COOS BAY — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission held its first of three scoping meetings for the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas export terminal and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline projects on Tuesday.
More than 100 people squeezed into Sunset Middle School’s main foyer over the course of three hours to present concerns, meet with FERC representatives and officially file statements.
“The purpose of the scoping process is for the commission to gain comments from the public to better focus our analysis,” FERC environmental biologist John Peconom said, who added the commission was employing a different format for the evening’s session than in year’s past.
Attendees took numbers and waited for individual meetings with a FERC representative and court reporter who transcribed the encounters.
At least 90 people signed up to give an official comment at the start of the meeting at 4 p.m.
By 5:30 p.m., 45 had already been interviewed and given their official statement.
“We have found through experience across the country that this meeting format is the most efficient way to get people through,” Peconom said. “We also want to be very respectful of people’s time and get their comments to us as quickly as possible.”
Peconom said all transcribed interviews would be available on FERC’s website in about a week.
The reaction among attendees regarding the format change was decidedly mixed.
Janet Moore, of Coos Bay, who said she was against the proposed pipeline and export terminal, expressed annoyance with the process.
“I think we all are a little frustrated about it because we like to hear each other and be educated by each other and give more unique comments instead of saying the same thing over and over,” she said. “(FERC) says it’s more efficient — and it probably is timewise for them — but it limits public discussion because we don’t get to hear what others think or feel or even hear from the other side.”
Teresa Rigg, a resident of Coos Bay for more than 50 years, was in agreement.
“In the past (FERC) has always told us they don’t want redundancy and the point of the meeting is to collect our arguments, theoretically,” she said. “By keeping us limited, we don’t know what has been said and what hasn’t been said and therefore the odds are better that a greater number of people will say the same thing and it will only be counted once and reduce the number of comments. Unless we are psychic or have a crystal ball, we don’t know which of our concerns have been addressed.”
Jody McCaffree, executive director of Citizens Against LNG, was also critical of the format.
“This is complete chaos, not a hearing,” she said.
Conversely, Helen Mineau, a Coos County landowner who said she had already signed a right of way agreement allowing the pipeline to be installed on her property, viewed the new format positively.
“Before it’s always been you get in a meeting with a whole bunch of people and it’s a shouting match,” she explained. “This is a tremendous format because everyone gets a chance to go in and actually say what they want to say, make their statement and leave. It appears it’s going fairly smoothly.”
Sean Mole, federal projects coordinator for Oregon Department of Energy, said while the meeting format offered a more efficient way to collect comments, he understood concerns from some critics.
“There are pros and cons: I think it is more efficient, I think it will garner (FERC) more comments and I think those comments could potentially be more constructive,” he said. “But I also think they lose — or at least the citizenry loses — the ability to hear everybody else because there are issues that other citizens are going to raise that maybe somebody else hasn’t thought of and they may want to incorporate that into their comments or into their view. (Moreover), if they are on one side or the other they get to hear the opposing comments that may affect how they see the project as a whole.
“So I think they lose that and I think that’s unfortunate but in terms of efficiency and actually moving forward, they are absolutely going to get more comments.”