Posts Tagged ‘Coos Bay’

Mar21

Forests, Fracking and LNG: Francis Defending People and Places

francis

 
 
Francis Eatherington, Cascadia Wildands' Conservation Director was recently interviewed on a broad range topics relating to Oregon's precious coastal forests and the problems with allowing liquefied natural gas exports through Coos Bay. Please listen to what she has to say in this engaging and thoughtful interview.    Click here to listen to the radio interview.
 
 
 
 
 

Feb24

BLM Announces More Meetings on Resource Management Plan Revision

trapper

The Bureau of Land Management will be holding a series of public meetings to discuss potential changes to the Resource Management Plans for BLM forest lands in Western Oregon. These important meeting are billed as opportunities for the public to provide input about their desires and provide feedback on proposal elements.  Please find your city below and mark your calendars.  
Date
Location
City
Time
March 3, 2014
PSU Native American Center, 710 Jackson
Portland
5:00 to 8:30 p.m.
March 5, 2014
BLM Eugene District Office, 3106 Pierce Pkwy
Springfield 
5:00 to 8:30 p.m.
March 6, 2014
Croison Room Salem Convention Center, 200 Commercial Street S
Salem
5:00 to 8:30 p.m.
March 10, 2014
Floral building at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, 2110 SW Frear Street
Roseburg
5:00 to 8:30 p.m.
March 11, 2014
Red Lion Hotel Ballroom, 1313 N. Bayshore Drive
Coos Bay 
5:00 to 8:30 p.m.
March 12, 2014
BLM District Office, 3040 Biddle Road
Medford 
5:00 to 8:30 p.m.
March 13, 2014
Shilo Inn, 2500 Almond Street
Klamath Falls
5:00 to 8:30 p.m.  

 

May29

Natural Gas Export Plan Unites Oregon Landowners Against It

Jeff Brady NPR
May 29, 2013

 
A radical shift in the world energy picture is raising environmental concerns in the United States.
 
Until recently, the U.S. had been expected to import more natural gas. But now, because of controversial technologies like "fracking," drillers are producing a lot more domestic natural gas; so much that prices are down, along with industry profits. And drillers are looking overseas for new customers.
 
Whether the United States should export some of its newly abundant supplies of natural gas is a controversial issue before the Department of Energy. About two-dozen applications have been submitted to the agency for exports to countries that don't have free-trade agreements with the U.S.
 
Environmentalists are concerned that exporting gas will lead to more drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." Some chemical companies have argued against approving all of the export proposals; they want plenty of cheap natural gas here in the U.S. to fuel manufacturing. And, individually, some of the export proposals have proven controversial in the communities where companies want to build them.
 
One such plan, the Jordan Cove Energy Project, would sit on the North Spit of lower Coos Bay in Oregon. About 2 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the proposed site isn't much more than sand, tall grass and shrubs now. But if all goes according to plan, there will be two huge storage tanks next to a 45-foot-deep berth for ships. Nearby, a new power plant would run the refrigeration necessary to turn natural gas into the much-easier-to-transport liquefied natural gas (LNG).
 
To read full story and listen to audio story featuring our own Francis Eatherington click the link below:
 

Mar14

Coal Train Slowing at Port?

Eugene Weekly by Camilla Mortensen March 14, 2013 

The recent announcement that two foreign investors have pulled out of the International Port of Coos Bay’s coal export proposal doesn’t mean the coal train plans have been entirely derailed. The announcement leads to even more questions, says Bob Ferris, executive director of Cascadia Wildlands, one of several Lane County groups working to stop the fossil fuel exports. 
 
Objections to the coal trains range from concern over the dust dispersed along the routes as well as the larger issue of feeding global warming-inducing coal plants overseas. “The best use for the deepwater port at the Port of Coos Bay is to export locally produced Oregon goods such as farming produce and timber products,” Lisa Arkin of Beyond Toxics says. She says it is “nefarious” as well as “unsustainable and truly harmful” to mine coal in Montana and haul it through dozens of communities, the Columbia River Gorge, the Willamette Valley and “much of Oregon’s fragile coastline.”
 
According to documents posted on the port’s website in response to a public records request by Oregon Public Broadcasting, both Mitsui, a Japanese company incorporated in New York, and Korean Electric Power Corp. have terminated their agreements with the port. A third investor, Metro Ports out of California, has until March 31 to make a decision, the documents say. 
 
“It seems that Mitsui found that coal exports at Coos Bay doesn’t pencil out economically,” Laura Stevens of the Sierra Club says. “We already know it doesn’t pencil out for our health, environment and local communities all along the rail line.”
 
Ferris says while the Korean power company and Mitsui have not given any reasons for “bailing” on the coal export plan, he suspects it has to do with coal exports being politically unpopular and that the plan will result in legal challenges. 
 
He also says the only reason it has been economically worthwhile for Asia to import coal from 7,000 miles away is because it’s being sold so cheaply. “A buck a ton, you can’t even buy dirt for a buck a ton,” Ferris says.
 
Ferris explains that under the first Bush administration the Powder River Basin was “decertified.” So even though it produces 40 percent of U.S. coal, it’s not considered a coal-producing region and it’s not subject to the same rules and environmental regulations. As a result, the coal is sold for much less. 
 
But Ferris says with Sen. Ron Wyden calling for an examination of the possible millions in royalties lost from the mining of coal on public lands due to out-of-date regulations, he thinks “those two companies saw the writing on the wall.” He also points out that in February Mitsui agreed to pay $90 million for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
 
Ferris says if the Coos Bay coal proposal to export Powder River Basin coal went through, it would export 10 million tons of coal a year and be giving away something like $50 million in subsidies and natural resources to two foreign companies and competing economies, “which doesn’t make sense.”
 
In addition to Coos Bay, Oregon faces two other coal export proposals in Morrow and St. Helens. Oregon will decide whether it will approve the Morrow Pacific coal project on April 1. For more info go to http://wkly.ws/1fu
 
At 5:30 pm March 14 No Coal Eugene, Oregonians for Black Mesa and other groups will celebrate the investors pulling out of the Coos Bay project upstairs at the Growers Market at 454 Willamette St.
 

Sep04

Coos Bay Coal Terminal–Look at the Jobs and Money Closely

There are things in life that make no sense when exposed to the light of day.  Many of these are offered by charlatans selling items like cattle magnets to improve gas mileage and some of them are foisted on the American public by the very “military-industrial complex” Dwight Eisenhower once warned us about.    Perfect examples of the latter are the proliferation of coal port proposals being jammed down our throats in the Pacific Northwest.  

These projects are generally sold on the two points of private investment and jobs.  Project proponents often intone: Private investments in the half-billion dollar range are so rare…we cannot afford to ignore this opportunity to put people back to work.  Anyone brave enough to ask questions about this equation are immediately branded job-killers and even communists by folks who buy into this hogwash.  
 
But what is really going on here?  To truly understand this dynamic you have to ask yourself why Asian countries like China and Korea want to by our low BTU, thermal coal regardless of the transport costs when there are much closer and higher BTU coal reserves in Asia and Malaysia?  The answer is simple: Our federal government is willing to sell our shared natural resources way too cheaply.
 
The “why “to this is complicated however.  Back in the early 1990s no one wanted to buy the low BTU coal from the federal lands in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming.  As a consequence, George H.W. Bush de-certified the Powder River Basin as a coal producing region.  This arcane procedure was designed to make it more attractive—from financial and environmental compliance perspectives—for coal companies to buy and mine coal in the region.  But what made sense more than twenty years ago to develop a market for PRB coal does not make sense today now that 41% of our domestic coal comes from the PRB.  
 
Now as world coal prices hover in the $110-$120/per ton range, this de-certification situation is leading to coal leases in the 25 cent to $1/ton range.  As citizens we hope that the federal government is doing all that they can to get fair market value for our shared natural resources—particularly when they are for export—but here they are likely missing the amount by more than $4/ton.  
 
Four dollars a ton does not sound like much until you look at projects such as the Coos Bay Coal port and apply this across 10 million tons a year.  Then it constitutes a $40 million annual gift from the American public to the coal industry and their partners.  Project proponents will argue that the subsidy makes perfect sense when you consider the jobs created.  Really?  
 
A casual look at the projected employment numbers for the Coos Bay Coal project indicates that when they are running at 10 million tons per year that the project will support 165 jobs and yield $24.2 million in pay.  If we accept those figures then we are giving up $40 million dollars in assets annually to create roughly half that number in yearly salaries.  But there are good reasons not to accept those figures.  
 
The Cherry Point Coal Terminal near Bellingham, Washington is projected to ship 54 million tons of materials including 48 million tons of coal and create 430 direct jobs.  That means that they will produce about 8 jobs for every million tons shipped.  In contrast, the Coos Bay proposal is projecting 165 jobs for 10 million tons or more than twice the direct jobs per million tons shipped.  Both projections were calculated using “industry standards” so why the 100% discrepancy?  Of interest also is that the Cherry Point projections are considered by many to be too high and include significant numbers of non-local jobs.
 
If you think it is hard to find the “good deal” in here for the American people of taking 40 million out of savings each year to provide half that much in salaries that “needle in the haystack” becomes even more elusive when it is realized that massive federal investments in rail infrastructure all along the delivery route are also required to accommodate these mile and third long, 17,500 ton trains.  This latter could mean hundreds of millions of dollars of increased tax payer debts.  The job news only gets worse when you consider that selling discounted raw materials to a competing economy only enables them to create more manufacturing jobs thus killing many more jobs in the US than this project will ever create.  And then you look at the potential jobs losses associated with the business isolation and the package becomes even more grim.
 
Project proponents will try to portray this project as a gold-coated winner for all concerned, but please look closely at the elements and understand that we are sacrificing our collective assets, incurring debt, and suffering impacts that are way, way out of scale of any benefits we receive.  This is another prime example of the few causing pain to the many to make themselves richer.  
 
Ways to Get Involved:
 
 
 

Aug17

Thanks too to Senator Wyden for his Message to FERC–Longer Comment Period For Pacific Connector Pipeline and Listen More to other Federal Agencies

Thank you Senator Wyden.  

Click here for copy of letter

Aug16

Rep. DeFazio Requests that FERC Increase Transparency and Extend Pipeline Comment Period

Click here to read Rep. DeFazio's letter to FERC.

 
 

Aug15

Coos Bay Gas Pipeline Puts Much at Risk–Get Engaged

Gabe Scott in Alaska

by Gabe Scott
 
Last week’s massive refinery fire in Richmond, California should serve as a wake-up call. Not that we needed another to remind us of a basic fact: oil and gas infrastructure is dangerous. When things go wrong, they go very wrong, very quickly.
 
Add this to the list of reasons why the Pacific Connector Pipeline and LNG export terminal at Coos Bay is a bad idea: it’s not safe. 
 
I’ve been participating lately in a nationwide citizen committee on pipeline safety, put together by the Pipeline Safety Trust (http://www.pstrust.org/initiatives_programs/New-Voices-Project/). The opportunity to share information and learn from activists, landowners, industry and regulators has been astounding, and has opened my eyes to the downsides of natural gas infrastructure that, as an environmentalist, I admit I hadn’t given enough thought to. 
 
Here’s the thing about gas pipelines and LNG plants — they blow up.  They blow up a lot. They blow up big. And the people who you might expect would put safety first, don’t. 
 
Liquefied Natural Gas, like natural gas, is highly flammable. When spilled, it can easily go “boom.” As a matter of fact, because of its physical properties, spilled LNG also goes “boom” when it comes in contact with water, a phenomenon called “rapid phase transition” (see below video). In 2004, an explosion at an Algerian LNG liquefaction facility killed 27.
 
 
The Pipeline phase of the project would transmit natural gas through a 36” diameter transmission pipeline. Gas pipeline explosions can be massively destructive. In 1994, a 36-inch gas distribution line in Edison, New Jersey broke, threw rocks and debris more than 800 feet, and exploded in a blaze over 400 feet high— hot enough to ignite and burn several nearby apartment buildings. Last year, five were killed in Allentown, PA when a gas explosion flattened a rowhouse neighborhood, sending flames hundreds of feet into the air. It took workers another five hours to figure out how to shut off the gas flow. 
 

One of our concerns with the Pacific Connector pipeline is that the safety regulations are even weaker in rural areas than in populated neighborhoods, so families living along the Pacific Connector pipeline are at even greater risk. Getting blown up isn’t usually on our safety list when hiking and camping in wild lands, but the pipeline would make that risk real. In 2000, 12 campers were killed by a gas pipeline explosion near Carlsbad, NM.
 
These aren’t isolated examples. Leaks and explosions on this sort of pipeline are disturbingly common. In an average year, looking only at gas transmission pipelines (which is what Williams proposes), there are 113 reported incidents causing 2 fatalities, eleven injuries, and over $132 million in property damage. (Source: PHMSA http://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/comm/reports/safety/AllPSI.html?nocache=1948#_ngtrans)
 
Oil and gas companies are fond of touting a “safety first” mentality. This is not just propaganda spin. Give credit where it’s due: they really do devote immense energy to safety, and their engineering know-how is breathtaking.

 

 

 
The trouble is there are so many things that can go wrong. Pipes corrode. Valves leak and get stuck. Unknowing construction workers dig into unmarked pipelines. People make mistakes. Equipment fails. Earthquakes and floods happen. There are a thousand and one things that can go wrong, any one of which can kill you. 
 
While one should give the industry credit for taking the engineering aspects of safety very seriously, their record on risk management and public process is dastardly. They are secretive, competitive, and selfish. They make the same “mistakes,” over and over again. 
 
After the 2005 explosion at BP’s Texas City refinery, which killed fifteen, a blue-ribbon panel was formed to investigate, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker. The panel’s recommendations centered on what they termed a “safety culture” and “process safety.” Details quickly get complicated, but the underlying notion is simple: when trying to make complex industrial systems safe, you need to analyze and address the whole ball of wax, not just this and that component. 
 
After the 2010 explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon, another blue-ribbon panel was formed. Their conclusions were damning. Process safety and safety culture were still not being implemented. And, the Commission found, these problems were not unique to BP, but endemic in the oil & gas industry. 
 
As we look at the Pacific Connector Pipeline and LNG terminal, familiar warning signs are everywhere. I’ll leave you with just one example. As Cascadia’s staff digs into the details, we have hit a roadblock. The company won’t share its maps, even with landowners along the proposed route. Their excuse is the preposterous claim that exact locations of the proposed line must be kept secret, to keep it out of the hands of would-be terrorists. 
 
That’s hogwash. Fundamental to pipeline safety and planning is everyone needs to know where, exactly, the line is. This information is needed whenever anyone digs a hole, whenever there is a leak that needs to be investigated, whenever a wildfire fighting crew is planning their attack on a blaze. You need to plan to avoid flooding streams, landslide areas, and places planned for other kinds of construction. You need to site the line to allow regular access for maintenance and surveillance. 
 
Terrorism IS a real fear. But hiding maps from landowners does nothing to prevent it. Far from requiring gas pipeline locations be kept secret (as if that were even possible), federal regulations require gas pipelines be clearly marked with bright yellow signs. 
 
The supposed security rationale is so absurd, so wrong-headed, that it calls into question the company’s basic trustworthiness. It suggests that Williams views this as their project, none of anyone’s business. That’s a pretty arrogant line to take when you’re forcibly appropriating other people’s private land through eminent domain. 
 
Far from putting safety first, indications are Williams is putting it’s own pocketbook first, last, and in the middle. That’s not just selfish. It’s also very, very dangerous. 
 
Please join Cascadia Wildlands in sending the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a message on the Pacific Connector Pipeline.  Click here to comment and do not be concerned when you get a message from FERC that your comment may not be considered.  We will make sure that your support of our concerns and any additional comments you provide will go to the appropriate place and be heard.  They will get our collective message.

Aug13

Bob Ferris on the Radio in Coos Bay–of Timber, Coal, LNG, and Jobs

 

Bob Ferris interview on the Mark McKelvey Show on July 10, 2012.  He and Mark talk about timber, coal, LNG and jobs in Coos Bay.  The 40-minute interview starts at about minute 11 and can be heard by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul16

Please Take a Cold Hard Look at Coal Trains

"It's déjà vu all over again"
–Yogi Berra
Yogi Berra made the above quote when he watched Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris repeatedly hit back-to-back home runs in the early 1960s.  I feel the same way—absent the elation—as I watch this coal debate unfold here in Eugene just as it did in Bellingham two years ago.  It is roughly all the same except for some of the details.  I have lived this before and it all came rushing back to me as I read the recent letter from the Port of Coos Bay director—David Koch—to the City of Eugene and the Project Mainstay  Economic Impact Assessment.  (Since it is all the same but the players, amounts, and locale, I will take the liberty of linking to Bellingham-based writings that have addressed many of these same issues.)
 
As I look at these two documents recently offered in support of the Coos Bay coal terminal project, I find myself scratching my head in the same spots I did two years ago when similar documents were released in Bellingham.  None of these documents are compelling.  I find it puzzling, for instance, that the port director—David Koch—feels compelled to brag about the 158 tons of carbon dioxide taken out of the air in the last 10 months by their railroad operations when arguing for a project that will eventually place more than 15 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere upwind from us.  Then you add in the CO2 from the 800 unit trains traveling to and from Wyoming and Montana (1600 annual trips for mile and half long trains).  And add to that the bulk carriers sailing to Korea and back that burn bunker fuel.  (Bunker fuel represents the dregs of the fuel refining process with up to 5 percent sulfur content its use likely erases any global sulfur budget benefits of Asia using our lower sulfur coal.)  
 
In this equation, it is important to note that bulk carriers of the size we are talking about burn about 4 tons of diesel fuel a day when in port.  With roughly one hundred of them going in and out of Coos Bay annually to haul this coal, that 158 ton bit of green house gas (GHG) progress would get erased sometime during the first month of operations.  Did Mr. Koch think we were going to be so distracted by this good news and that we would not see the bigger picture bad news implications of this endeavor?  This seems a little someone seeking your thanks for brushing a mosquito off your arm, while not telling you that there is a rabid dog standing behind you.  
 
With the massive dredging of the Coos Bay estuary and more than 150 water crossings between Eugene and this proposed coal terminal along the Coos Bay Railway, protecting water quality and aquatic ecosystem function is an important consideration to those of us who want to see salmon and steelhead runs improve.  Doing a little research we find that coal trains dump considerable coal dust all along their routes and every coal terminal in North America has a coal dust control problem that results in air, soil, and water pollution (please see Coal Dust is Complicated).  Some are certainly worse than others such as Seward, Alaska and Mobile, Alabama, but even the best and most responsible such as Robert’s Bank near Vancouver, British Columbia expel dust plumes that travel miles from their facilities and create oxygen-poor “dead zones” in the surrounding waters.  You can watch the decks of the ships at Robert's Bank after they are loaded and see them change from white to black.  When these legitimate concerns are raised, industry will retort that all that coal chunks and dust are lost near the mines so take a moment and watch this Seattle piece on coal coming off the trains and apply it to Eugene, Coos Bay and the 150 water crossings on the CBR or look at the photos just posted by our friends at Columbia Riverkeepers on facebook.   

When looking at the risk offered by the above, it is important to look at the players involved.  The Korea Electric Power Company (KEPCO) is a Korean government-controlled company (51%) that has a spotty environmental record globally.  It is interesting that Mr. Koch calls out KEPCO’s in-progress facility as remarkable.  I agree, but I find it remarkable that any facility that espouses renewables would lead with coal which is arguably the dirtiest and most costly fuel imaginable.  
 
Mitsui is another of the development partners.  This Japanese company has its fingers in a lot of pots in the US and globally including oil exploration through their MOEX subsidiary.  MOEX was just fined $90 million dollars by the US EPA for their part in the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  Now I may be somewhat of a cautionary person when it comes to water and aquatic ecosystems, but I think foreign companies involved in the “Gusher in the Gulf” should be treated to a well-deserved time out when it comes to any future projects that might jeopardize our country’s waterways and fisheries.  
 
I am happy that the Economic Impact Assesment being shipped around by the Port and other project proponents is marked “draft” because the figures seem a bit inflated and the scope wildly inappropriate.  For one thing the job density of 16.5 jobs per million metric tons (MMT) of coal shipped is roughly twice what economist projected for the coal terminal at Cherry Point near Bellingham (8.8 jobs per MMT) which was judged by many to be high.  With both using “industry standard” projections I can understand a 10 percent or so difference, but 100 percent variance seems highly unlikely. Jobs should certainly be one of the core considerations, but we really need to look at net jobs not just jobs created in Coos County or on the rail line because the implications of the rail traffic and the shipping of underpriced raw material to a competing economy need to be examined fully (please see This Country Used to Make Things and I Heard the Lonesome Whistle Call).  
 
Moreover, this Economic Impact Assessment seems seriously mislabeled because it really only looks at a narrow band of economic benefits covering a small geographic area.  Where are the figures for the impact that this level of train traffic with have on business activity including the rail shipment of other goods in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana?  How will this impact housing prices all along the route?  In Los Angeles a long term study found that doubling freight traffic reduced housing prices about $2500.  
 
And then we get into the whole issue of human health and diesel particulates.  Be prepared because once the local doctors express concerns about the health impacts ranging from childhood asthma to cancer of these particulates—particularly the nano-particles that are less than one billionth of a meter—the misinformation will fly about trains and GHGs as well as fireplace chimneys and particulates by weight.  Don’t be fooled, it is all PR deception (please see Deception Pass).
 
There is much, much more to be said and prepared for but as I hope all of us are getting ready to go to the Coal Hard Truth Forum this evening, I will end with a final point.  Mr. Koch opens with the classic argument of condemning the City Council for considering passing an anti-coal train resolution in the absence of facts.  Wow, that is a bold statement and absolutely un-true.  There is a mountain of existing information out there that indicates that jeopardizing human health and local economic activity and environmental integrity through these heavily subsidized coal export ventures makes no sense.  This is not a premature decision by any means and it is a decision being made by potentially impacted communities in Washington, Oregon, and Montana—what is not prudent is taking a supportive position with slim details provided by the Port (please see Of Garlic and Rail Traffic).  We need leaders on this not folks who are being lead to harmful conclusions.
 

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