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The U.S. Energy Department has granted Jordan Cove Energy Partners a 30-year license to export liquefied natural gas to a short list of nations with which the United States has free trade agreements.

The license is the first regulatory hurdle cleared by Jordan Cove since it announced plans to build an LNG export terminal instead of the import terminal it had been pursuing for several years.

Jordan Cove Project Manager Bob Braddock said Wednesday the company still hasn't lined up enough customers to make either an export or an import terminal worthwhile. He said that if customers don't materialize soon, the company will finish getting permits for an import-only terminal, then put the project on the shelf, awaiting a more favorable market.

'It would be premature to make a decision now, but by the end of next year, that's the kind of decision that would then be made," he said.

Although the Energy Department gave exports a green light, the import terminal has run into other regulatory obstacles. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it can't issue a biological assessment of the project without more information from Jordan Cove about the project's environmental impact, and the Bureau of Land Management hasn't signed off on permits for the Pacific Connector Pipeline that would connect the terminal with the nation's gas transport network.

In its approval document, the Energy Department addressed some issues raised by Oregon Attorney General John Kroger in an October protest of Jordan Cove's application. It dismissed Kroger's contention that the application hadn't made a case for the necessity for exports. It said those issues weren't subject to regulatory review.

But the department agreed with Kroger that the public would benefit if notice of export applications were published in the Federal Register. Although the law doesn't require such publication, the Energy Department said it would start doing it, in addition to publishing the applications on its own website.

Reporter Gail Elber can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 234, or at gelber@theworldlink.com.

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