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DEQ issues a decision on Jordan Cove’s application for 401 Water Quality Certification

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LNG Industry,

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has released a statement issuing its decision on Jordan Cove’s application for a Section 401 Water Quality Certification. The certification is required for the US Army Corps of Engineers to issue permits for the project.

DEQ has decided to deny the requested certification at this time, but claims that its action is being made ‘without prejudice’. In short, this means that the applicant may reapply for the certification, and submit additional information that could lead to a different decision.

If Jordan Cove resubmits an application along with information addressing DEQ’s concerns, DEQ claims that it will work to keep the timing of its review in line with the overall federal schedule for the project. However, DEQ claims that this will depend on the applicant submitting the requested information in a timely manner.

In the statement, DEQ claims that it had initially expected to make its decision on certification in September 2019. However, it has sped up the schedule and is making a decision now in order to ensure that Oregon’s authority to review the water quality impacts of the proposed project is not unintentionally waived. The US Army Corps of Engineers initially instructed DEQ to complete its review by 7 May 2019. However, in Autumn last year, the US Army Corps of Engineers extended that date to 24 September this year following the applicant’s withdrawal and resubmittal of its application. Recent federal court and agency decisions have raised important questions about whether this extension was valid. As a result, DEQ claims that it is making a decision by the date initially provided by the Corps – 7 May 2019.

According to the statement, DEQ has decided to deny the requested water quality certification at this time because there is not enough information that demonstrates compliance with water quality standards, and because the available information shows that some standards are more likely than not to be violated. Through additional analysis, and potentially through project changes and mitigation, the applicant may be able to demonstrate that the standards for certification will be met, but the current record does not allow DEQ to reach that conclusion today.

DEQ’s specific concerns, among others, include the following:

  • Expected impact of the construction and operation of the proposed pipeline and associated road and work areas on water temperature and sediment in streams and wetlands.
  • The risk of release of drilling materials from the construction of the proposed crossing of the Coos Bay estuary.

According to the statement, DEQ requested further information from Jordan Cove in September 2018, December 2018 and March 2019 relevant to the project’s impact on water quality. Jordan Cove has reportedly provided some, but not all, of the information that was requested.

The proposed project calls for a LNG export facility in Coos Bay. It would include a 229 mile, 36 in. diameter pipeline from Malin in Klamath County to the facility in Coos Bay. Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, DEQ has the authority to certify whether federally permitted activities that may result in a discharge to state waters comply with applicable water quality standards.

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