Japanese envoy visits Coos Bay backers

Commissioners from three northwest Colorado counties told a Japanese envoy Wednesday that local governments stand behind a proposal to build a pipeline and export terminal that would send Piceance Basin natural gas to markets worldwide.

Takeshi Soda, a special advisor to the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, met with Rio Blanco County Commissioner Shawn Bolton, Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese and Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson on Wednesday, as well as with economic-development and energy industry representatives.

Soda didn’t speak with reporters during a tour of the Grand Valley, but did tell the commissioners that the Piceance to the Pacific proposal, as it has become known, promises economic stability for northwest Colorado and for customers who will purchase natural gas from the region, Bolton said.

A Canadian company, Veresen Inc., is seeking to build the Jordan Cove project, which would ship liquefied natural gas from Coos Bay in Oregon to customers in Japan from natural gas suppliers in northwest Colorado.

One Japanese potenial customer, JERA, last year urged the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve the Jordan Cove project. The commission rejected the project last year and Veresen has reapplied for a permit to construct the export terminal and associated pipelines.

Just as northwest Colorado residents have become accustomed to the boom-and-bust cycle of the energy industry, potential customers are seeking a stable, reliable energy source from places other than the Middle East and Russia, and the United States is the steadiest of suppliers, Samson said.

A visit from a Japanese government official illustrated that Jordan Cove “is a big part of the bigger picture” of supplying natural gas to markets around the globe, Samson said.

Soda’s visit “allowed our western Colorado delegation the opportunity to highlight the rich resource we have in the Piceance Basin and the economic benefits of exporting LNG,” Kristi Pollard, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, said in an email. “The fact that Mr. Soda sought out our team to learn more solidified in my mind that western Colorado will play a profound role in the international energy portfolio.”

By visiting Grand Junction, Soda highlighted the strong relationship between the United States and Japan and the visit also “underscored the necessity of Colorado making energy interdependence between the two nations a high priority given Japan’s location in an increasingly uncertain region of the world,” David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said in an email.

The Jordan Cove project has gained support from both sides of the political aisle in Colorado and from both sides of the Continental Divide, Pugliese said, a message she hoped was clear to Soda.

“This is one of those rare projects where we are all pulling in the same direction,” Pugliese said.


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