North Spit

This is an aerial view of the North Spit, the proposed site for Jordan Cove pipeline.

Alex Derr | OSCC

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.”

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