Opponents of a controversial natural gas pipeline through Southern Oregon are crying foul after Jordan Cove LNG removed shelves' worth of documents about the project from libraries in four counties along the route.
The company contends the documents were outdated and didn't reflect a new version of the project now under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Paul Addis, a reference librarian for the Coos Bay Public Library, said he is not taking sides about the merits of the project, but Jordan Cove LNG removed documents it was not authorized to take — including material from government regulatory agencies.
"In my position as reference librarian, I'm completely bipartisan and can't take sides. My job is to make public information available to my community. It is my job to serve Jordan Cove and the anti-LNG community. We represent all viewpoints," he said. "What I'm most upset about is the unprofessional way the materials were taken."
Addis said a female community affairs consultant for Jordan Cove LNG came to the library and said she wanted to take materials. He told her the majority of materials — which dated back for years — weren't submitted to the library by Jordan Cove LNG.
He said the company could have taken the materials it provided to the library. Federal agencies also can submit and later remove materials that become outdated.
Addis said he told the consultant to make an appointment and come back later so they could go through all the materials together and identify those submitted by Jordan Cove LNG.
Instead, he said, company representatives came back when he was not there and took all the documents they could find.
"I had left instructions they could remove the few materials they had sent us," Addis said. "They took everything."
Before-and-after photos taken at the Coos Bay library show more than 60 documents, mostly thick binders, missing from the shelves.
Addis said it's possible the library staff working at the reference desk misunderstood his instructions and let the company take everything.
The only materials left behind were those the company couldn't find. Addis said if the company had made an appointment as requested, he would have gone through those materials as well and let Jordan Cove LNG remove any it submitted.
Jordan Cove LNG spokesman Michael Hinrichs said material at the libraries in Coos, Jackson, Klamath and Douglas counties was obsolete.
"We did remove old project information since it's no longer relevant to the proposal," he said. "We got rid of old documents that could be completely confusing to the public."
Hinrichs said there are more than 50 pipeline route changes to accommodate landowner requests and take into account new geological data. Plans for an export facility on the coast north of Coos Bay also have been changed.
In 2016, FERC denied the 232-mile pipeline and export facility project, saying there was little evidence to support a need for the pipeline, and any public benefits were outweighed by negative impacts to hundreds of landowners along its route.
A new iteration of the Pacific Connector Pipeline and Jordan Cove LNG export terminal has since been proposed. The pipeline would now stretch for 235 miles, traveling through 162 miles of private property and 73 miles of Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Reclamation land.
FERC is accepting public comments through July 10.
Hannah Sohl, director of Rogue Climate and a pipeline opponent, said removal of old documents from the libraries makes it hard for people to see the similarities and differences between the old and new versions of the project.
"It creates another barrier for community members who want to get a good handle on the project," Sohl said.
Sohl said she heard library branches in Klamath Falls and Malin in Klamath County were able to hold on to most of their paper documents related to the project.
Pipeline opponents, the all-Republican Jackson County Board of Commissioners and U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats, have joined forces to ask FERC to hold a public comment meeting in Jackson County and extend the 30-day comment window.
FERC scheduled meetings in Coos, Klamath and Douglas counties, but not in Jackson County, where hundreds of opponents typically turn out for any pipeline meeting.
Hinrichs said Jordan Cove LNG doesn't oppose a public comment meeting in Jackson County.
"This is squarely on the shoulders of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission," he said. "We're watching what they do. Any response comes from them. We don't have a preference one way or another."
Hinrichs said FERC has held public input meetings in the past in Jackson County, and Jordan Cove LNG held an open house at the Medford library this spring to provide updated information about the pipeline and export facility proposal.
FERC's Division of Media Relations has said the three meetings in other counties are enough because the agency has limited resources and already is familiar with landowner concerns along the pipeline route. FERC said people can also submit comments online and by mail, instead of traveling to the meetings.
Hinrichs said Jordan Cove LNG doesn't have a stance on FERC's decision to have members of the public take numbers, then deliver their comments individually to a court reporter at the meetings in Coos, Klamath and Douglas counties.
Wyden and Merkley have urged FERC to hold meetings in a traditional open-meeting format.
The three scheduled meetings are from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 27, in the library and commons areas of Sunset Middle School, 245 S. Cammann St., Coos Bay; from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, in rooms 11 and 12 of Jackson Hall at Umpqua Community College, 1140 Umpqua College Road, Roseburg; and from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 29, in the Mount Bailey and Mount Thielsen rooms of the College Union Building at the Oregon Institute of Technology, 3201 Campus Drive, Klamath Falls.
Comments that include the docket number can be mailed to Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First St. N.E., Room 1A, Washington, D.C. 20426.