Jordan Cove gets boost in Oregon vote
An Oregon county measure that sought to prevent construction of the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas plant was rejected in a landslide vote this week, with three of every four voters saying no.
What was billed as the Community Bill of Rights Providing for a Sustainable Energy Future was defeated by Coos County voters 13,093 to 4,156, or 76 to 24 percent.
“We’re really happy with the result,” said Jordan Cove spokesman Michael Hinrichs.
The plant, if approved and built, would allow for gas to be exported overseas and is expected to provide an outlet for gas produced in western Colorado.
Mary Geddry, an activist behind the measure, said while the outcome was disappointing, she thinks the measure did pretty well, considering the degree to which its backers were outspent by an opposition largely funded by the Jordan Cove project.
“It bought our democracy. It bought our election,” said Geddry, who vowed to be back at some point with a similar ballot measure.
State records show the measure’s backers received about $13,500 in contributions, and the opposition raised about $600,000 more than that. Hinrichs said the Jordan Cove project donated $567,500 of that amount. But he disputes the idea that democracy was obstructed, saying that even some opponents of Jordan Cove opposed the measure.
“It’s a very poorly written, broad measure that likely would have gotten struck down in the court,” he said.
The measure’s text covered five pages, and asserted concepts such as the right to a sustainable energy future, the right to scenic and recreational preservation, and the rights of natural communities and ecosystems to thrive. It didn’t mention Jordan Cove specifically but would have prevented the project through a prohibition against transportation of fossil fuels in the county except for consumption in the county.
Hinrichs said part of the reason for widespread opposition to the measure — including from all three county commissioners, as well as local mayors and members of city councils, business owners and the agricultural community — arose from the fact that it sought to supersede federal and state laws.
“It’s supposed to give rights, though undefined, to ecosystems. It opens up litigation for the county on a whole bunch of fronts,” he said.
Coos Bay Mayor Joe Benetti said the measure would have meant that a county that is short on funds would have had to spend money trying to defend the measure in court.
He said the measure would have sent the message that the county wasn’t open for business, affecting badly needed economic development, such as the ability of a power company to build a transmission line.
“It was going to try to shut down all kinds of fossil fuel entities, one being Jordan Cove,” he said.
Geddry said threats that the measure would be legally challenged had a chilling effect on democracy during the campaign. She remains convinced of the measure’s legality.
“We have the right to amend our government when it fails to protect us. It’s not new ground in that respect,” she said.
She said Jordan Cove would be a huge emitter of two greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, and would kill fishing, timber and tourism jobs.
She said it would result in Coos County “becoming the armpit of Oregon. It’s not going to be conducive to encouraging people to visit or spend money here or invest here.”
Benetti supports the Jordan Cove project, believing it would be a good partner to Coos Bay and bring a lot of jobs.
“It will help us develop economically and bring other business in besides themselves,” he said.
The Jordan Cove project was rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the Obama administration, but the developers are pursuing new consideration of it by FERC under a refiling process. That commission currently lacks a quorum and President Trump has the opportunity to fill a majority of commission seats. Gary Cohn, the chief economic adviser to Trump, recently said the Jordan Cove permit will be approved.
The project is being pursued by Canada-based Veresen Inc., which recently agreed to be bought by Canadian company Pembina Pipeline Corp. The companies say the larger, combined company will be better able to pursue such a large-scale project.