The Oregon Department of State Lands has extended its deadline for a decision on a key Jordan Cove LNG project permit to Sept. 20, according to the DSL website. The agency planned to make a decision by March.
The Department of State Lands says it needs additional time to review between 49,000 and 57,000 comments received during the two-month public comment period for the project's "removal-fill" application.
The permit would allow the Canadian-based company Pembina to build a 229-mile natural gas pipeline across more than 300 waterbodies from Malin to an export terminal in Coos Bay, where natural gas would be shipped to markets primarily in Asia. The pipeline would cross 64 miles in Douglas County.
At the Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon on Monday, Michael Hinrichs, a spokesman for Jordan Cove, said the energy company would have an opportunity to address issues brought up in the public comments before the state agency makes a decision. He also spoke about the economic benefits of the project and answered questions about job creation from the audience.
The Department of State Lands hasn't indicated whether comments primarily supported or opposed the project. The agency won't publish such information, according to Ali Ryan Hansen, communications manager for the agency.
During the public comment period, the agency held five public hearings in Southern Oregon. Thousands of people attended the hearings, and hundreds of people made comments, which were primarily in opposition to the pipeline.
The Department of State Lands decision extension comes as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has the final say on whether the project can proceed, extended its final decision deadline to Jan. 9, 2020. The federal agency anticipated a final decision on Nov. 29, 2019, but said it needed more time due to the government shutdown earlier this year.
The project has also run into local permit issues, including a Douglas County judge's decision in January to nullify extensions to a land use permit on a 7-mile stretch of county forestland near Camas Valley.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners voiced opposition to the project by submitting a seven-page letter to the Department of State Lands in January.
"All indications are that the benefits to Jackson county will be extremely minimal, while the costs to our wetlands and waterbodies appear to be high," the letter read.
While the project continues through the permitting process, Jordan Cove remains confident the project will be approved and completed by 2024.
"For the public process and the issues that matter, Jordan Cove thinks this extension is a good thing and remains confident that the key questions will be answered affirmatively and that our application meets all technical specifications and criteria," read a statement from Jordan Cove about the Department of State Lands decision extension. "We look forward to receiving our DSL permit in September."
The extension doesn't indicate the Department of State Lands plans to deny the application, the Jordan Cove statement said.
Roseburg Chamber members at the Monday luncheon asked Hinrichs about construction and safety details of the pipeline and from where Jordan Cove would draw its labor force.
The project would create about 6,000 temporary jobs during the peak of construction and about 200 permanent jobs to operate the export terminal at offices in Coos Bay, Medford and Portland, according to the Jordan Cove website.
Hinrichs said while some skilled jobs associated with the project would have to be filled by out-of-state workers, the company plans to hire locals.
"It's great to hire locals because, like we just talked about, one advantage is they're local," Hinrichs said. "They know the area already. They know the environment already. They know the Oregon coast. They know how to build pipelines in Oregon mud and clay versus dry land out in salt flats of Utah."
He said the company will utilize the experience Oregon workers have building over 18,000 existing miles of natural gas pipelines in the state.
"Do we have to go out-of-state? Probably," Hinrichs said. "Just because that's a lot of workers." He said, for example, the company would likely hire out-of-state iron workers, because the project requires a lot of them and there aren't many iron workers in Oregon.
Hinrichs said the project's boost to the economy would also create thousands of jobs indirectly. About 8,500 jobs in sectors like hospitality, retail, tourism, and healthcare would be created during construction, including 1,500 permanent jobs when the project is completed, according to the project's website.
Hinrichs added the project would bring about $5 million in tax revenue to Douglas County overall. He said the project would bring about $50 million in tax revenue to the state, including $40 million to Coos County.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission plans to release its draft environmental impact statement in March.