Are you ready to review another Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)? You had better be because indications are that a Draft EIS for the Jordan Cove LNG Export terminal proposal will be released for public review sometime later this year.
As you recall, FERC provided us with a EIS a few years back covering the Jordan Cove LNG Import proposal, and used it as the basis for issuing a permit to allow construction to proceed. However, that decision was immediately challenged by the Oregon Attorney General and other organizations and individuals on the grounds that FERC failed to fully comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Rather than processing these challenges, FERC simply walked away and vacated the permit it had issued.
Now we are entering an entirely new EIS process for the export terminal.
The first Jordan Cove EIS was a gross and blatant attempt to evade or circumvent the specific procedural requirements of the NEPA. Logic would indicate that there were many lessons to be learned and that the second Jordan Cove EIS will be in full accord with the letter and intent of NEPA.
But, please don’t hold your breath.
Section 202 of the NEPA creates a Federal agency that is charged to “appraise programs and activities of the Federal Government” so as to ensure they meet the spirit and intent of the Act “so as to promote the improvement of the quality of the environment”. This agency is the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and it is placed within the Executive Office of the President.
NEPA requires that the Council be composed of three members “who shall be appointed by the President”, and, that the President designate one member to serve as Chairman. NEPA states that all members “shall be a person who, as a result of his training, experience, and attainments, is exceptionally well qualified to analyze and interpret environmental trends and information of all kinds….and be conscious of and responsive to the scientific, economic, social, esthetic, and cultural needs and interests of the Nation”.
CEQ has had a rather checkered career over the past 40 years. It probably reached its zenith under President Carter who boosted its staffing to include 80 scientists, lawyers, economists and other support staff. President Clinton took it to its lowest point. He reduced the staffing level down to 3 full-time employees and made an unsuccessful effort to disband the CEQ entirely. Let’s look at how things are currently under the Obama administration.
The Obama administration recently provided its FY 2014 Budget Submission to Congress. The section regarding the CEQ reads as follows: “Notwithstanding section 202 of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970, the Council shall consist of one member (emphasis provided) appointed by the President, serving as chairman and exercising all powers, functions, and duties of the Council”
The “one member” is Nancy Sutley. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and a Master of Science degree in Public Policy. So much for her “training, experience, and attainments” in environmental science. In addition, there are unconfirmed reports that she intends to resign her position by the end of February.
Therefore, since CEQ is ineffective and virtually non-existent, we can expect little help in forcing FERC to give us what we are entitled to under existing law. It will be up to us to participate fully in the formal NEPA-regulated commenting process that will follow the release of the Draft EIS. So, break out the midnight oil and the green eyeshades – it’s gonna be a long haul.