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Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals blocks Jordan Cove permit

COOS BAY — The Jordan Cove permit was blocked Monday by the state's Land Use Board of Appeals.

Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals on Monday ruled in favor of the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition’s appeal of Coos County’s land use approval for the proposed Jordan Cove LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminal. The facility, planned for Coos Bay’s North Spit, has been opposed by a large coalition of conservation groups, landowners, and tribes.

LUBA agreed with Oregon Shores on six of the seven arguments Oregon Shores made against Jordan Cove’s application as approved by the county. The decision was “remanded” back to the county for further consideration.

The appeal was argued on Oregon Shores’ behalf by attorney Courtney Johnson of the Crag Law Center. Several other organizations and individuals joined as “intervenors” in the case. The appellants were also joined by the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians, who won a remand on an issue of their own, concerning failure to consult them properly.

“This in no way stops the Jordan Cove project," Jordan Cove LNG Spokesman Michael Hinrichs said. “There are some issues we have to address in the current project plan. Once they have been addressed, the project will go back to the county for a decision."

The Jordan Cove Energy Project now has three options. The corporation can appeal the LUBA decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals; ask Coos County to consider the application again, accepting new evidence and revising their decision to answer LUBA’s objections; or start all over.

For the time being, though, LUBA’s rejection of Jordan Cove’s land use approval is highly significant. Without local land use approvals it will be harder for state agencies such as the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of State Lands to issue permits regarding water quality, dredging and other aspects of the project. This in turn means that the state could not certify the project’s compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) which should make it harder or impossible to get federal permits. Under CZMA, the federal government is required to be consistent with a state’s approved coastal management program, so if a state declares that a project is non-compliant, the federal government should in principle honor that decision by rejecting federal permits.

LUBA found that the county erred in its approval with respect to its treatment of the public benefit and public trust standard for the estuary; impacts to Henderson Marsh, which borders the site of the proposed terminal; dredge and fill impacts; impacts of dewatering at the terminal site; approval of the Southwest Oregon Regional Safety Center (which would house emergency responders); and reliance on permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) after FERC had denied the project last year.

This is a temporary victory for OSCC. Jordan Cove, having been rejected by FERC in its last attempt to gain approval for the project, has launched an entirely new, somewhat amended proposal. This LUBA decision rejects the local land use approval for the previous proposal, the one denied by FERC. Both sides had continued with the appeal, though, because LUBA’s decision either way would have implications for Jordan Cove’s land use application for the next round. Had LUBA found in the county’s favor, it would have meant that Jordan Cove could have submitted a similar application for its new proposal and expected a quick approval. Oregon Shores’ successful appeal, though, means that Jordan Cove will face a much higher barrier in drafting a land use application that can pass muster — and might mean that the project can’t be approved under Oregon’s land use laws.

“We are under no illusion that this is anything more than one battle in a long struggle,” says Phillip Johnson, Oregon Shores’ executive director. “We will continue to fight on many fronts against this utterly misbegotten proposal, which would place a very dangerous facility on an unstable sand spit in an earthquake, tsunami, and storm surge zone, and do grave damage to the Coos Bay estuary, all so a Canadian multinational can ship fracked gas to Asia and exacerbate global warming. But this is a very significant decision, because it indicates that we may indeed be able to stop this massive project at the local level. Oregon’s land use laws may prove to be Jordan Cove’s Achilles’ heel.”

King tides to sweep shores once again

COOS COUNTY — Wild winter weather, coupled with seasonal king tides could cause flooding in Coos County this coming weekend.

King tides are caused when the moon is much closer to the earth during winter months. In the past Coos Bay has seen some minor flooding along U.S. Highway 101, as well as some along state highway 42.

Another time in which many places experience high tides are in the spring, when the sun and moon pull the tides from opposite sides of the earth. King tides occur similarly with the sun and moon pulling on opposites sides of the earth, the difference being that the moon is at its closest to the earth during the winter. During these times the moon appears larger in the sky and is appropriately called a super moon.

According the US National Weather Service in Medford, the next king tide will be on Dec. 3. King tides extend tides about 2.5 feet further than normal, and much further if there is a storm or swell.

Meteorologist with the National Weather Service Shad Keene said, “The impacts for the area are predicated on whether or not there’s a high river. Some have seen high water around the Coos Bay Speedway.”

According to U.S Coast Guard often when king tides are harmful are when people are out on the jetties during high tide. People will sometimes get caught in what’s known as a sneaker waves.

Researchers aren’t totally sure how sneaker waves occur, but it’s thought that they are a culmination of waves traveling at the same speed. This wave made up of several waves crests higher and travels faster.

On Dec. 3, when the king tides are highest we are also expecting a storm front along our coast.

“There’s probably some low areas right along the coast that might see high waters … We’ve got a front coming through, but it doesn’t look too strong in terms of winds. There will be kind of a moderate swell coming in from the west. You could have some higher seas, but not a real large swell,” Keene said.

Swells on Dec 3. will be moderate for the season with an 11-foot crest within a 14-second period. However, according to the Coast Guard, the next couple of days will see fairly large swells cresting around 16 feet within an 18-second period.

King tides could cause some local flooding, but likely won't. The tides are more likely to affect eroded areas like the parking lot at Sunset Bay State Park, where asphalt has been washed out by the tides already. Another area at great risk to king tides is the Englewood dike, which is deteriorating after being in use for over 160 years.

If you hear of any local impacts from king tides the National Weather Service would like to hear about it, so that they can learn and provide more accurate information in the future.

GOP shoves tax overhaul ahead; shutdown still a threat

WASHINGTON — Republicans held together and shoved their signature tax overhaul a crucial step ahead Tuesday as wavering GOP senators showed a growing openness. But its fate remained uncertain, and a planned White House summit aimed at averting a government shutdown was derailed when President Donald Trump savaged top Democrats and declared on Twitter, "I don't see a deal!"

"It's time to stop tweeting and start leading," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer retorted after he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rebuffed the budget meeting with Trump and top Republicans.

Trump lunched with GOP senators at the Capitol and declared it a "love fest," as he had his previous closed-doors visit. But the day underscored the party's yearlong problem of unifying behind key legislation — even a bill slashing corporate taxes and cutting personal taxes that's a paramount party goal.

Tuesday's developments also emphasized the leverage Democrats have as Congress faces a deadline a week from Friday for passing legislation to keep federal agencies open while leaders seek a longer-term budget deal. Republicans lack the votes to pass the short-term legislation without Democratic support.

In a party-line 12-11 vote, the Senate Budget Committee managed to advance the tax measure to the full Senate as a pair of wavering Republicans — Wisconsin's Ron Johnson and Tennessee's Bob Corker — fell into line, at least for the moment. In more good news for the GOP, moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said it was a "fair assumption" that she was likelier to support the bill after saying Trump agreed to make property taxes up to $10,000 deductible instead of eliminating that break entirely.

But the fate of the legislation remained uncertain as it headed toward debate by the full Senate, which Republicans control by a slender 52-48. GOP leaders can afford just two defectors, and a half dozen or more in their party have been uncommitted. They include some wanting bigger tax breaks for many businesses but others cringing over the $1.4 trillion — or more — that the measure is projected to add to budget deficits over the next decade.

"It's a challenging exercise," conceded Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. He compared it to "sitting there with a Rubik's Cube and trying to get to 50" votes, a tie that Vice President Mike Pence would break.

Corker, who's all but broken with Trump over the president's behavior in office, is among a handful of Republicans uneasy over the mountains of red ink the tax measure is expected to produce. He said he was encouraged by discussions with the White House and party leaders to include a mechanism — details still unknown — to automatically trigger tax increases if specified, annual economic growth targets aren't met.

"I think we're getting to a very good place on the deficit issue," Corker said.

But other Republicans are wary of backing legislation that would hold the hammer of potential future tax increases over voters' heads.

"I am not going to vote to automatically implement tax increases on the American people. If I do that, consider me drunk," said Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana.

Collins said she'd also won agreement that before completing the tax measure, Congress would approve legislation restoring federal payments to health insurers that Trump scuttled last month. That bill has had bipartisan support, but it's unclear if Democrats would back it amid partisan battling over the tax bill.

McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., met with Trump at the White House despite the top Democrats' no-shows. Trump highlighted their absence by appearing before reporters flanked by two empty chairs bearing Schumer's and Pelosi's names.

Trump said Democrats would be to blame for any shutdown, despite GOP domination of government.

"If it happens it's going to be over illegals pouring into the country, crime pouring into the country, no border wall, which everyone wants," he said. He also said North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile on Wednesday should prompt Democrats to renew negotiations over the spending legislation, which includes Pentagon funding.

"But probably they won't because nothing to them is important other than raising taxes," Trump said.

Trump repeated those claims Tuesday night on Twitter, writing that Democrats "can't now threaten a shutdown to get their demands."

Democrats noted that in May, Trump tweeted the country "needs a good 'shutdown' in September to fix mess!" In a tweet of her own Tuesday, Pelosi said Trump's "verbal abuse will no longer be tolerated," adding in reference to the empty-chairs show, "Poor Ryan and McConnell relegated to props. Sad!"

A temporary spending bill expires Dec. 8 and another is needed to prevent a government shutdown. Hurricane aid to help Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is also expected to be included in that measure, as well as renewed financing for a children's health program that serves more than 8 million low-income children.

Democrats are also pressing for legislative protections for immigrants known as "Dreamers." Conservative Republicans object to including that issue in the crush of year-end business. But GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida joined Democrats in saying he won't vote for the spending bill unless the immigrant issue is resolved.

NKorea launches ICBM in possibly its longest-range test yet

SEOUL, South Korea — After 2½ months of relative peace, North Korea launched its most powerful weapon yet early Wednesday, claiming a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile that some observers believe could put Washington and the entire eastern U.S. seaboard within range.

The North said in a special televised announcement hours after the launch that it had successfully fired what it called the Hwasong-15, a new nuclear-capable ICBM that's "significantly more" powerful than the long-range weapons it's previously tested. Outside governments and analysts backed up the North's claim to a jump in missile capability.

A resumption of Pyongyang's torrid testing pace in pursuit of its goal of a viable arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles that can hit the U.S. mainland had been widely expected, but the apparent power and suddenness of the new test still jolted the Korean Peninsula and Washington. The launch at 3:17 a.m. local time and midday in the U.S. capital indicated an effort to perfect the element of surprise and to obtain maximum attention in the United States.

In a government statement released through state media, North Korea said the Hwasong-15, the "greatest ICBM," could be armed with a "super-large heavy nuclear warhead" and strike the "whole mainland" of the United States. The North said the missile, which was fired near the capital Pyongyang, reached a maximum height of 2,780 miles and traveled 590 miles before accurately hitting a sea target, similar to the flight data announced by South Korea's military.

The North said the missile, which was fired at the "highest" launch angle, didn't pose a security threat to its neighbors. It said leader Kim Jong Un after the successful launch "declared with pride" that the country has achieved its goal of becoming a "rocket power."

The firing is a clear message of defiance aimed at the Trump administration, which had just restored the North to a U.S. list of terror sponsors.

A rattled Seoul responded by almost immediately launching three of its own missiles in a show of force. The South's president, Moon Jae-in, expressed worry that North Korea's growing missile threat could force the United States to attack the North.

"If North Korea completes a ballistic missile that could reach from one continent to another, the situation can spiral out of control," Moon said at an emergency meeting in Seoul, according to his office.

Moon has repeatedly declared that there can be no U.S. attack on the North without Seoul's approval, but many here worry that Washington may act without South Korean input.

The launch is North Korea's first since it fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan on Sept. 15.

The missile appears to improve on North Korea's past launches.

If flown on a standard trajectory, instead of Wednesday's lofted angle, the missile would have a range of more than 8,100 miles, said U.S. scientist David Wright, a physicist who closely tracks North Korea's missile and nuclear programs. "Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington, D.C., and in fact any part of the continental United States," Wright wrote in a blog post for the Union for Concerned Scientists.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the missile landed inside of Japan's special economic zone in the Sea of Japan, about 155 miles west of Aomori, which is on the northern part of Japan's main island of Honshu. Onodera says the missile could have been an upgraded version of North Korea's Hwasong-14 ICBM or a new missile.

A big unknown, however, is the missile's payload. If, as expected, it carried a light mock warhead, then its effective range would have been shorter, analysts said.

An intercontinental ballistic missile test is considered particularly provocative, and indications that it flew higher than past launches suggest progress by Pyongyang in developing a weapon of mass destruction that could strike the U.S. mainland. President Donald Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from having that capability — using military force if necessary.

In response to the launch, Trump said the United States will "take care of it." He told reporters after the launch: "It is a situation that we will handle." He did not elaborate.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said the missile was launched from Sain Ni, North Korea, and traveled about 620 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan within 200 nautical miles of Japan's coast. It flew for 53 minutes, Japan's defense minister said.

South Korea's responding missile tests included one with a 620-mile range, to mimic striking the North Korea launch site, which is not far from the North Korean capital.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday afternoon at the request of Japan, the U.S. and South Korea.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the missile flew higher than previous projectiles.

"It went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they've taken," he told reporters at the White House. "It's a research and development effort on their part to continue building ballistic missiles that can threaten everywhere in the world."

A week ago, the Trump administration declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, further straining ties between governments that are still technically at war. Washington also imposed new sanctions on North Korean shipping firms and Chinese trading companies dealing with the North.

North Korea called the terror designation a "serious provocation" that justifies its development of nuclear weapons.