Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., is ending his lukewarm support for the Jordan Cove LNG export project proposed for Oregon as the $10 billion venture tries again for federal authorization.
Merkley wrote in an opinion article for Medford's Mail Tribune that while he still believes the massive venture would contribute to the state's economy, he has changed his mind about whether "this large-scale fossil fuel project still makes sense."
"I love the possibility of the Jordan Cove project creating so many good jobs, beneficial revenues, and improved infrastructure. This project would be an enormous boost to a community that has long suffered economically," he wrote. "But I cannot turn away from the knowledge that, like other large-scale fossil fuel projects, Jordan Cove will contribute massively to pollution that is profoundly damaging our state and our world. Generations from now, our grandchildren will wonder why we continued to burn fossil fuels when the catastrophic consequences were so evident."
Merkley's letter came as Jordan Cove, now spearheaded by Pembina Pipeline Corp., again seeks federal authorization. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied the project in March 2016 because of what regulators said was a lack of commercial need for the associated Pacific Connector gas pipeline.
The senator acknowledged that while the most recent application reduces the number of affected landowners along the roughly 230-mile pipeline route, the developer is still "holding over the heads of landowners the possibility of seizing land through eminent domain," a practice Merkley said he considers "unacceptable."
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in an emailed statement that while he respects Merkley's decision, his position "remains what it has been since the beginning — working to ensure nobody's voice gets stifled and that federal officials review this proposal entirely on its merits with no fudging on environmental laws and no thumbs swaying the scales of fairness."
In addition to federal hurdles, Jordan Cove has faced local opposition and concern from state regulators. Oregon's Land Use Board of Appeals in late November sent an approval for the project back to county commissioners. A week later, an Oregon agency tasked with reviewing how infrastructure would respond to earthquakes and tsunamis raised concerns over Jordan Cove's plan to prepare and protect against a 9.0 magnitude earthquake. The developer said it is working with the agency "to make sure they have all the information they need."
A spokesman for the project did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Merkley's article.