COOS COUNTY — The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has denied Jordan Cove’s application for a Section 401 Water Quality Certification.

The application was submitted back in August and throughout the review process DEQ asked for additional information from Jordan Cove on three separate occasions.

“We requested additional information in September 2018, December 2018, and March 2019,” DEQ spokesperson Katherine Benenati said. “They provided some, but not all of the information requested.”

DEQ is denying the requested water quality certification at this time because there is insufficient information to demonstrate compliance with water quality standards and because the available information shows that some standards are more likely than not to be violated.

“The two areas I would highlight is that water temperatures are expected to rise in some areas as a result of construction, and in some areas those increases are expected to be more than allowable. Also sediment is a concern. Levels of sediment in streams along the pipeline route is expected to increase to more than allowable amounts as well,” Benenati said.

In its press release about the decision, DEQ also notes the risk of release of drilling materials from the construction of the proposed crossing of the Coos Bay estuary as a major reason for the denial.

Over 40,000 Oregonians commented on this application which was more than DEQ had ever received for that sort of application.

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A Section 401 Water Quality Certification is required through the DEQ for any federally licensed or permitted projects that may result in a discharge into navigable waters. Specifically, the certification ensures that work permitted under a federal Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit will meet the state's water quality standards.

Opponents of the project, like environmental activist group Rogue Climate, were happy to hear of DEQ’s decision, saying that a massive number of comments against the project showed their strength in numbers.

“Oregon’s decision shows that when we come together and speak out, we can win,” Hannah Sohl, director of Rogue Climate, said. “For years, a record number of Oregonians have urged Gov. Brown and Oregon agencies to put the public interest over the special interests of Canadian fossil fuel corporation Pembina. It is great to see Oregon DEQ do just that. Oregon should be focused on creating good-paying jobs in renewable energy, not on new fossil fuel projects that hurt us all.”

DEQ’s action is being made “without prejudice.”  This means that the applicant may reapply for the certification, and submit additional information that could result in a different decision.

If Jordan Cove decides to resubmit an application addressing DEQ’s concerns, then the department will work to keep the timing of its review in line with the overall federal schedule for the project. However this will require that Jordan Cove resubmit its application in a timely manner.

Pembina responded to DEQ’s decision by saying “Today we were advised by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, of its decision to deny our Section 401 permit without prejudice, based on procedural concerns DEQ has in relation to recent court decisions. Pembina’s management team is working to better understand this decision and its impacts and will communicate updates when appropriate.”

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.