Garfield County reaffirms support for Oregon natural gas pipeline project

A 2016 map shows the natural gas potential in the Mancos formation of northwestern Colorado's Piceance Basin.

Garfield County commissioners hope a natural gas project in Oregon will boost the Western Slope’s economy.

The commissioners signed a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Monday urging them to move quickly to approve the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, which would prepare gas in Oregon for export.

Their support also extends to the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline project, a 235-mile proposed route across Oregon that would serve the facility.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky also testified at a FERC commission meeting in Oregon on June 27, essentially stating the messages of the letter.

“We better approve this, because I just testified on behalf of the board,” Jankovsky joked before the vote on the letter.

The letter “covers the points we need to emphasize. It shows, as we have had from day one, our support for this project,” Commissioner Mike Samson said.

The letter points out that Garfield County has not fully recovered from the Great Recession, and the boom and bust cycle has not been kind to the county.

The county has dropped from 21 drilling rigs and total production of 703 billion cubic feet of natural gas annually in 2012 to only four rigs and 481 cubic feet of production today.

“These projects are important to Garfield County and Northwest Colorado,” the letter said.

Garfield County, the letter notes, sits over the Piceance Basin, one of the largest shale basins in North America.

The basin is “a massive natural gas resource and there are significant local, regional and national economic and societal benefits that could result from developing this gas and taking it to markets around the world,” the letter said.

The letter “talks about the ability to stand up a long term, more stable drilling program for the Western Slope and particularly the Piceance Basin,” said Fred Jarman, deputy county manager.

It also “highlights that we have a very robust pipeline system that has the capacity to get gas out,” Jarman said.

The project, located on Coos Bay, Oregon, has raised concerns about the environmental and local impacts of the project.

According to the federal Environmental Impact Statement for the project, the pipeline and LNG facility would affect more than 350,000 acres of streams and watersheds, but would not “significantly affect” surface water or wetlands.

Jordan Cove intends to export more than 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, contributing to a lot of carbon-based fuels.

The finished plant “would also result in a permanent significant cumulative impact on the visual character of Coos Bay,” the EIS said.

The letter was also sent to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and the state’s representatives to the U.S. Senate and Congress.

FERC plans to close public comment on the EIS July 5 and begin considering the report.

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