A Sisyphean Job: Can Third Time Be The Charm for Shutting Down LNG Pipeline?
It is a storyline more common to monster movies than political and environmental fights: The monster that the townsfolk thought was vanquished returns from the dead for its lumbering revenge. Yes, be afraid, the so-called LNG Pipeline is back!
After a decade-long fight to deny a pipeline proposed to carry liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the California border to Coos Bay, last year environmentalists and local community members felt as if they had banished the idea. Not unlike the infamous Standing Rock pipeline, this one had been proposed to slice a 100 foot wide swath diagonally all the way from the California border near Klamath northwest to Coos Bay, passing north of Medford and cutting through traditional tribal territory, not to mention crossing some 400 rivers and streams, worming through old growth forests as well as private land, as many as 700 private properties, and even, at one point, slicing through the Pacific Crest Trail and threatening species like the bull trout and various wild flowers.
But last year, the proposed pipeline was rejected by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the second time (not to mention rejections in California and Washington), and most everyone believed that was the end of the story. But most everyone also thought that the federal government would have a different Commander in Chief—and, with Donald Trump in office and new hands on the helm of many federal agencies, apparently Veresen, the company proposing the pipeline, is testing the waters for different results. Construction requires that Veresen secure federal and state permits.
“Many landowners and community members have been fighting this project for over 10 years and they deserve for this proposal to be over and to be able to move on with their lives,” says Hannah Sohl with Rogue Climate.
Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, word began to circulate through the community that Veresen planned to resubmit its application to the FERC for approval of the pipeline. As part of the process, the proposal requires consideration in “open houses” to allow public comment. But many community members cried foul—that the meetings were hastily announced and didn’t leave enough time to prepare a dissent. In response, FERC has pushed the open houses back to March 21 – 24 (see details below).
“The company tried to slide the Open Houses in under the radar and only gave landowners and community members less than a week and a half notice,” says Sohl. “They have really made it confusing for our community, and especially for rural landowners who are directly impacted by the project,” she adds.
Many of the activists point to the new presidential administration as the reason that Veresen believe they can re-file for a third time and expect different results. But activists have been busy mounting a defense—and, in spite of the change in politics, don’t believe that the dangers from the physical, ecological and philosophical trespasses on southern Oregon have changed one iota. According federal environmental impact statements, there is a pressing concern that leakage from the pipeline and energy used at the pipeline terminal near Coos Bay would constitute the largest source of green source gas emissions in the state; s, after the Boardman Coal plant closes in 2020, producing as much as 2.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Likewise, Veresen doesn’t seem to have changed their argument for the pipeline either: To counter the complaints by community members, the company has tried to minimize the potential hazards and have routinely promoted the economic benefits they say the pipeline will bring. But again, community members aren’t buying that bill of goods.
“This is a multibillion dollar development project that will result in less than 200 permanent positions,” says Sohl. “Our communities need long-term, family-wage job creation in industries that don’t threaten our natural resources, safety, rivers, or climate.” She continues, explaining there are viable alternatives: “There is a growing renewable energy industry in Oregon, and we need to see family wage job creation in energy efficiency, solar energy, and upgrading our rural infrastructure. Each dollar invested in clean energy creates two to seven times the jobs created by investment in fossil fuel.”
For details about public hearing open houses, check out RogueClimate.org. Current dates and venues include:
Tues. March 21, The Mill Casino, 3201 Tremont St., North Bend
Wednesday, March 22, Seven Feathers Casino, 146 Chief Miwaleta Ln., Canyonville
Thursday, March 23, location TBD, Medford
Friday, March 24, Mt. Mazama Room, Oregon Institute of Technology, 3201 Campus Dr., Klamath Falls.