My View: Merkley's LNG criticism is off-base
Sen. Jeff "Mercury" Merkley is wrong about Jordan Cove.
Coal pollution sickens and kills thousands of folks in Asia every year. It's so severe that we are even breathing some of Asia's toxic pollution, including airborne mercury, right here in Oregon.
Asian countries like China and India are intently seeking alternative fuels to reduce their air pollution. Oregon could play a part in cleaning up Asia's air by allowing shipments of cleaner-burning liquefied natural gas to Asia, from the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal in Coos Bay.
But Merkley, D-Oregon, has publicly opposed the operation of the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal. He claims that Jordan Cove would be the "biggest" greenhouse gas emitter in the state, and that natural gas pollutes as much as coal.
I was one of the first people in the United States to testify against the air pollution from an LNG export terminal. In 2011, I spoke at a hearing in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, against the Cheniere LNG export facility, and assisted in preparing a 32-page critique of that plant's air permit. So I know a little about this topic.
I opposed the Cheniere proposal. But I do support operation of Jordan Cove as a clean and efficient proposal.
Merkley's criticism of Jordan Cove is simply wrong.
Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality and Energy Facility Siting Council approvals show Jordan Cove is not the largest polluter of anything in Oregon. There are about a half-dozen existing power plants in Oregon with higher than, or comparable, greenhouse gas emissions to Jordan Cove.
Jordan Cove always was a cleaner-operating facility, with air emissions that were only half the proposed air pollution from the comparable Cheniere plant in Louisiana. Jordan Cove's latest application cut its air pollution even more. Maybe Merkley didn't read that revised application. At any rate, he is mistaken to call Jordan Cove the "largest" polluter in the state.
Merkley is ever farther off base when he asserts that natural gas produces as much greenhouse gas pollution as coal. The Congressional Research Service, among others, carefully studied the "life-cycle" of gas vs. coal, and reviewed these emissions from wellhead and mine to smokestack. The research service report concluded that even given "worst-case" leakages during natural gas production, natural gas was still far cleaner than coal and much better for our air quality. (See the report at https://tinyurl.com/y9mmwrxn)
Yet Merkley's worst error is ignoring the massive emissions of air pollution from Asian coal combustion. Those emissions are so vast that Oregonians are breathing in toxic mercury that was emitted thousands of miles away.
Coal emits nearly 10 times as much pollution as natural gas. Operation of the Jordan Cove plant could replace as many as six coal-fired power plants in Asia with cleaner-burning gas-fired plants. That would reduce air pollution by as much as 42,000 tons per year, and eliminate highly toxic mercury emissions. That would save lives and reduce human suffering in Asia and in the Pacific Northwest.
If Merkley opposes these reductions, then he owns the Asian air pollution that will continue. I'm just going to call him Sen. "Mercury" from now on, as a reminder of the mercury air pollution he'll allow from continued coal combustion.