and an extension would only serve to further delay the project. The extension was not granted.

FERC, which regulates the natural gas industry in the U.S., denied the project in 2016, stating there was little evidence of need for it. Pembina, the project’s Calgary-based owner, reapplied for FERC approval in 2017.

In May, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality denied a water quality certification for the project, citing concerns about potential damage to wildlife, streams and wetlands. The DEQ said Jordan Cove can provide additional information and reapply for the certification.

“The public’s review of the draft environmental impact statement is an important part of the Commission’s environmental review process,” FERC said in its meeting notice released June 4. “These comment sessions have been purposefully designed to efficiently and effectively allow for the greatest number of individuals to provide comments on the draft (environmental impact statement).”

People wishing to provide comment will be given a number on a first come, first serve basis. Elected officials are exempt from the number process and will be given preference.

Comments will be taken in a one-on-one setting. A FERC staff member and a court reporter will transcribe comments. There will be four court reporters present.

The agency is allowing three minutes for comments with the possibility of a one to two-minute extension “depending on the number of people waiting,” the notice said.

The agency said it was not required to hold sessions. Agency staff has allotted more time than usual for the sessions, “recognizing significant public interest for this project and in anticipation of a large turnout,” according to the notice.

Between 4-5 p.m., FERC has scheduled a break in which staffing levels will be reduced. People who arrive at that time “will not be turned away, but you may encounter a longer wait time than expected.” FERC also anticipates higher attendance between 5-7 p.m.

“Protests, disruptions, and other distractions will be evaluated by Commission staff on a case-by-case basis,” FERC said. “Should an activity significantly disrupt the session or result in an unsafe or unwelcoming environment, staff may choose to end the session for a set time or entirely.”

Max Egener can be reached at megener@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4217. Or follow him on Twitter @maxegener.

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City Reporter

Max Egener is the city reporter for The News-Review. He has a master's degree from the University of Oregon, and is an avid skier and backpacker.

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