Op-ED: Senator Merkley’s Opposition to the Jordan Cove Energy Project is an Opposition to the Economic Vitality of Oregon’s South Coast

*In response to http://bit.ly/2zhBd01* 

Rural Oregon has struggled economically since the fall of the timber industry.  As the Chief Executive Officer for the International Port of Coos Bay, I am disillusioned by Senator Merkley’s opposition to the Jordan Cove Energy Project. His rejection of the significant jobs Jordan Cove would create to lift-up struggling families in Southwestern Oregon is disappointing.

The Jordan Cove Energy Project will provide unprecedented investments in a rural, and long economically depressed, region of Oregon. It will provide the economic resurgence the South Coast and Southern Oregon have sought for more than 40 years, and will set the stage for future economic prosperity through the creation of jobs, infrastructure, and investments in the community.

This project has significant positive implications for the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay.  Our current tonnage volumes coming in and out of the Port through the federal navigation channel average approximately 1.6 million tons per year.  The Jordan Cove Energy Project, by itself, will dramatically increase annual volumes by nearly 500%, positioning the port extremely close to the volume required to be designated as a ‘high use port’ by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  This designation would ensure access to funding from the Corps for the maintenance of jetties, as well as maintenance dredging to keep our navigational channel clear for large commercial vessels. This would improve safety for all port users, including commercial fishermen. Furthermore, the presence of the Jordan Cove LNG terminal in the Coos Bay harbor will make our Port an energy port, opening additional opportunities for investment in the region. 

After passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act in 2016, Senator Merkley said: “Water infrastructure is absolutely essential to our health and economy alike.” We at the Port could not agree more.  The Jordan Cove project will make investments in infrastructure on the North Spit that will allow our economy and our Port to make a quantum leap ahead, laying the foundation for future investments in our Port.  Senator Merkley has spoken for years about the importance of championing Oregon’s ports, and making investments in our infrastructure that help create middle class jobs.  He has stated that funding for dredging in small coastal communities in Oregon is crucial to the economy.  His opposition to this project is a direct opposition to the economic vitality of Oregon’s south coast. 

The Jordan Cove project team has been engaged with numerous entities and individuals in Southwestern Oregon for more than a decade.  Through partnership with the local community, Jordan Cove will voluntarily pay roughly $500 million into the Community Enhancement Plan, an entity that would support local education, public safety, waterfront investments, and taxing districts in Coos, Southern Douglas and Northern Curry counties.  Investments of this size are unheard of in our region and crucial for our redevelopment and future success.

North America has huge reserves of natural gas and countries across the world want to buy it. Asian countries want to use more natural gas to meet their goals for complying with the Paris Climate accord and rightly see it as a responsible way to phase out the use of coal and fuel oil for generating electricity. They are deploying renewable energy as fast as they can and they have even greater incentive as they have to import fossil fuels. But until renewable energy is available on demand regardless of the time of day or weather, natural gas will be needed.

Investments in LNG terminals and pipelines, like the Jordan Cove Energy Project, are going in to happen in the United States, to meet market needs overseas. The project can happen here, or it can happen somewhere else.  Here in Coos Bay, this project will propel us up and forward toward prosperity after a 40-year economic depression.  If it happens somewhere else, we will remain exactly where we are, with pervasive poverty, under-funded schools and local governments, and a blighted and underutilized waterfront with deep-water access.  Senator Merkley’s position against Jordan Cove shows absolute disregard for his rural constituents trying to effect change for themselves.


John Burns, Chief Executive Officer

Oregon International Port of Coos Bay