A bill introduced Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio appears aimed at blocking Jordan Cove Energy Partners’ proposed liquefied natural gas exporting facility in Coos Bay.
The bill would take away Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline’s right to use eminent domain to build its pipeline if that pipeline is used to export LNG.
Eminent domain “is an extraordinary power of government that should only be used in extreme circumstances,” DeFazio said. “I just don’t think a private, for-profit company should be able to take private property.”
As part of the Natural Gas Act of 2005, when a company receives final approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build the pipeline, eminent domain is also granted.
DeFazio’s bill concludes with an amendment that prohibits FERC from authorizing LNG exports if the facility built a pipeline using eminent domain.
Jordan Cove’s proposed pipeline has been approved based on its application as an import facility. The company has since filed an application for a permit to export the gas.
Bill’s impact debated
DeFazio said the proposed pipeline has already hurt dozens of property owners, especially in Douglas County.
“They are at the point that they can’t refinance their houses because there is a threat that an energy pipeline will be routed through their property,” DeFazio said.
Bob Braddock, Jordan Cove’s project manager, said that even if the bill passes, it won’t jeopardize the project, because eminent domain is so rarely used.
“You can’t go out willy-nilly,” Braddock said. “You must demonstrate that all other reasonable options have been used.”
The purpose of eminent domain is to ensure projects that will benefit the nation as a whole cannot be stopped by one person who is unwilling to sell his or her land.
DeFazio’s bill has already been hailed by Jody McCaffree, executive director of Citizens Against LNG.
The congressman “has just made thousands of citizens, landowners and property rights advocates across Southern Oregon very happy, not to mention energy consumers and manufacturers across the U.S.,” McCaffree wrote in a news release. “We salute him for his efforts here. Nice to see one of our congressmen going to bat for ‘We the People’ and for looking out for our best interest.”
The bill requires that the company — Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline, in this case — would have to make an offer acceptable to the landowner, or the company must find another route.
When eminent domain is invoked, property owners and the company go to court to determine a fair value for the land. DeFazio asserts this process does not always ensure “just compensation.”
Merits (or not) of LNG
In his bill, DeFazio makes a case that exporting LNG is not in the country’s best interest. He cites a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy that shows LNG exports could raise the price of natural gas by almost 11 percent for households and 27 percent for industrial users.
Braddock said the numbers used in the study are outdated; the nation has already exceeded the study’s “most optimistic” gas production estimates, he said. The domestic price would not be affected to the extent the study suggests, he said. Although, natural gas prices could still go up if exported, he added.
“The Chinese are paying more for natural gas than Americans pay,” DeFazio said. “It only makes sense that if one is exporting an energy supply, it is going to drive up the price.”
Reporter Jessie Higgins can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or firstname.lastname@example.org.