First West Coast LNG Export Facility Gets Critical Federal OK

On Sept. 30, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the final environmental impact statement for a contentious $7.5 billion Liquefied Natural Gas export facility, pipeline, and power plant in Coos Bay, Ore. More approvals are still needed.

3 minute read

October 6, 2015, 7:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

"If approved, Jordan Cove LNG and Pacific Connector [Gas Pipeline Project] would construct a natural gas liquefaction and export facility with an adjacent [420 MW natural gas-fired combined cycle power] plant, along with a 232-mile natural gas pipeline stretching from Malin [Klamath County] to the terminal," writes James Cronin for the Portland Business Journal.

"Receipt of our final EIS demonstrates our strong progress on the permitting front and paves the way for Jordan Cove LNG to be the first LNG export facility to be built on the west coast," stated Elizabeth Spomer, President and CEO of Jordan Cove LNG in a press release. "This regulatory milestone will be viewed as great news by our target customers."

While the approval was critical, more are necessary before construction can begin.

“We’ve been here before with FERC and we will push back on their flawed analysis once again,” Susan Brown, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, said in (a) statement.

“Most importantly, we know Oregon has the legal authority and ample reasons to reject this project, and we are counting on Governor [Kate] Brown to stand up for all Oregonians.”

Western Environmental Law Center explains the interesting economic background of LNG facility that reflects the transition of the United States from a major energy consumer to a major producer (as well as a consumer).

Initially, the project was planned to allow for natural gas to be imported at the Jordan Cove terminal then piped to California and Nevada markets. But the project changed in September 2011 to export LNG from Canada and the US Rocky Mountain region to markets in Asia. 

A final approval from the U.S. Department of Energy is needed. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), a member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, told the Associated Press:

The administration has given communities along the Gulf Coast and East Coast the opportunity to access overseas markets," Barrasso said in a statement. "It must not leave the West behind."

All of the approved LNG export facilities [PDFin the U.S. are along the Gulf Coast plus one in Cove Point, Maryland.

But approvals alone do not guarantee construction of these facilities.

"Plummeting crude oil prices have dimmed prospects for soon-to-start U.S. liquefied natural gas exports, Bank of America Corp. said in a note to clients [on Aug. 24]," wrote Christine Buurma for Bloomberg News on Aug. 25.

A July study from Brookings Institution concluded that competition from foreign LNG competitors would also suppress construction of new U.S. LNG export facilities, according to a June article in FuelFix.

In an unrelated energy development setback in Coos Bay, it appears that a renewable, offshore wind facility posted here last year will not be going forward.

Hat tips to The AASHTO Daily Transportation Update (Oct. 01) and Dave O'Leary, Maryland Sierra Club.

Thursday, October 1, 2015 in Portland Business Journal

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