Putting Fracked Gas Infrastructure on Kate Brown’s Agenda

cascadiawildlands

The third resurrection of the zombie pipeline is upon us. Like the premise for an 80s horror film, the Jordan Cove Energy Project proposal slated for southwest Oregon makes little sense, yet it just won’t seem to be forgotten.  

First proposed in 2004, the 232-mile Pacific Connector LNG pipeline and accompanying Jordan Cove liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal have been met with over a decade of grassroots resistance from concerned citizens, landowners faced with eminent domain, local tribes, politicians and environmentalists.

While the gas export project has been rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) twice since its initial proposal, the project proponent, Canada-based Veresen, has filed again for reconsideration. Many are worried about the possibility of it being approved this time around, with the pro-business Trump administration at the helm.

These increased concerns have motivated communities around the state into more concerted action. In this spirit of action, I joined the Cascadia Wildlands team on a trip to Salem to offer public comment at the Oregon State Land Board meeting. While LNG was not officially on the State Land Board’s agenda, the meeting provided the perfect opportunity to get in the room with Governor Kate Brown (who has the power to end this recurring nightmare once and for all) and get our message heard.

Waking up early after a long night of studying isn’t always the most appealing prospect, even to do something as important as fight an immoral and unsafe pipeline. After squeezing in an extra hour of sleep on the drive up to the Capitol, I straightened my rumpled clothing (I was wearing a button up for added effect) and started preparing to make my first-ever public comment.

I immediately felt out of place upon entering the halls of the Department of State Lands building, surrounded by legislators and bureaucrats dressed to the nines in suits and ties, and well equipped with patent leather briefcases. After some hesitation and a good bit of milling around, I signed my name on the list to comment, feeling a healthy dose of apprehension about speaking directly to Governor Brown.

The meeting began with the rap of a gavel and Brown’s acknowledgement of the retirement of a long-time civil servant, after which she suggested that public comment be made before the bulk of the meeting take place. At this point, I was frantically reading over the statement prepared by Cascadia Wildlands’ Grassroots Organizer and trying to draft one of my own before taking to the podium.

Conveniently, the proposed project offers no shortage of potential critiques, ranging from environmental hazards, safety considerations and environmental justice concerns.  At the forefront are the 400 waterways this pipeline would cross (and surely pollute), the 95-ft. wide clearcut that pipeline construction would require through public and private land, and the fact that, if built, the project would become the number one climate polluter in the state of Oregon. All of this isn’t to mention the concerns of many indigenous peoples in Southern Oregon, who claim that the pipeline will unearth burial grounds and damage important cultural sights.

There is also the potential for an explosive leak, which could ignite forest fires, damage homes and endanger lives. Disaster associated with a cataclysmic earthquake anticipated off of Oregon any day is also of major concern. The LNG facility would be built in the tsunami inundation zone on the spit in Coos Bay where the ocean meets land…

Thankfully I managed to give comment without incident, emphasizing the importance of Brown recognizing tribal concerns about the project while masking the nervous tremor in my voice.

After we finished giving our comments, the meeting resumed, only to be interrupted seconds later by a group of folks across the room. The din of noise makers and chanting drowned out Brown’s incredulous objections, and the protesters unfurled a banner that read “Climate Leaders Don’t Build Pipelines: Stop Jordan Cove.” The protestors read statements over Brown’s frustrated calls for silence, while the police liaison negotiated for time with the two cops that immediately moved to escort them out. Three of the protestors had the opportunity to speak before the group was lead out by the police, mentioning indigenous protest, safety concerns, and climate justice in their comments. The meeting proceeded with an awkward silence after the last of the protestors had left.

While Brown has continued to posture herself as a “climate leader,” she has remained unwilling to pull the plug on the Pacific Connector Pipeline and Jordan Cove Energy Project. We must keep the heat on her.

We can’t let Kate Brown forget that she is accountable to the will of her constituents. More actions like the recent one in Salem will be imperative in maintaining pressure on Brown, especially as the pipeline begins to rear its ugly head for a (hopefully) final showdown.

Kate Brown’s Contact Information:

Office of the Governor

900 Court Street, Suite 254

Salem, OR 97301-4047

Phone: 503-378-4582

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