WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hot on the heels of a Trump administration decision to okay natural gas exports for the Jordan Cove LNG project, a group of Oregon landowners has filed in federal court to have the project's federal approval invalidated.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Energy okayed liquid natural gas exports from the proposed Jordan Cove terminal in Coos Bay, just one in a long list of necessary steps for Canadian gas company Pembina to get the project underway.
Perhaps most vital to the project thus far was a vote of approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in March. Still, the project has yet to gain several key permits from Oregon state agencies in order to move forward, a matter previously highlighted by FERC commissioners as a condition for their approval.
Now a group of Oregon landowners who would be impacted by the pipeline's construction has filed a motion asking the DC Circuit Court to invalidate that FERC decision. They have also asked the court for a stay on the project's approval in an effort to halt Pembina from moving forward with eminent domain proceedings on the land while the case is considered.
“Landowner Petitioners have been fighting this project for well over fifteen years," said Megan Gibson, senior staff attorney for the Niskanen Center, which represents the landowners. "They are now under imminent threat of having their land taken, during a global pandemic, for a natural gas pipeline with no discernable public use or benefit, which is unlikely to ever be built."
The motion cites an earlier, similar case, in which the DC court found that natural gas exports cannot be used toward FERC's "public convenience and necessity" determination, which would underpin eminent domain proceedings.
“The unique facts of this case warrant the Court taking a close look at what FERC ignored in approving a certificate of public convenience and necessity for this project," said Klamath County landowner and lead petitioner Deb Evans. "We are extremely encouraged that the DC Court will weigh the law and these facts against the pipeline to ensure that landowners’ constitutional rights are upheld.”
The landowners have asked that the Court immediately halt Pembina from accessing land through eminent domain until the case is resolved, assuming that the FERC approval is not vacated outright.
Following the U.S. Department of Energy's announcement on Monday that it had authorized export of natural gas from the proposed terminal, Pembina issued a brief statement:
"Pembina is pleased with the issuance order by the DOE, which marks another momentous step forward for Jordan Cove. The Project represents a significant opportunity to bring tremendous economic benefits to the State of Oregon and Western Colorado and make a positive contribution to address global climate change."
The motion filed on Tuesday is one of several legal challenges that the Jordan Cove project faces. In May, a coalition of southern Oregon environmental groups, landowners, and tribes filed multiple lawsuits against FERC for its decision to approve Jordan Cove.