21 State Attorneys General Sue Trump Administration Over New Water Rule

JULY 21, 2020 5:19 PM EDT
TIME

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — Attorneys general in 20 states and the District of Columbia sued the Trump administration on Tuesday, alleging that new federal rules undermine their ability to protect rivers, lakes and streams within their borders.

They say that new final rules issued last week by the Environmental Protection Agency alter a practice dating back more than 30 years giving state governments the authority to review, block or put conditions on federally permitted water projects.

President Donald Trump in April 2019 issued an executive order directing the change that critics said could make it harder for states to block pipelines and other projects over concerns that they could impair water quality.

“The Trump administration wants to clear the deck for fossil fuel infrastructure,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra alleged in announcing the legal action, the latest of dozens he has filed against the administration.

Becerra added: “By reducing the scope and time (for review), they make it very difficult for states to fully protect the rights that they have to protect the water that is in their boundaries.”

He said the water regulation changes will limit states’ reviews of natural gas and oil pipelines, hydroelectic projects, housing and commercial land development and wastewater treatment plants.

The EPA declined direct comment on pending legislation, but said in a statement that it acted because its water quality certification regulations were nearly 50 years old.

The revision “reflects the first comprehensive analysis of the text, structure and legislative history” of that portion of the Clean Water Act, the agency’s statement said.

“As a result, the agency’s final rule increases the transparency and efficiency of the … certification process in order to promote the timely review of infrastructure projects while continuing to ensure that Americans have clean water for drinking and recreation,” the EPA said.

The lawsuit led by California, New York and Washington state claims that the regulation changes violate the federal Clean Water Act and decades of legal decisions and administrative precedent. It was filed in federal court in San Francisco and alleges that the EPA did not follow proper procedures in changing the regulations.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement that the new final rule “unlawfully restricts the ability of states like Virginia to even review, let alone impose important conditions and environmental protections, on projects that could cause harm.”

The rule applies to all projects requiring federal approval that may result in polluting of waterways. States were required to certify that the projects satisfied state law and water quality standards.

Doug Obegi, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the rule “eviscerates” states’ ability to influence hundreds of projects each year.

He said that states might still be able to prohibit projects from polluting rivers, for example, but under the changes could no longer require minimum stream flows below federal dams and reservoirs “so we actually have a river.”

The changes are among several steps the Trump administration has taken to roll back the Clean Water Act, including ending federal protection in January for many of the nation’s millions of miles of streams, wetlands and arroyos and wetlands. That change narrowed the types of waterways that qualify for federal protection.

The other participating states in Tuesday’s lawsuit are Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Source: https://time.com/5869740/state-attorneys-general-sue-water/

Oregon Department of Agriculture Considers Permitting New Mega-Dairy, Easterday Farms, While Small Dairy Farmers Dump Milk

Emma Newton, enewton@fwwatch.org, (971)266-4557

Supply chain chaos caused by COVID-19 is making milk oversupply problems even worse, yet Oregon officials consider permitting new mega-dairy.

Salem, OR – Stand Up To Factory Farms, a broad coalition of environmental, food safety, family farming, and animal welfare organizations fighting to protect Oregon from mega-dairies, calls on Governor Brown and the Oregon Department of Agriculture to protect small dairy farmers during the COVID-19 outbreak and enact a mega-dairy moratorium on new and expanding dairies.

In response, the Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition issued the following statement:

“Today we call on Governor Brown to take swift action to protect Oregon’s small dairy farmers from the impact of COVID-19 by enacting a mega-dairy moratorium. Oregon’s small dairy farmers have struggled enough under mounting pressure from Oregon’s mega-dairies to get big or get out. Mega-dairies have been flooding the market with milk for years, contributing to Oregon losing more than a third of its licensed dairies since 1997 with an average of nine family dairy farms going out of business each month between 2002 and 2007.

Corporate consolidation of dairy processing and a shift towards mega-dairies and away from family farms have weakened our food system and resulted in an oversupply of milk. Small farmers, already struggling, are forced to dump milk while supply chain disruptions throw the market into further chaos, leaving farmers with no market while people lack food access. This is the worst possible time to add to the pressure on small farms by greenlighting more mega-dairies. We need to ensure that Oregon’s small dairy farmers are not further endangered by rebuilding our dairy market in a way that works for small farmers and is strong enough to withstand pressure from future crises. Oregon deserves a food system that prioritizes small farmers, produces healthy food for consumers, and protects our environment. Mega-dairies won’t get us there.

Yet Governor Brown and her Oregon Department of Agriculture are signaling that they will permit a new mega-dairy during this crisis. Easterday Farms would confine nearly 30,000 cows on the site of the disastrous Lost Valley Farm. Failing to learn from the Lost Valley debacle was bad enough. But allowing another mega-dairy in the midst of a crisis of low milk prices coupled with a crisis of supply chain disruptions from COVID-19 would simply be reckless. Governor Brown needs to prioritize protecting Oregon’s small dairy farmers now more than ever and immediately enact a moratorium on mega-dairies.”

Source: https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2020/05/13/oregon-department-agriculture-considers-permitting-new-mega-dairy-easterday

Radioactive waste in Oregon

OPINION

Radioactive waste in Oregon

Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer. He shares his opinion frequently in the Keizertimes.

Radon gas has become a concern since its presence in quantity was first detected and that’s because it can—and often does—result in cancers, sometimes fatal.

Radon’s origin is the decay of radioactive elements found in soil and rock. Radon gas presents itself in human areas through the air we breathe as well as underground and surface water. Radon gas naturally occurs throughout the world and has been commonly found in Oregon, including where we live, here in the mid-Willamette Valley.

Additionally, we now learn that Oilfield Waste Logistic of Culbertson, Mont., has delivered to Arlington, Oregon, illegally dumped disposal of radioactive fracking waste at a chemical landfill there. And to date, with possibly more on the way, they’ve been unloading their toxic brew by misrepresenting it to the depths of 2 million pounds of radioactive waste. The documentation submitted reads that such material cannot legally be disposed of in Oregon, say officials with the nuclear safety division at the Oregon Department of Energy.

However, according to reports on the violation, the landfill operator in Gilliam County, Chemical Waste Management, is not facing any consequences by penalty of fine or otherwise. The 2 million pounds of radioactive material from Bakken oil fields in Canada’s Manitoba and Saskatchewan provinces as well as Montana and North Dakota, includes highly contaminated filters, tank sludge and slurry from drilling pipes transported to Oregon aboard unmarked railcars over the last three years with the “door open” apparently for more to come without the imposition of consequences or immediate removal of what’s already been delivered.

The Chemical Waste people report that Oilfield Waste Logistics did not truthfully describe the waste shipped to Oregon along with the disturbing fact that Chemical Waste also did not send samples to an independent technical expert for analysis prior to accepting it. Chemical Waste says they’ll work with the Oregon Department of Energy which sounds like a-day-late-and-a-dollar-short scenario as wimpy and irresponsible as anyone could dream up and expect publicly acceptable.

Meanwhile, no one is being punished or forced by law or contractual obligation to correct what’s been done and those persons, apparently, who are twiddling their thumbs and generally ignoring this abomination, including Gov. Kate Brown and our legislators who are busy again fighting over carcinogenic emissions by a cap and trade law by which the Republican, once again, are threatening to walk out of the capitol and hide away like a collection of over-stimulated kindergarteners protecting their no-controls, benefactor-provided “candy” supply.

So this collection of toxins from the devil’s kitchen sits and rots, spewing its cancer-causing agents into Oregon’s air and ground/surface water throughout the state, including the Columbia River. Then, also, there’s the exposure to anyone living nearby, tourists, commercial transports on I-84, general commerce, the dams and recreation.

This huge dump of toxins and carcinogens is an example of the result of the removal of regulations by the current federal administration. Regulations for safeguarding the public are going away. Business and industry are free to pollute and expose to health and life-threatening conditions, the lives of our children, our workers and the general citizenry. An opportunity to end the recklessness now underway rests with the American people in early November, 2020.

Source: https://www.keizertimes.com/posts/1238/radioactive-waste-in-oregon

Bottled water war: Washington, other states seek to curtail firms in tapping local groundwater

OLYMPIA — Washington state, land of sprawling rainforests and glacier-fed rivers, might soon become the first in the nation to ban water bottling companies from tapping spring-fed sources.

The proposal is one of several efforts at the state and local level to fend off the fast-growing bottled water industry and protect local groundwater. Local activists throughout the country say bottling companies are taking their water virtually for free, depleting springs and aquifers, then packaging it in plastic bottles and shipping it elsewhere for sale.

“I was literally beyond shocked,” said Washington state Sen. Reuven Carlyle, who sponsored the bill to ban bottling companies from extracting groundwater.

“I was jolted to the core to realize the depth and breadth and magnitude of how they have lawyered up in these small towns to take advantage of water rights,” the Democrat said. “The fact that we have incredibly loose, if virtually nonexistent, policy guidelines around this is shocking and a categorical failure.”

Elsewhere, lawmakers in Michigan and Maine also have filed bills to restrict the bottling of groundwater or tax the industry. Local ballot measures have passed in Oregon and Montana to restrict the industry, although the zoning change in Montana’s Flathead County remains tied up in court.

“The Washington state bill is groundbreaking,” said Mary Grant, a water policy specialist with the environmental group Food & Water Watch. “As water scarcity is becoming a deeper crisis, you want to protect your local water supply so it goes for local purposes. (Bottled water) is not an industry that needs to exist.”

Although much of the controversy around the bottled water industry has concerned “bottled at the source” spring water sites, nearly two-thirds of the bottled water sold in the United States comes from municipal tap water, according to Food & Water Watch. The Washington state legislation would not keep companies from buying and reselling tap water.

Americans consumed nearly 14 billion gallons of bottled water in 2018, while sales reached $19 billion — more than doubling the industry’s size in 2004. The bottled water industry is expected to grow to more than $24 billion in the next three years, according to Beverage Industry magazine.

Industry leaders have opposed sweeping legislation that would cut off resources, pointing out the potential hit to local employment and the importance of bottled water in disaster relief.

“This legislation would prevent any community from having these jobs or having a project in their area,” said Brad Boswell, executive director of the Washington Beverage Association, who testified against the bill. “We think these issues are best dealt with on a project-by-project basis.”

The International Bottled Water Association defended the track record of its members in an emailed statement. The bill in Washington and other legislation to limit the industry “are based on the false premise that the bottled water industry is harming the environment,” wrote Jill Culora, the group’s vice president of communications.

“All IBWA members,” she wrote, “are good stewards of the environment. When a bottled water company decides to build a plant, it looks for a long-term, sustainable source of water and the ability to protect the land and environment around the source and bottling facility.”

Culora did not address specific examples of community claims that bottling companies have damaged their watersheds and aquifers.

When residents in Randle, Washington, learned of a proposed Crystal Geyser operation last year, some worried about a large industrial plant in their quiet, rural valley near Mount Rainier.

Many feared that the company’s plan to pump 400 gallons a minute from springs on the site would deplete the local aquifer and dry up their wells.

The worry turned to furor when a leaked email exposed the company’s plan to sue the nearby subdivision in response to neighbor opposition, then conduct an underground public relations campaign to gain support for the project.

“Pumping water out of the ground, putting it in plastic bottles and exporting it out of the state of Washington is not in the public interest,” said Craig Jasmer, a leader of the Lewis County Water Alliance, which organized to oppose the Randle plant and has pushed for the statewide ban.

Recent news increased the concerns: Last month, Crystal Geyser pleaded guilty to storing arsenic-contaminated wastewater at a California facility, and then illegally dumping the water into a sewer after being confronted by authorities. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2016, Crystal Geyser paid a timber company for access to a spring that had historically provided the water for the city of Weed, California, forcing the town to find a new water supply.

Local activists in California, Oregon, Michigan and Florida say they have been targeted by big bottlers that damage the environment and provide scant economic benefit.

Nestlé has drawn criticism for its bottling operation in California’s San Bernardino National Forest, which federal officials have concluded is “drying up” creeks.

″(The creeks) are visibly different where the water is extracted and where it’s not,” said Michael O’Heaney, executive director of the Story of Stuff Project, a California-based group that makes films about environmental issues.

During California’s drought, he said, “Nestlé wasn’t being asked to curtail its water (in)take at the same time as Californians were being asked to significantly reduce the amount of water they were using.”

Just across the Columbia River from Washington, the residents of Hood River County passed a ballot measure in 2016 to ban commercial water bottling after Nestlé announced plans to build a plant that would extract more than 100 million gallons a year.

Aurora del Val, who helped lead the campaign for the ballot measure, said Nestlé first made inroads with local officials, promising jobs for an area that had seen its economy suffer with the decline of the timber industry.

“This seemed like the golden ticket to having a boomtown again,” she said. “But the more educated people became, the more opposition there was in the town.”

In an emailed statement, Nestlé noted its contributions to state economies — one study showed it provided 900 jobs and had an economic impact of $250 million in Florida in 2018. The company also defended its environmental record, without addressing specific claims that its operations are damaging watersheds.

“We have a proven track record of successful long-term management of water resources in states where we operate,” Nestlé Waters North America spokesman Adam Gaber wrote. “It would make absolutely NO sense for Nestle Waters to invest millions of dollars into local operations just to deplete the natural resources on which our business relies.”

One of Nestlé’s projects is in Osceola Township, Michigan, where local officials are fighting the company’s plan to nearly double the groundwater it extracts from the area.

Locals say that nearby trout streams have turned into mud flats since Nestlé’s arrival, and jobs did not materialize when it chose to build its bottling plant miles away.

“Streams are flooding all over Michigan, except for Twin and Chippewa creeks, which are not,” said Peggy Case, president of the group Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation. “The city aquifer is down 14 feet now, and it’s not recharging. There are people with wells in the area that are starting to run dry. They no longer are as happy with Nestlé as they used to be.”

Even if the company’s operations had no environmental effect, Case said her group would still object.

“They are privatizing water,” she said, “and we are opposed to that.”

In a state where the Flint water crisis is still fresh in people’s minds, water resources are a charged issue, said state Rep. Yousef Rabhi, a Democrat. Rabhi is part of a group of lawmakers pushing a package of bills that would limit the bottled water industry.

Rabhi has filed a bill that would define water as a public trust, instead of a privately owned commodity. Another measure would prohibit shipping bottled water out of the Great Lakes watershed. A third bill would bolster the regulatory authority of the state Department of Natural Resources.

A representative for Absopure, a Michigan-based company that bottles spring water, did not respond to a request for comment. The Michigan Retailers Association said it was not taking a position on the bill, while the Michigan Soft Drink Association and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce did not respond to requests for comment.

In an emailed response, Nestlé said the Michigan bills unfairly “single out one industry, one type of water user, for such restrictions.” The company noted that water bottling accounts for less than 0.01 percent of water use in the state and said its Michigan operations employ 280 workers.

Opponents counter that the industry’s water use is wholly extractive, while other heavy users, such as agriculture, return much of the water they use to the watershed.

Carlyle’s bill in Washington has eight co-sponsors, all Democrats except for state Sen. John Braun, the Republican who represents the Randle community that battled Crystal Geyser. The bill moved through the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee. Backers are waiting to see whether it will be added to the Senate voting calendar.

Some lawmakers, however, have expressed misgivings about taking statewide action against a specific business.

This report is a product of Stateline, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Source: https://www.registerguard.com/news/20200218/bottled-water-war-washington-other-states-seek-to-curtail-firms-in-tapping-local-groundwater

Oregon senator predicts court battle over pipeline proposal

Feb. 4, 2020 at 3:56 p.m. PST

SALEM, Ore. — A state senator told demonstrators opposed to a plan to build a natural gas pipeline and marine export terminal in Oregon that he expects the battle to go to the courts if the Trump administration tries to ram the project through despite a lack of state permits.

Demonstrators gathered outside the Department of State Lands on Tuesday to thank its director, Vicki Walker, for refusing to grant another extension to Pembina, an energy company based in Calgary, Canada, for a decision on a removal-fill permit. The permit is required to dredge sediment out of Coos Bay, on Oregon’s southern coast, for the marine export terminal, and to construct a 230-mile (370-kilometer) feeder pipeline through and under waterways in southern Oregon.

Pembina reacted by withdrawing its application for the state permit. Another state agency, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, has already denied a water quality certification for the proposed Jordan Cove natural gas export project.

Jordan Cove said it is awaiting a final determination by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Feb. 13 before deciding how the company will proceed. The Trump administration in August proposed streamlining approval of gas pipelines and other energy projects by limiting states’ certification authorities under the U.S. Clean Water Act.

State Sen. Jeff Golden, a Democrat and former river guide in southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley, told the several dozen red-shirted demonstrators that he sees a court battle on the horizon.

“I think the evidence is very clear that the strategy now for this project is to wholly ignore Oregon and its requirements and to have the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approve it, and somehow have the courts rule that that Oregon law, that quite clearly can’t be preempted by the federal government, can be,” Golden said.

He spoke of a “legal fight that almost certainly is coming, to uphold the law of the land and tell the Trump administration you don’t get to cancel environmental safeguards all over this country on behalf of the fossil fuel industry.”

Supporters of the project, which would permit shipment of natural gas from the United States and Canada to Asia, said it would create local jobs. Opponents say it would ruin habitat and that the increased use of a fossil fuel would contribute to global warming.

Mike Washburn, whose property near Coos Bay lies on the path of the proposed pipeline, said he hopes Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, will intercede.

“I hope the governor will protect Oregon’s authority to stop Jordan Cove even if the federal government decides to try to change the rules,” Washburn told fellow demonstrators, who held signs depicting salmon, which environmentalists say are among fish species that would be hurt by the project.

On Nov. 21, demonstrators occupied the governor’s office, demanding that she speak out against the Jordan Cove project. Brown declined to do so, saying she did not want to interfere in state processes. But she shared a letter that she sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency opposing its attempts to remove the state’s authority in the permitting process.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, on Jan. 27 wrote to President Donald Trump, noting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had two vacancies. Wyden urged the president to appoint a full and bipartisan five-member commission before the agency rules on the Jordan Cove Energy Project.

He said failure to do so would mean any decision could be interpreted as lacking full, fair consideration and therefore being politically motivated.

Oregon to get $1.1M as part of EPA $2.2M drinking water program grant

SEATTLE — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $2.2 million grant for Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to help identify sources of lead in drinking water in schools and child-care facilities.

The funds are provided through EPA’s new drinking water grant program established by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act Voluntary Lead Testing in Schools and Child Care grant program.

“Ensuring access to clean drinking water and protecting children from exposure to lead are critically important to EPA,” EPA Region 10 Administrator Chris Hladick said Wednesday in a press release. “This funding will support our states’ efforts to keep children in schools and child care programs safe from the adverse health impacts of lead in drinking water.”

Alaska Department of Education and Early Development will use $111,000 to initiate a testing program for lead in drinking water at schools and child care facilities, prioritizing facilities serving children under 6-years old and in under-served and low-income populations.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality will use $285,000 to test for lead in drinking water, focused on facilities serving young children and in facilities that are older and more likely to contain lead plumbing.

The Oregon Department of Education will get $1.1 million to provide funding, training and technical assistance to schools and child care facilities to test for lead in drinking water. Under state laws enacted in 2017, all public schools and licensed child care facilities are required to test for lead in all water used for drinking or food preparation.

The Washington State Department of Health will use $723,000 to expand their program to conduct lead testing in child care facilities in addition to public schools. The state will test water fixtures used for drinking or cooking, prioritizing facilities serving children who are most vulnerable to lead exposure.

Source: https://www.registerguard.com/news/20200129/oregon-to-get-11m-as-part-of-epa-22m-drinking-water-program-grant

Bill would create task force to address groundwater nitrates in NE Oregon

SALEM — Oregon lawmakers will consider a bill during the upcoming legislative session aimed at curbing elevated levels of groundwater nitrates in the Lower Umatilla Basin.

State Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, recently introduced Senate Bill 1562, which calls for the Oregon Department of Agriculture to form a new task force that would review existing data and recommend solutions to the area’s decades-old groundwater problem.

The Lower Umatilla Basin in northeast Oregon is home to some of the state’s most productive farmland, with thousands of grazing cattle and vast fields of irrigated crops. But rising levels of groundwater nitrates could pose a public health threat if left unchecked.

Regulators declared the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area in 1990 to identify and mitigate sources of nitrogen contamination, including from agricultural operations.

Hansell, whose Senate district includes the 550-square-mile management area spanning  parts of Umatilla and Morrow counties, said his bill builds on work that is already being done in the basin. It allocates $250,000 to ODA for the inter-agency task force that would evaluate strategies for reducing groundwater nitrates.

“It will go directly to the Umatilla Basin,” Hansell said. “We’re not asking for a multi-groundwater study throughout the state.”

The task force would include representatives of ODA and the state Department of Environmental Quality, as well as two members of the local management area committee and three members at large — one of whom must be a farmer or rancher with experience irrigating and fertilizing cropland.

Hansell said the funding was originally proposed in ODA’s 2019-21 budget.

“There was no opposition to it, but it did not get funded,” Hansell said. “It was brought to my attention how important that would have been to the Umatilla Basin.”

Tests of groundwater wells show nitrates in parts of the management area exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “maximum contaminate level” of 10 milligrams per liter. Exposure to such high levels of nitrates and nitrites in food and drinking water may be linked to a condition called methemoglobinemia, or a decreased ability of blood to carry oxygen in the body, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

J.R. Cook, founder and director of the Northeast Oregon Water Association, said Hansell’s bill directs the task force to study groundwater connectivity in the basin, which in turn will lead to more targeted, site-specific solutions for reducing nitrates.

“There’s been a ton of work in the (management area) to identify each and every potential contributor and develop game plans for each of those nutrient loads,” Cook said. “But what we need to do is get into a task force and then break it out by aquifer, because what we can do to manage (nitrates) in one area isn’t going to be a fix for another area.”

The proposal comes as activists with eight groups and one individual filed a petition with the EPA on Jan. 16 requesting emergency action in the management area. Among other measures, the petition asks the federal government to ban any new confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, in the basin, such as the Easterday Farms Dairy near Boardman.

The petition was signed by Food and Water Watch, Friends of Family Farmers, WaterWatch of Oregon, Columbia Riverkeeper, Humane Voters Oregon, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity and Eileen Laramore, a resident of Hermiston.

Nitrate is found in most fertilizers and manure, which are frequently applied to cropland in the area. The activists’ petition claims CAFOs are a primary contributor to elevated groundwater nitrates.

Ten CAFOs are currently permitted in the basin with a combined 148,000 animals, according to the petition. Easterday Farms Dairy would add 28,300 cattle if approved by the state.

“Mega-dairies externalize their significant public health and environmental costs to the people of Oregon, and if our state legislators cannot protect Oregonians, we must enforce our federal laws to protect community drinking water,” said Amy van Saun, an attorney with the Center for Food Safety.

Critics, however, say the groups used generalized and cherry-picked data to target one specific industry.

While Cook acknowledges there are “hot spots” of elevated nitrates in the basin, he said there is no “smoking gun” that suggests dairies or farms are entirely to blame. Contamination comes from multiple sources, he said, including legacy pollution from past land uses dating back to the 1940s and 1950s.

“Some of these areas have shown significant improvement, if you localize the data under best management practices and voluntary measures,” Cook said.

The goal now should be fixing the problem, Cook said, not arguing over whose fault it is.

“If you get rid of CAFOs, the nitrate problem is not going to magically go away,” Cook said. “If you get rid of irrigated agriculture, it’s not going to magically go away.”

Jordan Cove withdrawal not the end

by Mail Tribune Editorial Board

The Canadian company behind the proposed Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas export terminal and Pacific Connector Pipeline apparently has decided it doesn’t need approval from the state of Oregon if a federal commission grants permission next month for the project to move ahead. We think that’s a mistake.

Pembina, the Calgary, Alberta-based energy company, abruptly withdrew its application to the Oregon Department of State Lands on Thursday, after DSL Director Vicki Walker denied the company’s request for another delay in the agency’s consideration of a removal-fill permit. DSL had already extended its deadline in September at the company’s request.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has jurisdiction over pipelines and other energy projects, is expected to make a final determination on the Jordan Cove project Feb. 13.

Pembina needs the state permit to dredge sediment from Coos Bay and construct the 230-mile pipeline through and under rivers and streams between Malin and the coast, including the Rogue River. The agency had been expected to deny the permit in a ruling expected Jan. 31.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality denied a water quality certification for the project last May, saying the department “does not have a reasonable assurance that the construction and authorization of the project will comply with applicable Oregon water quality standards.” DEQ left open the opportunity for the company to reapply. It still has not done so.

In August, President Donald Trump’s administration issued proposed rules limiting states’ authority to certify gas pipeline projects under the federal Clean Water Act. The administration has vocally supported the Jordan Cove project.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association earlier this month issued a final biological opinion saying the Jordan Cove project did not jeopardize protected species or modify critical habitat. That determination was made under streamlined rules implemented by the Trump administration.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the NOAA opinion would “pave the way for more American jobs and vastly expanded exports of domestically sourced liquefied natural gas to prized Asian markets.”

There is some question how much of the gas that would be exported through the Pacific Connector Pipeline would be domestic and how much would be Canadian. Federal regulators should pin down Pembina on that question, as well as require that the company prove it has signed contracts to purchase the exported gas. FERC denied an earlier version of the Jordan Cove project in 2016 because commissioners were not satisfied the project’s backers had demonstrated a public need that outweighed the pipeline’s impact on landowners.

Exporting Canadian gas would not provide much public benefit to Oregonians.

Pembina may be gambling that FERC will issue final approval next month and the company can then claim it does not need Oregon state permits to proceed with the project. State officials should vigorously oppose any such move in court if necessary. Meanwhile, many landowners along the pipeline route remain opposed to granting easements the company needs, and that could force Pembina to resort to eminent domain proceedings, which would delay the project even further.

The debate over the Jordan Cove project is far from over.

Source: https://mailtribune.com/opinion/letters-to-editor/jordan-cove-withdrawal-not-the-end

Facing denial, Jordan Cove LNG project withdraws application for key state permit

The backers of a controversial liquefied natural gas export terminal in Coos Bay withdrew their application for a key state permit Thursday rather than face denial after regulatorsrefused to extend their decision deadline and said the application was missing critical information.

The Jordan Cove Energy Project, owned by Calgary-based Pembina Pipeline Corp., had already applied for and received four extensions since filing an application with the Department of State Lands in November 2017. They sought a permit to remove material from the Coos Bay estuary and other bodies of water along the 230-mile route of the project’s feeder pipeline. The agency and company twice previously agreed to suspend the application.

The company said earlier this week that it was still submitting supporting material for other state permits and the Department of State Lands had requested that information be filed as part of its application for the removal-fill permit. It said it couldn’t submit that material in time for the agency to consider it and make a decision by its January 31 deadline.

According to a letter from Department of State Lands Directors Vicki Walker to Pembina earlier this month, however, the agency had been requesting other distinct information from the company for months.

State Lands spokeswoman Ali Ryan Hansen said the department was confident its request for additional information had been made both clearly and with sufficient time to respond. “The applicant was aware for a very long time of what we needed,” she said.

Jordan Cove can simply reapply for the permit when its ready and pay another $1,292 application fee. But Hansen said that would trigger an entirely new process, with a sufficiency review and a new public comment period. Last time around, the agency held five public meetings across the state attended by more than 2,000 people. It received some 49,000 comment on the application.

Jordan Cove said it would wait for a decision on its main federal permit for the project before deciding its path forward. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is slated to deliver its final environmental analysis of the project on Feb. 13.

Commissioners denied the project’s federal license in 2016, saying backers hadn’t demonstrated enough commercial support for the project to overcome the impact on landowners along the pipeline route. Pembina still doesn’t have signed purchase agreements with LNG buyers. But it does have a memorandum of understanding with Asian buyers and says it has reached easement agreements with 82% of landowners along the pipeline route.

Jordan Cove also needs permits from a variety of state agencies, including a water quality permit from the Department of Environmental Quality and a determination from the Department of Land Conservation and Development that the project is consistent with the state’s land use laws under the Coastal Zone Management Act.

Sen Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, sent out a news release Friday afternoon suggesting that Jordan Cove’s withdrawal of its application was part of a game plan to rely on the Trump Administration’s environmental deregulation to eventually win approval for the project. Part of Trump’s effort is to strip states of their authority to block energy infrastructure projects.

“This corporation has come to realize that their pipeline can’t come close to meeting Oregon’s environmental standards,” Golden said. “They believe their permit application has a better chance for approval if Oregon’s decision is delayed until after FERC makes its ruling.”

Ted Sickinger; tsickinger@oregonian.com

Soure: https://www.oregonlive.com/environment/2020/01/facing-denial-jordan-cove-lng-project-withdraws-application-for-key-state-permit.html

OREGON LAWMAKERS DIVIDED OVER EPA ROLLBACK OF WATER PROTECTIONS

Posted: Jan 23, 2020
KDRV.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two U.S. Congressmen representing parts of southern Oregon were quick to sound off Thursday following an announcement from the Trump administration that it would move ahead with rollbacks on Obama-era clean water protections.

Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the change on Thursday. During the Obama administration, the agency expanded protections of the “waters of the United States” (commonly referred to as WOTUS) to include smaller waterways within the purview of the Clean Water Act — broadening regulations to cover streams, wetlands, small lakes and rivers across the U.S.

The Trump administration said that this interpretation bred “confusion.” According to Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River), it enabled the EPA to potentially regulate waterways as trivial as drain ditches — causing uncertainty for ranchers and farmers.

“For years, farmers and ranchers across Oregon have expressed their concerns to me about the heavy-handed Obama-era definition of WOTUS,” said Walden. “They stressed that their intermittent stream or irrigation ditch would be subject to the burden of overreaching federal regulation.”

Walden’s office said that he was an early critic of the 2015 Obama-era ruling.

In a statement on Thursday, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) strongly disagreed, claiming that the rule change would gut the Clean Water Act and end protections for waterways that millions of people rely on for clean drinking water.

“This is an extraordinarily dark day for the waters of the United States of America, for our environment, for those 117 million Americans who depend upon it for their drinking water, an infinite amount of wildlife impacted, from migratory species to fisheries and others,” said DeFazio. “I am going to do everything I can, within the jurisdiction of my committee and the Clean Water Act, to stop this heinous action.”

The EPA says that the new interpretation, called the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” delivers on President Trump’s promise to protect the nation’s navigable waters from pollution while promoting economic growth across the country with a clear, “common-sense” approach.

“The EPA’s new definition of WOTUS will both protect our environment and our rural communities,” Walden said. “Today’s announcement is welcome news for rural Oregon. I applaud President Trump and his administration for listening to the concerns of America’s farmers and ranchers and delivering on the promise to revise WOTUS.”

According to the EPA, the new rule only enforces environmental regulations on four main categories of water: territorial seas and navigable waters, tributaries, certain lakes or ponds, and wetlands near other jurisdictional waters. It rules out regulations on any water formed by rainfall or groundwater, as well as ditches, prior croplands, watering ponds, and waste treatment systems.

“This is a tragedy and it’s going to leave tens of millions of Americans unable to trust their taps,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “This rule would provide the lowest level of clean water protection since the Clean Water Act was passed in the 70s. It’s absolutely staggering to think that at this time, when we still have millions of Americans that are suffering from dirty water that they can’t drink, that is unsafe, that we would repeal this level of basic protection for all Americans.”

In a draft commentary published in October, the EPA’s own Science Advisory Board came out in opposition to the proposed rule change, saying that it was “in conflict with established science  . . . and the objectives of the Clean Water Act.”

Source: https://www.kdrv.com/content/news/Oregon-lawmakers-divided-over-EPA-rollback-of-water-protections-567243451.html