Battle Over Jordan Cove Energy Project Is Over After Developers Pull Plug

Above Photo: “Hike the Pipe” supporters on Rogue River show opposition to the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas project. Jes Burns, OPB/EarthFix.

The bitter and protracted battle over the Jordan Cove Energy Project has finally come to a close. The Calgary-based Pembina company formally asked federal energy regulators Wednesday to withdraw authorizations for the proposed pipeline and liquified natural gas export terminal in southwest Oregon.

Pembina’s plan called for a 229-mile-long natural gas pipeline that would have run from Malin, Oregon, on the California border, over the Coast Range to Coos Bay. The gas would then have been super-cooled into a liquified form (LNG), loaded onto ships and exported to Asia.

The proposal raised concerns about environmental impacts to waterways and wildlife habitat. It was also expected to become the largest single emitter of greenhouse gasses in Oregon.

Jordan Cove was given a key permit in March 2020 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which included the right of eminent domain. That would have allowed the company to force property owners along the pipeline route to sell land to Pembina. But proceeding with construction under that authorization was contingent on Jordan Cove obtaining required permissions from the State of Oregon.

After several rounds of back-and-forth, Pembina was unable to convince Oregon state regulators that the proposal could meet environmental standards. Last May, Jordan Cove officials announced they were “pausing” the project to consider their options.

A coalition of affected landowners — plus environmental groups, tribes and the State of Oregon — appealed to FERC to rescind its authorization of the Jordan Cove project. When FERC declined, the group appealed to federal court. A recent ruling in the District of Columbia Circuit sent the case back to FERC, which led the commission to ask all parties to submit updated briefs. In particular, FERC asked Pembina to “clarify” their intentions.

In response, Jordan Cove on Wednesday filed a brief effectively pulling the plug on the project, more than a decade in the making.

“Applicants have undertaken a review of permitting developments and the prospects for obtaining the permits in the future,” reads the brief in part. “Applicants have now completed this review and have decided not to move forward with the Project. Among other considerations, Applicants remain concerned regarding their ability to obtain the necessary state permits in the immediate future in addition to other external obstacles.”

Susan Jane Brown is an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center in Eugene, which represented landowners fighting Jordan Cove. She says the decision to abandon the project represents a hard-fought victory for the environmental groups, landowners, tribes and others who’ve opposed it.

“For all of us that have been working together to fight this project for so long, it’s a huge sigh of relief,” she says. “And in a lot of ways it’s hard to believe that maybe it’s finally true.”

Allie Rosenbluth is the campaigns director at the Phoenix, Oregon-based environmental group Rogue Climate. She says that, even though a series of regulatory and legal setbacks has made Jordan Cove look increasingly unlikely to actually be built, landowners in the pipeline’s path have had to live with the uncertainty about the future of their land. Now, Rosenbluth says, that’s over.

“Landowners are no longer living under the fear of having their property seized,” she says. “This project can’t move forward.”

Rosenbluth says the success of the campaign against Jordan Cove show the power of sustained community action.

“This just attests to the incredible work of landowners, tribes, Southern Oregonians and folks on the South Coast who have stood up to this project … It shows that when our communities come together to stand up for our homes, we can win.”

Jordan Cove closed its public relations operation in Southern Oregon more than a year ago and the company has largely been unresponsive to requests for comment in recent months. An email to both Jordan Cove and Pembina seeking comment on Wednesday did not elicit a response.