FERC dealt a blow this week to the proposed Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal by denying a petition filed last year by the sponsors to waive Oregon’s regulatory authority.

Jordan Cove Energy Project LP and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline LP had argued that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) far exceeded its one-year statutory timeframe required to review and issue a water quality certification (WQC) under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

However, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that Jordan Cove never properly requested the review. ODEQ denied Jordan Cove’s application in May 2019 for failing to meet state standards, more than six months beyond the statutory deadline. The WQC denied by Oregon related only to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers review of dredge-and-fill activities and not those covered by the FERC certificate.

Oregon had argued that the Commission could not find that the state waived a review that was never sought. FERC agreed, finding that Jordan Cove was required to request a WQC for both its Army Corps permit and for authorizations granted in its certificate of public convenience and necessity. 

“This does not necessarily mean that an applicant could not use a single application to request water quality certification for multiple federal authorizations, so long as doing so is permitted by the state-certifying agency and the certification application is clear as to what authorizations the applicant is requesting certification for,” FERC said in its order denying Jordan Cove’s petition.

“But, because a state-certifying agency’s one-year review period begins as soon as the agency receives the request, it is crucial that the agency know what the request is for and what its review must encompass as soon as the application is filed.”

Without a WQC, the project may not move ahead. FERC’s latest decision is one in a series of regulatory setbacks for the proposed export terminal. The state also has denied other authorizations, including a finding that the project is not consistent with the Oregon Coastal Management Program.

Jordan Cove would be the first natural gas export facility sited on the U.S. West Coast, where fossil fuel projects have faced staunch opposition. The terminal would be capable of liquefying up to 1.04 Bcf/d for export. It would include a pipeline gas conditioning facility, five liquefaction trains, two LNG storage tanks, an LNG loading platform and transfer line, marine facilities and associated facilities.

In other natural gas export-related business at its meeting Tuesday, FERC authorized Golden Pass LNG, currently under construction on the Port Arthur Ship Channel on the Texas Coast, to increase liquefaction capacity by 2.5 million metric tons/year (mmty). 

Golden Pass, a joint venture between ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum, filed the request to increase capacity last year, saying design margins, richer feed-gas consumption and maintenance processes that would make the terminal more efficient warranted it.