The Dept. of Energy has given conditional approval to export liquefied natural gas from Jordan Cove LNG terminal in Coos Bay, Ore.

DOE's decision, announced on March 24, drew praise from construction unions but criticism from environmental organizations.

The $7.7-billion Oregon project is the seventh LNG export facility in the U.S. to receive conditional approval since 2011. But it is the first U.S. greenfield project and the first on America's west coast, according to Platt's Gas Daily, which like ENR, is a unit of McGraw-Hill Financial.

Previous approvals were of import terminals on the East and Gulf coasts converting to exports.

The most recent previous approval was given on Feb. 11, for Sempra Energy’s Cameron LNG project in Hackberry, La.

DOE said it had conducted an extensive review of Jordan Cove Energy Project L.P.’s application. Among other factors, the department considered the project’s economic, energy security and environmental impacts; public comments for and against the application; and nearly 200,000 public comments related to the associated analysis of the cumulative impacts of increased LNG exports.

DOE concluded that exports from the terminal—at a rate of up to 0.8 billion standard cu ft per day for a period of 20 years—were not inconsistent with the public interest.

The project, being developed by Calgary, Alberta-based Veresen, must still undergo environmental reviews and final regulatory approvals before construction can begin.

Still, construction unions, such as the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) and the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Dept., are cheering the announcement. The unions estimate the project will create between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs in Oregon.

Terry O’Sullivan, LIUNA general president, is urging “a rigorous, but expeditious and efficient, review process so that the men and women in the still-depressed construction industry can get to work and provide for their families while strengthening our economy.”

Local environmental groups oppose the project, saying it will harm Oregon’s salmon habitat, which runs from the Rogue River to Coos Bay. The organizations are asking state agencies to use their authority under the Clean Water Act and other laws to reject the project.

Nathan Matthews, an attorney with the Sierra Club, called DOE’s decision “deeply disappointing,” adding, “It’s a bad deal all around for public health, the environment and America’s working people.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), former chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has expressed reservations about the market's ability to bear large amounts of LNG exports and cautioned the administration to carefully weigh each LNG export terminal project on a case-by-case basis.

But in a statement, Wyden said he was pleased with DOE’s decision on Jordan Cove. “Priority [No. 1], for me, has always been ensuring American jobs and employers see the full benefits of the natural-gas renaissance. The Dept. of Energy must monitor markets closely and be prepared to adjust course should any threat to American jobs or energy security emerge,” he said.