With a sparkly blue cape and a headband shaped as a water droplet, Rindy Hart of Myrtle Creek dressed up as “Water Woman” Wednesday afternoon to demonstrate the importance of protecting waterways. She was one of more than 100 members of the public who voiced their opinions on the Jordan Cove LNG project at Umpqua Community College.
During this scoping meeting hosted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), people both for and against the project met individually with a court reporter and FERC representative. The meeting was meant to help inform the agency about what it should include in its upcoming Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the pipeline and liquefied natural gas terminal. However, comments went beyond the environment to reach eminent domain and job creation.
The proposed pipeline would carry natural gas across Klamath, Jackson, Douglas and Coos counties on its way to a plant in Coos Bay. From there, it would be liquefied and loaded on ships for transport to Asian markets. After denying the project twice in 2016, FERC accepted Jordan Cove’s pre-filing application in February, meaning the commission began to conduct an informal review of the proposal over six months until the developers file their formal application.
As part of the pre-filing process, FERC is collecting public comments to inform the creation of the EIS. The EIS will cover impacts that could occur to geology and soils; water resources and wetlands; vegetation, fisheries and wildlife; protected species; land use; socioeconomics; cultural resources; air quality and noise; public safety and reliability; and cumulative impacts.
Hart said she spoke to FERC about the need to keep waterways clean, without disruption from pipeline construction. As a Native American with a tribe in Northern California, she said “we all share the salmon run.”
“That’s brother salmon, and when you want to dig up his home it becomes a concern and becomes personal. He nourishes us and teaches us about going upstream and tackling battles we don’t think we can do,” Hart said. She added the salmon’s home should not be destroyed for a project she doesn’t think will even benefit the local community.
Alan Bunce of the conservation group Umpqua Watersheds said he was concerned about the lack of a contingency plan in case of a liquefied natural gas spill.
“It’s concerning if something happens and the liquefied natural gas would spill into the bay, it could go upstream or downstream depending on the currents and suffocate all life,” Bunce said. “As it heats up and expands, if the fuel to oxygen ratio is right, any spill could ignite so it could blow up the whole waterfront area of Coos Bay and Charleston.”
Meanwhile, business representatives from Oregon labor unions waited outside Jackson Hall at UCC to tell FERC how important the project would be for providing jobs to Oregonians.
“We’re for the project and we have skilled safe operators and wish to see the project through,” said Ron Lee of Grants Pass, a field representative of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 701.
Matthew Jensen of Albany came to represent Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 737.
“We’re here to support the project because Jordan Cove LNG and the Pacific Connector Pipeline are set to employ 800 members of our union over the course of the projects,” Jensen said, adding the union offers workers living wages, family healthcare plans and pensions.
“It’s important these projects are available to work on to be able to provide for families,” he said.
Jeff Brown of Central Point represented the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 659 and said in his statement, “We are aware of the diligence that union workers exercise to ensure the protection of the environment.”
“This pipeline will stimulate the local economies and provide living wage jobs,” he said. “Additionally, these job opportunities will provide opportunities for additional people to enter into apprenticeships and become trained in skilled careers that will provide for them and their families and communities for years after construction has been completed.”
Affected landowners Jim and Joan Dahlman of Winston were concerned about the property owners who could be impacted by the pipeline. They said their neighbors who have been trying to sell their house for the past year haven’t been able to because the pipeline is planned to go through the property next door.
Joan Dahlman said she and Jim had bought the house as a retirement home, but they wouldn’t have done so if they’d have known about the pipeline.
“We bought it so we could have a peaceful life but it has not been peaceful for us, it’s been fighting this pipeline,” she said. Jim Dahlman said he experienced the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion in 2010, and he doesn’t feel safe living next to a natural gas pipeline.
“It’s like going to bed with a bomb next to your door,” he said.
Tamara Young-Allen, a FERC media relations representative, said the agency encourages folks to participate in the process.
“All comments will be given equal consideration, no matter how many are submitted,” she said. If 500 people are interested in the protection of a certain endangered species, she said for an example, FERC will take that into consideration while preparing for the EIS.
She said FERC chose to have the first come, first served one-on-one meetings instead of a town hall format in order to hear from more people in a more efficient manner. Members of the public were given numbers as they signed up and took their turn accordingly.
“The Commission will use this EIS in its decision-making process to determine whether the Jordan Cove LNG Terminal is in the public interest and the Pacific Connector Pipeline is in the public convenience and necessity,” reads FERC’s notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement, issued June 9.
FERC also held a scoping meeting Wednesday in Coos Bay and plans to hold one today in Klamath Falls. Two weeks after each meeting, transcripts of the hearing will be available through FERC’s eLibrary system.
Alan Ernstsen of Eugene spoke at the Coos Bay hearing and refined his testimony to hand in a written statement during the Roseburg meeting.
In his statement, he touched on potential damages to Coos Bay, wildlife, fishermen and indigenous people who he thinks would be affected by the project.
“I am absolutely certain that if this interconnected infrastructure of strip-mines, fracked well-heads, pipeline rights-of-way and construction (replete with the inevitable failures), dredged and polluted bays, shipping/pipeline disasters and eventual combustion in support of an economy that is a dead-end in any event, was pursued as per the dubious ‘plan,’ effects of further carbon build-up and devastation of carbon sinks (especially oceanic sinks) would only make it worse for everyone,” his statement reads.
Michael Cook of Roseburg told the commission he’s concerned about the possible effects the Cascadia earthquake and subsequent tsunami would have on the liquefied natural gas terminal.
“It would be a disaster and thousands of people would be killed,” he said. “That tsunami is coming.”
For those who did not get a chance to comment during a scoping meeting, they can file comments online through the eFiling or eComment options under the Documents & Filings tab at www.ferc.gov. Or, they could mail comments to Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE, Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426. All comments must cite the case’s docket number, PF17-4-000.
Regardless of the method or time of filing, FERC said it will review all comments with equal consideration. The comments can be filed by the July 10 deadline or anytime afterward until Jordan Cove LNG files its application to FERC.
After reviewing all comments, FERC will write, publish and distribute a draft EIS for public comment. The commission and cooperating agencies will then consider the input, revise the document and issue a final EIS.
To sign up for an electronic subscription to see FERC’s issuances and submittals, visit www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/esubscription.asp.