On Thursday, May 21, FERC denied requests for rehearing of the Order approving the Jordan Cove Energy Project from landowners, tribes, and several other organizations. The Commission granted several clarifications requested by Jordan Cove/Pacific Connector.
While not really a surprise, the decision is still a blow, and it means landowners are one step closer to having their easements taken through eminent domain. Technically, Pembina can begin eminent domain proceedings, although FERC’s order prohibits any ground disturbance, tree removal, etc. until and unless the company acquires all the necessary permits and certifications.
FERC dismissed or rejected nearly every point brought up in the various rehearing requests. This paragraph, taken from page 34 of FERC’s Order, neatly sums up their position:
“In any event, we find that, contrary to the petitioner’s assertions, threatened and endangered species, wildlife, landowner and community impacts, and GHG emissions are addressed adequately in the Final EIS, considered in the Authorization Order, and addressed, as necessary, below. Further, as discussed above, we find that there is significant evidence of demand for the project.”
And there you have it. If you want to read the Order yourself, you can find it here.
The coalition issued a press release the day FERC announced their decision. I also spoke with several landowners.
Stacey MacLaughlin, a landowner from Douglas County, said FERC’s decision has compounded the anxiety and uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Eminent domain was always out there, always a threat,” she wrote to me. “Now though, because of FERC, it is a terrifying reality. I can’t remember when I last slept through the night.”
Douglas County landowner Clarence Adams had this to say: “I am deeply disappointed that FERC refused to consider our request for rehearing. It shows a complete disregard for landowners who are trying to defend their properties from the misuse of eminent domain by allowing a Canadian company to ship heavily subsidized Canadian gas for cooperate profit.”
Douglas County rancher Bill Gow is feeling pretty cynical about the FERC “process.”
“They set it up to make us feel like we get some kind of representation, but there’s no place where we get unbiased judgment,” he told me. “The FERC process is an absolute joke. It’s controlled by business. Corporate greed has taken over any kind of common sense.”
Landowners immediately acted following FERC’s announcement. On Friday, attorneys with The Niskanen Center representing over two dozen landowners filed a petition with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals requesting a review of FERC’s certificate, tolling, and rehearing orders on Jordan Cove.
Commissioner Glick dissents
The one bright spot in Thursday’s development was the dissent of Commissioner Richard Glick, the lone Democrat on the Commission. He provided oral comments during FERC’s meeting Thursday morning, and his lengthy dissent is included in FERC’s official Order.
Glick specifically drew attention to the plight of impacted landowners in a pair of Tweets posted shortly after the meeting adjourned:
“On #JordanCove #LNG: @FERC’s shoot 1st & ask questions later attitude is problematic. Losing your land to Gov’t condemnation is never easy – but imagine if you were told you must leave to clear the way for a project that most likely will never be built.”
In his spoken comments, he questioned the “breakneck pace” at which FERC is rushing to approve energy infrastructure projects during a pandemic, where demand for oil and LNG has severely stalled, and he criticized Chairman Chatterjee’s refusal to consider a moratorium on natural gas pipelines and LNG projects out of concern affected parties won’t be able to adequately protect their interests during the COVID-19 crisis.
In addition to expressing concern over landowners’ right to due process, Glick outlined several other issues with FERC’s order, including the Commission’s “arbitrary and capricious” consideration of the project’s impact on noise, safety, water quality, and endangered species, and the Commission’s refusal to consider the project’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions and contributions to climate change.
This decision puts even more pressure on the State of Oregon, as Pembina has yet to acquire several key authorizations and permits from state agencies.
The next big piece of news we expect is the Secretary of Commerce’s decision on the CZMA Federal Consistency Appeal. It’s a lot of legal-ese to sift through, but we will do our best to post updates and translate the legal documents as they become available.
In the meantime, stay safe!