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Energy Measure Banning Hydro and Wind Power is defeated in Coos County

Deepwater-Wind-Block-Island-Wind-Farm

A controversial energy measure that would have banned the development of hydro and industrial scale wind power that was not locally or municipally owned and operated was defeated by a 3 to 1 margin in Coos County, Oregon, on May 16th.   Under the proposed energy measure, this particular type of hydro and wind power would have been considered a “non-sustainable energy system.”

While the intent behind the 6-162 measure may have had some merit, banning wind and hydro power based on ownership did not go over in the end with Coos County voters.

The NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory – Global Monitoring Division recently reported weekly carbon dioxide measurements from the Hawaii Mauna Loa monitoring station as topping 409 parts per million CO2.  Ocean acidification caused by high CO2 levels has already been harmful to our fishing and shellfish industries.  We need to be doing everything we can to lower the earth’s greenhouse gas levels, including getting off of fossil fuels and replacing those energy systems with wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and CO2 neutral bio-fuels.

While the controversial energy measure covered multiple topic matters and did oppose some uses of fossil fuels, it was wrongly seen by some in the press as being a referendum for the highly controversial proposed Jordan Cove LNG export project.

Many citizens found the measure’s language confusing and likely unconstitutional.  The language clashed with other local, state and federal regulations.  Proponents had advertised the measure as an anti-eminent domain measure in spite of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) having siting authority over natural gas transmission pipelines and LNG terminals.  The Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline has already obtained some of their needed Coos County “conditional” land use permits and due to Coos County recently changing their zoning and land development ordinance so that land use permits up for renewal are not subject to changes made to the ordinance, it is possible the energy measure would not have had an effect on these.

Citizens Against LNG decided to take no position on the measure.

The “community rights” energy measure was developed by a group of individuals in Coos County in conjunction with the controversial Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), seen by many legal observers to be unconstitutional when applied solely on a local level, and court challenges to date have borne that out.

Jordan Cove buys election

Jordan Cove was obviously worried about the measure and donated an unprecedented $600,000 on the campaign to defeat it.  Citizens should be very concerned with this high level of influence going on in such a small rural area as Coos County.  There is no way anyone living in Coos County can compete with that kind of money.  It should be of the utmost concern that Jordan Cove has already heavily influenced the political makeup in Coos County and changed local codes in order to be able to obtain their permits.   What is the point of having local codes for protecting the public health, safety, welfare and the environment, if a foreign energy company can easily come in and run roughshod over them?

Perhaps this was some of the reasoning behind those who sponsored the 6-162 energy measure.  Jordan Cove’s actions clearly should speak for themselves.  Corporations are not people and should not be able to buy elections or change codes in this manner, no matter what side of the debate you are on.

Community participation and input is important

The good news is that there are still opportunities for the public to have input in developments being proposed in the County, including the controversial Jordan Cove LNG export project.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will be holding scoping meetings in the near future and public participation in this and other permit processes for Jordan Cove is critical.

Jordan Cove has already submitted multiple Resource Reports to the FERC during their pre-filing process under FERC Docket No. PF17-4.  (www.ferc.gov)  Citizens should review these Resource Reports and work on compiling a list of all the issues they want the FERC to consider in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) they will soon be preparing.  The Natural Gas Act designates the FERC to be the lead agency over the approval of natural gas transmission pipelines and LNG terminals and designates the FERC to fulfill the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  The FERC final decision, however, cannot affect the rights of States under; (1) the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (16 U.S.C. 1451 et seq.); (2) the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.); or (3) the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.).

This proves that the local and state permitting processes are equally as important as the federal processes and citizens should be participating fully in all.

Pembina to buy Veresen

On May 1, 2017 we learned that the Pembina Pipeline Corp. of Canada has plans to buy Veresen Inc. for $5.8-billion in the fourth major takeover in Canada’s energy infrastructure sector in just over a year.  News reports indicated that Pembina will take on Veresen’s outstanding debt, bringing the deal’s total price tag to $9.7-billion.  The transaction’s closing is slated for the second half of this year after shareholder and regulatory approvals.

Pembina, known for its oil sands pipelines and natural gas liquids businesses, is offering a combination of cash and stock for Veresen, which has a stake in the Alliance gas pipeline to Chicago from Northeastern B.C. as well as gas processing plants.  Veresen is also the sole company behind the proposed Jordan Cove LNG project.

International LNG Glut

It is very hard to find a justification for the proposed Jordan Cove LNG project with the glut of LNG that is currently going on in the international market.  This is especially true when you consider all the construction that has begun on many terminals in recent years in Australia, Malaysia, Russia and the United States.  Seven new plants are due on-stream in Australia alone in the next two years.  According to an article published in the New York Times on May 1, 2017, supplies of liquefied gas shipped in tankers is expected to increase by nearly 50 percent over the next five years, while global gas demand is increasing by less than 2 percent a year.

By 2019, Russia’s Gazprom has plans to supply another 55bn cu feet of gas through the new Nordstream 2 line into a European market where demand is declining as renewables gain market share.  In addition, the Iranians join a queue of countries from Turkmenistan to Australia with gas waiting to be developed.  If that isn’t enough to convince you, a Canadian March 2017 British Columbia Government Factsheet list 19 liquefied natural gas (LNG) export proposals in British Columbia that are at various stages of development. These projects, all ahead of Jordan Cove, are in many cases on hold, waiting for the market to improve.

The State of Alaska’s proposal to build an 800-mile natural gas pipeline and LNG export facility was initially a partnership among the state, Exxon Mobil Corp., BP Alaska and ConocoPhillips Co. But late last year, the oil companies backed out of the endeavor, citing low gas prices and a glut of fuel on the world market.

Energy blogger Nick Butler reported in December that the problem was that demand was flat and in a number of key markets, including Japan, it was actually falling.  A number of buyers holding long-term contracts are reselling supplies leading inevitably to a further weakening of prices.

Butler goes on to say that with coal prices still falling and competing with gas in both the power and industrial sectors, especially in the developing world, it is hard to see anything other than a continuing price fall and an LNG glut for years to come.

A renewable energy future is a better option

While Coos County and Jordan Cove seem to stay stuck in an outdated past, the largest offshore Wind Project in the U.S. was recently given approval.  As reported by EcoWatch on May 12, 2017, the Public Service Commission (PSC) granted Skipjack Offshore Energy and U.S. Wind offshore wind renewable energy credits enabling them to move forward with their proposals to build 368 megawatts of offshore wind off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland and Delaware.  Approval of these projects is projected to create some 9,700 jobs.

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One Response to Energy Measure Banning Hydro and Wind Power is defeated in Coos County

  1. Ted Gleichman

    June 5, 2017 at 8:09 am

    This excellent article hits several of the key issues we are dealing with in fighting this terrible project. I especially appreciate all the solid detail on the international LNG glut and competitive picture.

    The fans of the Jordan Cove Energy Project fracked-gas export terminal and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline proposal consistently gloss over Veresen’s failure to show economic viability. Although they may still be able to get some binding contingency contracts for selling this theoretical gas (and FERC may weaken its standards), the fact that they have gone more than a decade without binding contracts shows how weak this project is.

    This great piece does a really nice job of laying out why. Success in selling LNG out of Coos Bay is nowhere close to a done deal. Thank you, Jody!
    Ted Gleichman, Oregon & National Sierra Club, and Center for Sustainable Economy – sustainable-economy.org