The Conservation Column
By Juliet Grable
This month we’ve decided to update RVAS on two ongoing conservation issues: the fate of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument expansion and the status of the Jordan Cove Energy Project.
Federal Ruling Upholds Monument Expansion
We recently received some great news about the CSNM. But first, a little background. In 2017, near the end of his term, President Obama expanded the CSNM by 48,000 acres using the executive authority granted in the 1907 Antiquities Act. About 40,000 of these acres were designated Oregon and California Railroad Revested Lands, aka “O&C Lands.” Timber companies argue that President Obama did not have the authority to include O&C Lands because they were designated for timber production. However, a federal judge has rejected that argument in the case of Murphy Company v. Trump.
Here’s an excerpt from a press release published jointly by the defendant-intervenors in the case:
In a win for a national monument stretching from Southwest Oregon into Northern California, a federal judge rejected a logging company’s challenge to President Obama’s expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in 2017. The monument was first protected in 2000 under the Antiquities Act as an ecological wonder, known for its incredible diversity of species. Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center represent Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Oregon Wild, and The Wilderness Society as defendant-intervenors in the case.
“Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is one of America’s natural wonders, not a collection of standing logs for a timber company,” said Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice attorney. “We’re grateful that the Court rejected Murphy Timber’s arguments and that this incredible monument will remain protected for all of us.”
Oregon logging company Murphy Timber brought one of three lawsuits against President Obama’s expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou, arguing that a 1937 law known as the Oregon and California Lands (O&C) Act committed some 40,000 acres of the expansion to commercial timber production, making those lands ineligible for inclusion in a monument. Local conservation organizations intervened to defend the monument. The judge ruled that there was no dispute that President Obama acted within his authority when expanding the national monument and that there was no irreconcilable conflict between the Antiquities Act and the O&C Act.
“The Court saw through the confusion timber plaintiffs sought to create,” said Susan Jane Brown, attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “The O&C Act’s principle of sustained yield ensures that the forest is managed in perpetuity – it does not conflict with the Antiquities Act.”
“The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is a great gift to present and future generations,” said Dave Willis, Soda Mountain Wilderness Council chair and long-time Monument-area advocate. “We’re very glad this Court saw fit to not let the logging company take any of this gift away.”
“The lands included in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, all of them, are owned by the public and managed on the behalf of the public,” said Sean Stevens, executive director of Oregon Wild. “The logging industry is not entitled to come in and trash them for profit, especially when there are other much greater values at stake.”
In 1937, Congress sought to put an end to wasteful and destructive logging practices that clear-cut large forested areas for short-term gain. The Oregon and California Lands Act instituted a conservation ethic on former railroad lands. The court ruling today confirmed that the law does not conflict with the 1906 Antiquities Act under which presidents are granted the authority by Congress to designate national monuments on federal lands and waters.
Two similar lawsuits are pending in federal district court in Washington, D.C. One was filed by Portland-based American Forest Resource Council and the other from the Association of O&C Counties. We’ll keep RVAS informed as these lawsuits proceed.
Jordan Cove DEIS Released
Now for an update on the Jordan Cove Energy Project. On March 29, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released the long awaited Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal and associated Pacific Connector Pipeline proposed for southwest Oregon. The 1,120-page document can be viewed and downloaded at
FERC will be accepting public comments on the DEIS until July 5, 2019. In addition, public hearings will be held in the four affected counties in June. It’s critical that all concerned individuals and organizations participate in this public process. RVAS will be sending comments to FERC, but we urge you to write your own as well. Rogue Climate is an excellent source for information; the group has also been hosting comment-writing workshops. Check their website (www.rogueclimate.org) or their Facebook page for updates.
Here is an excerpt from the FERC’s statement regarding the DEIS:
We conclude that constructing and operating the Project would result in temporary, long-term, and permanent impacts on the environment. Many of these impacts would not be significant or would be reduced to less than significant levels with the implementation of proposed and/or recommended impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures. However, some of these impacts would be adverse and significant. Specifically, we conclude that constructing the Project would temporarily but significantly impact housing in Coos Bay and that constructing and operating the Project would permanently and significantly impact the visual character of Coos Bay. Furthermore, constructing and operating the Project is likely to adversely affect 13 federally-listed threatened and endangered species including the marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl, and coho salmon.
Meanwhile, the Oregon Department of State Lands completed its review of an estimated 57,000 comments on Jordan Cove’s removal-fill permit application. The permit is required by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and covers the three main elements of the project: 1) the liquefied natural gas (LNG) slip and access channel; 2) the LNG terminal; and 3) the natural gas pipeline. The DSL has determined that it needs more information to make an informed decision about the permit and so has extended the decision deadline to September 20, 2019. This would not have happened were it not for the quantity and quality of public comments.
Here is an excerpt from the DSL website on the process:
Due to robust participation in the review and comment period for the Jordan Cove removal-fill permit application, additional time is needed for these remaining steps:
Current Step: Final Technical Review. This step includes:
• DSL Review of Comments. Approximately 49,000 to 57,000 comments were received. DSL has reviewed all comments and requested that the applicant address substantive issues relevant to the removal-fill law. DSL letter requesting additional information from the applicant
• Applicant Response. The final technical review step also includes time for the applicant to address relevant comments and other issues identified by DSL. These may addressed by the applicant in written response, through project revisions, providing additional information, or other action as appropriate. All comments are also provided to the applicant, and the applicant is asked to respond.
Final Step: Permit Decision. DSL evaluates the entire application record against the criteria for permit issuance and makes a decision to either approve or deny the permit application. The extension also allows DSL the time necessary to thoroughly evaluate the record and make a decision.
We will keep our membership informed of important dates and developments.