by Wim de Vriend
An awful lot of people, those for Coos Bay’s Jordan Cove LNG project and those against it, were surprised by the March 11 decision of the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), denying approval of the terminal and its 232-mile gas pipeline. Or rather, of the pipeline first, with the terminal as an afterthought; for as the FERC noted, without the pipeline there could be no Jordan Cove, anyway.
That pipeline, which would have been partly owned by Jordan Cove/Veresen, was known by the name ‘Pacific Connector’. Veresen, a Canadian gas company, is Jordan Cove’s corporate parent.
In order to approve Pacific Connector, the FERC had to find that the ‘public benefits’ of the pipeline exceeded the ‘public harm’ it would cause: the sort of balancing test that a lot of courts engage in. And the Commission had equated each of those concepts, public benefits and public harm, with very simple notions – though some people might find ‘simplistic’ a more apt term.
According to the FERC, ‘public benefits’ meant substantial commercial use of the pipeline, caused in turn by substantial demand for Jordan Cove’s LNG production.
And ‘public harm’ consisted of the harm inflicted on private property rights by Pacific Connector’s forcible acquisition of a right-of-way across hundreds of parcels of privately owned land. That was because FERC’s approval would give a green light to Pacific Connector to using eminent domain for its purely private venture. By the FERC’s count, on its 232-mile route, Pacific Connector would impact 157.3 miles of privately-owned lands, held by approximately 630 landowners.
By August 2014 only 38 had agreed to grant easements to Pacific Connector, the vast majority were outright hostile, and 54 had intervened with FERC, lodging protests and arguments. Many of the holdouts were substantial landowners, like Bill Gow who has a 1,400 ranch south of Roseburg.
This way Pacific Connector became the linchpin of the entire Jordan Cove scheme, even though the anticipated sales volume of the Jordan Cove terminal at its western terminus was the linchpin of that linchpin’s viability.
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