Saying he is sure his energy projects ultimately will win, a lead manager for Oregon's proposed Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal and a related 234-mile natural gas transmission pipeline to interconnect with the regional gas grid told NGI Thursday that an ongoing state-federal fight in a district court in Eugene, OR, likely will not be resolved until mid-2011.
In the meantime there are other permits that Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline will be pursuing that won't be finished until the same time next year.
By filing the lawsuit against two Oregon state agencies late in August, all of the pipeline project's pending permits essentially are on the same track, according the Jordan Cove LNG Project Manager Bob Braddock. Other permitting is mostly with federal agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, over which a number of miles of the proposed pipeline will traverse, so both the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service are involved, Braddock said.
The LNG/pipeline project backers have accused Oregon state officials of stacking the regulatory deck against the LNG terminal because of widespread opposition to the Jordan Cove project by the state's attorney general as well as the heads of two state departments specifically named in the legal action -- the Oregon Departments of State Lands and Land Conservation and Development. Pacific Connector backers allege that the treatment of the project in Oregon is unconstitutional, unnecessary and unfair to landowners (see Daily GPI, Sept. 8).
In the meantime, the pipeline gained some land-use approvals from Coos County, in which the LNG terminal is to be located, and state legislation is being pursued to help resolve the state interference, according to Braddock. As for the Coos County permit, he said it likely will be appealed to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals by the end of September.
If all goes as Braddock hopes, the LNG project and proposed natural gas transmission pipeline eventually will be able to move ahead and put off until closer to construction time the need to get landowners voluntarily or through eminent domain to provide all of the rights-of-way needed for the project. "At the end of the day, you always have the ability to use eminent domain, but you only want to use that as a last resort," Braddock said.
He thinks the overall project has been "politicized quite heavily," and the possibility of a legislative fix next year is still possible in the same mid-year time frame as the lawsuit and permitting resolutions. At the state level, this problem has come up before, according to Braddock. "It is an issue that has been festering, not just for us, but for other industries, too, such as roads and other infrastructure."
Aside from the regulatory and state-federal jurisdictional questions, the Pacific Northwest natural supply/demand balance appears to have shifted quite significantly in the past two years, prompting more gas infrastructure projects that were on the drawing board to be pulled back. Nevertheless when asked about it, Braddock said it doesn't worry him at all.
Williams Northwest Pipeline Co., which was the latest to pull back a proposed regional pipeline extension into the Interstate-5 corridor (see Daily GPI, Sept. 10), is also one of the principal backers of the Pacific Connector pipeline, along with a unit of PG&E Corp. and Avista Corp.
Braddock said the Northwest Pipeline proposal, as well as others, were probably ill-conceived to begin with, and he sees it as a positive for the region that at this point that the pipeline proposal has been suspended. Some of the projects "diluted the focus of attention" on the region's long-term needs, he said, noting Jordan Cove has its conditional federal certificate, while other projects are a long way from getting those approvals.
He also thinks the ongoing local opposition to his LNG and pipeline projects is dissipating and is much more "low-profile" than it was a few years ago.
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