Jordan Cove next in line for federal consideration

Published in The Daily Astorian

COOS BAY — The Jordan Cove Energy Project is nudging the Bay Area toward preparation, since the LNG export terminal is approaching a major federal milestone.

Jordan Cove public affairs director Michael Hinrichs repeated himself throughout the Oregon Employer Council South Coast’s meeting Tuesday morning, emphasizing communitywide planning every time.

“If you prepare and it doesn’t happen, that’s unfortunate,” he said. “But if we do occur and you don’t prepare I can easily see the community getting steamrolled and I don’t want that to happen.”

A draft environmental impact statement is expected from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission sometime next month. This announcement would fall in line with FERC’s recent LNG (liquefied natural gas) decisions.

FERC has approved one final EIS every month since February. Cameron LNG in Hackberry, La., just got FERC’s final go-ahead June 19. Three days earlier, the Freeport LNG expansion in Freeport, Texas, received its final EIS, and three days before that, Cheniere-Corpus Christi LNG in Corpus Christi, Texas, received its draft EIS.

FERC will meet again July 17.

LNG export permit approvals have sped up in recent months, with politicians and economists blasting an approval process clogged with red tape. They say it’s slowing the nation’s ability to be a major player in an expanding natural gas industry.

“The United States has the capability and ingenuity to produce at even greater levels and to reap even greater economic benefit,” wrote Margo Thorning, American Council for Capital Formation senior vice president and chief economist,on the ACCF website last month. “But until energy and trade policies in Washington are revised to reflect the new energy reality and our new role as a global leader, we risk leaving much on the table.”

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on HR 6, a bill that would fast-track LNG export permit approvals.

For now, 90 days of public comment — including public hearings during the first 30 days in Coos, Douglas, Jackson and Klamath counties — follow a draft EIS. While this isn’t the last chance the public has to be heard, Hinrichs urged people on any side of the issue to attend the hearings.

FERC only circulates the final EIS, rather than holding additional public hearings. Hinrichs expects a final EIS to appear around five months after public comment is received.

That means construction wouldn’t begin until second quarter 2015, a few months later than Jordan Cove originally anticipated.

“That’s a year from now,” he said. “That’s a big shift to go from a theoretical idea to breaking ground on a nearly $8 billion project.”

Veresen Inc., Jordan Cove’s parent company based in Calgary, Alberta, needs to secure financing through banks and equity partners. No bank would gamble on a project of this magnitude now without seeing permit approval and established contracts with LNG customers, he said.

If Jordan Cove gets the go-ahead, it will be the first LNG export terminal on the West Coast of the continental U.S. and the closest to Asian markets.

“Three years ago we were trying to chase down customers,” he said. “Now they’re lining up. This is strategically viable for them.”

The finish line, if and when Jordan Cove receives its permits, financing, equity partners and customer contracts, is Veresen’s Final Investment Decision. That decision won’t happen until “a few weeks before we break ground,” Hinrichs said.

“When the Veresen board says go, it won’t be a soft go,” he said. “They will start spending hundreds of millions of dollars immediately. Yes, there will be a groundbreaking ceremony and that’s nice, but an hour later, once those gold shovels are gone — the big machinery will come in, start working, and it won’t stop for four years.”

Editor’s note: Jordan Cove would be the first LNG export terminal on the United States’ West Coast. Currently, there are three other proposed LNG export terminals in British Columbia and 10 potential LNG export terminals in Nova Scotia and British Columbia.