Things with Feathers: Fewer fossil fuel projects; more birds
In good news for climate and other environmental concerns, the fossil fuel industry has been having a tough time getting projects permitted:
The company behind a proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal at the mouth of the Columbia River has abandoned the project, marking the death of Oregon’s second such project in a matter of weeks.
…The news comes weeks after a city hearings officer rejected key permits for the project and after years of fervent opposition both locally and statewide. Concerns over the project’s potential to harm Warrenton’s fishing industry and environment had sparked protests at local meetings on the project and attracted attention from conservation groups.
…The project encountered another roadblock this spring, when a city hearings officer denied land use applications after finding the terminal could harm habitat for protected salmon and affect public fishing access.
The “second such project” referenced is the Jordan Cove LNG terminal, which had its plans rejected by federal regulators, who said “applicants had not demonstrated any need for the facility.”
Regulators said they were required to balance the need for any project against any adverse impacts it would have on landowners or the environment. The need for Jordan Cove was based entirely on demand for natural gas from customers in Asia, and with those markets in upheaval, Jordan Cove’s backers have yet to demonstrate that the demand exists.
…Meanwhile, the companies had been unable to negotiate easements with more than 90 percent of 630 landowners along the 232-mile pipeline route, and would have required the widespread use of eminent domain to secure the necessary rights of way. The commissioners noted the landowners’ concerns with land devaluation, loss of revenue and harm to business operations, including timber, agriculture and oyster harvesting.
This project has been opposed since 2004.
Very recently, up in Washington, the Cherry Point coal export terminal’s permit has been rejected by the US Army Corps of Engineers; this permit rejection probably means the end of the project entirely. The decision is noteworthy because it came not from an environmental impact assessment, but because of the terminal’s projected impact on the Lummi Nation’s treaty rights.
The Corps ruled the project would impact the treaty-protected fishing rights of Lummi Nation based on the fact that the proposed trestle and associated wharf would take up 144 acres over water.
“The Corps may not permit a project that abrogates treaty rights,” said Col. John Buck, commander of the Corps’ Seattle District.
This doesn’t fall under “permit denied,” but it’s too good to omit. Royal Dutch Shell has relinquished all its leases in the Chukchi Sea except one (for the site it drilled an exploratory well last year), and is reevaluating its leases in the Beaufort Sea.
After Shell announced it was suspending exploration, the Interior Department said it would not extend Shell leases when they expired in 2020. Shell initially said lease terms should be extended. By relinquishing the leases, the company avoids millions in annual payments.
A drilling opponent, Oceana, filed a freedom of information request and learned leases had been formally relinquished by Shell, ConocoPhillips, Eni and Iona Energy. The environmental group announced its findings Monday night and applauded the decision.
“Hopefully, today marks the end of the ecologically and economically risky push to drill in the Arctic Ocean,” said Mike LeVine, an attorney with the group.
Moving on to another hemisphere and topic, in cute bird news, the kakapo population in New Zealand had a particular good year in the baby department, with a 36 new babies surviving breeding season, bringing the total population of this critically endangered species up to 125, and providing some of the cutest parent-and-baby pictures on the internet.
“It’s the most successful breeding season since we started in 1995 and I think that’s cause for international celebration,” Conservation Minister Maggie Barry told AFP.