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Northwest Environmental News

Southern Oregon Pipeline Passes Douglas County Process

Coos Bay near where a proposed pipeline would bring natural gas to be exported.
Coos Bay near where a proposed pipeline would bring natural gas to be exported.

It's up to the state of Oregon to decide on a proposed pipeline for exporting liquefied natural gas, now that a southern Oregon county has decided against reviewing the proposal.

Douglas County Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to pass the review of a natural gas pipeline up to state authorities.

The proposed Pacific Connector Pipeline would transport liquefied natural gas, or LNG, 232 miles. It would run from Malin, Oregon, where an existing pipeline terminates, to Coos Bay, where an export facility would be built.

The commissioners took the recommendation of planning director Keith Cubic to decline a county review of the pipeline and move it on to Salem.

In the recommendation, Cubic and the county's planning commission called for three changes to the pipeline that the company, Jordan Cove, has not appealed. The changes were: a higher-grade pipeline, the company helping to train local firefighters and an automatic shutoff valve in the case of a pipeline rupture.

“I don’t know the facts about pipeline safety in the sense of how frequently there’s accidents – but the conditions that the planning commission put on were proactive,” Cubic said.

The Coastal Zone Management Act grants state and county jurisdiction for such projects in addition to larger federal authority.

Coos County officials are supportive of the pipeline project and other affected counties are too far from the coast for the CZMA to apply.

Around 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas would travel each day to a liquefaction plant.

The process of cooling the natural gas into liquid requires the construction and operation of the South Dunes Power Plant, a 420-megawatt thermal combustion gas plant.

LNG would be placed in tanks, sent to a shipping terminal, and exported across the Pacific Ocean to foreign countries likely to include India, Japan and Indonesia.

Cubic said the Land Use Board of Appeals will now take up the issue of the pipeline’s siting in Douglas County – and appeals can be filed through them.

Stacey McLaughlin of Myrtle Creek is part of a group of residents that unsuccessfully called on the county commissioners to use their authority to address issues of eminent domain and safety.

The formal appeals called for the commissioners not to adopt the planning department's recommendation.

“We think the pipeline shouldn’t be coming through here,” McLaughlin said. “We were quite disappointed that the Douglas County board of commissioners failed to involve themselves.”

McLaughlin said they haven’t yet decided on their next strategy for opposing the LNG pipeline.

A federal process under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will approve or deny the entire project, with an environmental impact statement expected in coming months.

The development came on the same day that federal energy regulators approved a liquefied natural gas export facility in Louisiana.

Both proposed facilities are being pushed along as global demand surges for North American LNG.

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