I most certainly agree with The World editorial of June 25, 2013 that the Jordan Cove LNG proposal “is a multi-faceted issue that raises questions far beyond economics”, and requires “a well thought out” planning strategy. Fortunately for all of us, existing Federal law and regulations explicitly state that we are legally entitled to exactly that type of planning process.
The National Environmental Policy Act, in place now for over 40 years, instructs all Federal agencies such as FERC to” insure that environmental amenities and values are given appropriate consideration in decisionmaking along with economic and technical considerations”. It requires all Federal agencies “to document how, specifically, environmental considerations were incorporated with economic and technical considerations in all plans and projects” by preparing a environmental impact statement (EIS) using a specified format. It specifically cautions all agencies that an EIS “will not be used to rationalize or justify decisions already made”, and it states that the EIS “must not be slanted to support the choice of the agency’s preferred alternative over other reasonable and feasible alternatives”.
The good news is a well thought-out planning process is already a Federal requirement. The bad news is extensive efforts have been made over time by political appointees heading the Federal agencies to circumvent and evade the requirements spelled out in NEPA. Two examples locally are the EIS prepared for the Jordan Cove import terminal and the BLM’s Western Oregon Plan Revision for the O&C timberlands. Both plans were eventually withdrawn because they were “legally indefensible” in that they blatantly violated the requirements of NEPA.
Current indications are that FERC will issue a Draft EIS for the Jordan Cove export terminal for public review and interaction sometime later this year. All citizens have standing to participate in the process and are expected to comment and make suggestions as to how to insure the planning process adequately maintains the social, economic, and environmental health of our area.
In order to facilitate this upcoming public interaction with the Federal planning process, I suggest The World prepare a series of articles explaining, in layman’s terms, the basic requirements of a valid EIS and the specific points in the process that are designed to accept public comments and suggestions.
We, as a community, can ill-afford to sit by while FERC makes yet another attempt to evade the spirit and intent of the National Environmental Policy Act.