The controversial Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas export terminal in Coos Bay, Ore., received conditional federal approval March 19 to move ahead, but unless the project’s backers can obtain the necessary permits from the state of Oregon, they will not be able to move forward with construction.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) voted 2-1 to approve the terminal in Coos County and the 230-mile Pacific Connector pipeline that will bring natural gas to the facility.

The project’s developers have been working for 15 years to obtain the necessary approvals to build the project. Calgary-based Pembina Pipeline Corporation, which acquired the Jordan Cove project in 2017, says the project would inject $10 billion into the local economy and provide as many as 6,000 construction jobs to build the LNG terminal and associated infrastructure, including the Pacific Connector pipeline. But the state of Oregon has refused to provide the permits necessary to build the project.

The state’s Dept. of Environmental Quality denied a Section 401 Clean Water Act permit for the project in May 2019. Although the DEQ left open the possibility that Pembina could apply again, with more documentation, the firm has not yet done so.

On Feb. 19, the Oregon Dept. of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) rejected Pembina’s Coastal Zone Management Act consistency application for the project. The agency told Pembina the project would adversely affect coastal areas in the state, as well as endangered and threatened species and their habitats. According to a news report in The Oregonian, Pembina says it plans to file a federal appeal to the DLCD decision.

Shortly after FERC’s announcement, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said although she has attempted to maintain a position of neutrality, “I want to reiterate that I will not stand for any attempt to ignore Oregon’s authority to protect public safety, health and the environment. … Until this project has received every single required permit from state and local agencies, I will use every available tool to prevent the company from taking early action on condemning private property or clearing land.”

Harry Andersen, Pembina’s senior vice president and chief legal officer, calls the FERC decision “the most significant step forward” for Jordan Cove since Pembina acquired the project. The company maintains that the project’s developers will take an “environmental responsible” approach. “FERC’s decision is due in no small part to our many supporters who have turned out time and time again to voice their support for Jordan Cove and to show that the project is in the public interest, including in Southern Oregon and the Rockies Basin.” 

But other groups are not as supportive. “FERC’s approval does not change the fact that Oregon has denied this project. Pembina will never be able to show the state of Oregon that this project qualifies for permits under state laws that protect our communities,” says Hannah Sohl, executive director of Rogue Climate, a southern Oregon community organization. “Oregonians from across the political spectrum will continue to stand united until Pembina cancels the proposed fracked gas pipeline and export terminal for good.”