Jordan Cove decision in limbo, energy adviser says

RIFLE — A research fellow at Stanford University and self-described conservative Republican said Thursday he’s perplexed by the delay by President Trump in nominating people to fill vacancies on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, so it can consider matters such as a proposed natural gas export terminal in Oregon.

Jeremy Carl, director of the Task Force on Energy Policy at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, spoke at the annual Energy & Environment Symposium presented by Garfield County and Colorado Mesa University’s Unconventional Energy Center. His focus was on the energy policy implications of the election of Donald Trump, who strongly supports fossil fuel development.

Natural gas producers in western Colorado believe the proposed Jordan Cove gas export terminal in Oregon could provide a long-term outlet for their product. But FERC last year rejected the terminal and associated pipeline project.

The Jordan Cove developer is pursuing FERC approval again through a new application process, arguing that it has addressed some of the agency’s concerns over a lack of overseas buyers for the liquefied natural gas that Jordan Cove would produce and the degree to which the pipeline project would have to obtain rights of way through eminent domain proceedings.

But currently FERC is unable to act on Jordan Cove or anything else because it lacks a quorum. It’s down to just two of a maximum five commissioners, and is about to lose one of those two, Carl said. He said the situation at FERC reflects the overall slowness of appointments being made by the Trump administration.

In the case of FERC, names of qualified possible candidates have been leaked to the press for months, but no nominations have been announced, Carl said.

“They can’t make rulings if they’re not even nominated,” he said. “… Why we’re not moving more aggressively here is a mystery to me.”

Trump has yet to nominate people to fill numerous other positions, including key energy-related jobs such director of the Bureau of Land Management. Carl called the delays “frustrating for us who would like to see responsible energy development.”

“We can’t have a policy if we don’t have personnel,” he said.

He doesn’t consider the slow pace of nominations laziness, but said it could reflect things such as the pool of candidates being narrowed due to outsiders having arrived in Washington with a desire to “drain the swamp.”

“But, you know, the swamp has a lot of useful little critters in it, too,” he said.

Carl also said the Trump administration could act as a “game-changer” locally by having federal agencies reconsider decisions regarding the White River National Forest that Carl says failed to account for sharply higher recent estimates of underlying gas reserves.

He was referring to the White River National Forest’s decision in late 2015 to make less than 10 percent of the forest eligible for potential oil and gas leasing, and a Bureau of Land Management’s associated actions in 2016 to cancel 25 leases in the Thompson Divide portion of the forest as a result of a retroactive environmental review. In June, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the Mancos shale in western Colorado’s Piceance Basin, which includes part of the White River National Forest, contains 66 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, the agency’s second-largest shale-gas estimate in the country. Carl said the recent agency decisions need to be revised to reflect such a “huge resource.”

“The feds have the power to revisit this and they should,” he said.


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