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Gas pipeline discussion goes public

By Paul Fattig
Mail Tribune

Open house planned on proposal for 36-inch line stretching from Coos Bay to Malin; plan now is to export

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An open house will be held Thursday in Medford to share information and discuss views about a proposed 36-inch diameter natural gas pipeline from Coos Bay to Malin.

Representatives from the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline project will give a project presentation and provide a panel question-and-answer session afterward, according to Michele Swaner, spokeswoman for Williams Pacific Connector Gas Operator, a Salt Lake City firm proposing the project along with Fort Chicago Energy Partners.

 

If you go
What: Open house to learn more about proposed Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline.
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Rogue Regency Inn, 2300 Biddle Road, Medford

Before the project presentation begins at 7 p.m., participants are invited to visit information stations and pick up materials on the project as well as meet project staff and discuss the proposal with them, she said.

The two-hour event begins at 6 p.m. It will be held in the Rogue Regency Inn, 2300 Biddle Road, Medford.

In addition, representatives of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will attend the open house to answer questions about the commission's regulatory role and the environmental review process.

The proposed pipeline would stretch from the proposed Jordan Cove LNG terminal near Coos Bay to Malin, where it would link to the Ruby Pipeline and draw on natural gas coming from Wyoming. The pipeline would go through Klamath, Jackson, Douglas and Coos counties.

In addition to crossing more than 100 miles of private property, along with state and county lands, the pipeline would go through some 30 miles of national forestland and 40 miles of U.S. Bureau of Land Management land. It also will cross under several rivers, including the Upper Rogue and the Klamath.

The FERC withdrew its 2009 authorization for the project in April after the backers announced they wanted to export the gas instead of importing it as originally planned. Vacating the authorization means the firms have to obtain a new FERC certificate as LNG exporters before moving forward, the commission said.

However, backers of the proposed pipeline say changing the flow of natural gas to its new east-to-west flow will have little impact on the pipeline or its route. The gas will be changed to a liquefied state for transport aboard tankers bound for Pacific Rim markets.

Project representatives insist the 3-foot-diameter, underground pipeline would be safe for the environment and landowners.

They indicated that concern expressed about a pipeline's potential use of eminent domain to obtain an easement across private property are overblown.

"It is important to point out here that while the right of eminent domain exists, it is not in Pacific Connector's best interest to use it, and it is a method that is used only sparingly and only in the most necessary circumstances," according to its current newsletter.

The pipeline has the potential to give regional natural gas customers better access to natural gas from domestic sources and Canada, it noted.

But opponents remain skeptical, citing safety, environmental and potential increased cost of domestic natural gas.

"There is a huge amount of profit to be had — there is a lot of money behind this," said Monica Vaughan, organizer for Rogue Riverkeeper, an arm of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, an environmental group based in Ashland.

"But it would be a poor energy decision for our country," she said.

She is also concerned the pressurized pipeline would cross more than 300 streams, including the Rogue and other rivers, threatening salmon habitat.

"This pipeline would impact people's lives, from their backyards to public lands," she said. "People have questions about safety, use of eminent domain, increased cost of gas and clearcuts."

The benefits of LNG export would go to foreign customers and project developers, leaving Oregonians to face environmental and cost impacts, said Gordon Feighner, senior utility analyst with Citizens' Utility Board of Oregon.

In February, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, introduced legislation aimed at protecting private property from the use of eminent domain in building a pipeline designed to export liquefied natural gas.

A complete application for the pipeline is expected to be filed with FERC by the end of the year. If approved, pipeline construction could begin during the first quarter of 2015.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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