A liquefied natural gas terminal proposed for the Oregon coast to take natural gas produced in Western states to overseas markets was denied Monday by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, which relied on a state authority provision granted in the Clean Water Act that conservative lawmakers in Wyoming and President Donald Trump have criticized.
Section 401 of the act allows states to approve or reject projects according to how those projects may affect state waterways. Though at other times strongly in favor of state autonomy over projects within state boundaries, lawmakers like Sen. John Barrasso have argued that the provision is being used to block energy projects that should go forward. Trump recently signed an executive order forcing the Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite its guidance related to the controversial Clean Water Act provision, given that current guidance had created “confusion,” the order stated.
Wyoming lawmakers have been broadly critical of West Coast states' perception of energy projects that may benefit Wyoming's fossil fuel industries -- such as a proposed coal export terminal, which was denied a water quality permit by Washington state. Washington's Department of Ecology said the coal port would cause "irreparable and unavoidable harm."
Wyoming legislators recently considered avenues to sue Washington over the permit denial and the governor's office, under then-Gov. Matt Mead, added its voice to an existing suit against the state and governor for the water permit decision.
It was under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act that Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality rejected the Jordan Cove LNG terminal.
A representative from Jordan Cove requested Wyoming’s support in the development, which was provided via a letter to federal regulators last year under the Mead administration. The LNG project wasn’t directly targeting Wyoming gas, but it would have been a rising-tide-floats-all-boats boon nonetheless, experts said.
Oregon’s decision was criticized Tuesday by the Western States and Tribal Nations, formerly the Western States Rural Natural Gas Initiative, an advocacy group formed to support natural gas infrastructure development and liquefied natural gas terminals on the West Coast, including Jordan Cove.
“Decisions made on Jordan Cove in Oregon impact rural economies in western Colorado,” said Rose Pugliese, a county commissioner in Mesa County, Colorado. “For us, this is an issue of job creation and rural economic development.”