Action Alert: Northwest Oregon in the Crosshairs for LNG Export

 FERC is coming to town next week!  Help greet them.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is holding hearings in Northwest Oregon (and Washington) next week about the catastrophic plans to export huge quantities of liquefied North American natural gas (LNG) to Asia. These plans by Oregon LNG and the Williams pipeline corporation require running new pipelines totaling 221 miles through Washington, Northwest Oregon, and into a massive new industrial plant in one of the most fertile parts of the Columbia River estuary.

We can make a difference in several ways:

  1. By showing up at the hearings, to listen and show the colors (wear red!)
  2. By telling FERC (and the State of Oregon) our concerns – at the hearings, or click here to sign our petition.
  3. By joining in on our long-term struggle to eliminate fossil fuels and move to renewable energy and sustainable culture (Click here to fill out our volunteer form and let us know how you would like to get involved!)

Here are the two hearings in Oregon next week:

Monday, October 15, 6 pm:
Warrenton Community Center
170 SW 3rd St., Warrenton, OR, 503-861-2233

Thursday, October 18, 6 pm:
Vernonia Schools, in the Commons
1000 Missouri Ave., Vernonia, OR, 503-429-1333

If you would like to car pool, click here to send an e-mail to the chair of our LNG committee who can assist you.

There are also two hearings in Southwestern Washington:

Tuesday, October 16, 6 pm:
Woodland School Commons
755 Park St., Woodland, WA, 360-841-2700

Thursday, October 18, 6 pm:
Long High School Auditorium
2903 Nichols Blvd., Longview, WA, 360-575-7156

Note: This competes with the Vernonia hearing.  It’s very wrong of FERC to set up competing hearings, which obviously reduces chances for participation; see below for information about other Washington hearings.

Background

The North American market for methane is the cheapest on the planet. (“Natural” gas is 100% methane after refining.) Prices in Asia are five and six times higher. To move methane across the Pacific, it must be liquefied, by cooling the gas to Minus-260 degrees Fahrenheit, to ship it in tankers.

Billions of dollars are at stake, and the Rocky Mountain and Canadian methane to feed these hedge-fund export plans would come from increased fracking, and increase methane costs for every user in the U.S., from home heating to manufacturers.

On our three coasts, every existing or proposed LNG import plant has therefore flipped to export. It’s a simple case of “follow the money,” and that includes both projects aimed at Oregon (the only current projects on the U.S. West Coast): the Oregon LNG plans and the Jordan Cove proposal in Coos Bay.

In Northwest Oregon, Oregon LNG has come roaring back from apparent dormancy because of this export money. They’ve linked up with the Williams corporation, one of the largest pipeline companies in the U.S., and restructured their effort to build in Warrenton, on the sand shore and wetlands on the west side of Youngs Bay, just across from Astoria. The Port of Astoria is leasing State land there, and subletting it to Oregon LNG.

The revised project now includes the Williams Washington Expansion pipeline, running 135 miles from the Canadian border in Northern Washington, south along I-5 near existing pipelines, to Woodland. There, Oregon LNG would tunnel under the Columbia River and build a new 86-mile pipeline through Columbia and Clatsop counties, ending at the new LNG plant back at the river.

The Problem

FERC is not our friend. They do not represent the public interest, consumers, or citizens; they do not honor or focus on domestic energy security or pay attention to the quickly-growing impacts of global warming and climate disruption.

FERC sees the authority they received for energy-facility site licensing in the 2005 Cheney Energy Act as a mandate to complete the licensing – not as a true review of whether the licenses are a good thing. Every path on the flow charts they present for licensing questions leads to approval; they do not show a path to deny industry license requests.

Tragically, FERC is a captive of the fossil fuel energy industry and the hedge-fund financiers who enable it.

FERC demonstrated this with a press release about Jordon Cove! When the Jordan Cove LNG plant and the Pacific Connector Pipeline that would serve it flipped from LNG import to export, FERC cancelled the import site license they’d issued, and started the licensing process all over again.

But they simultaneously issued a press release stating that this in no way constituted a change of policy away from the FERC determination that “the market” determines the viability of every project. If you have the money to build it, FERC will come.

So Why Bother Talking to FERC?

If we already know that FERC won’t listen, why should we bother to talk to them at these hearings? Because we’re not just talking to them: we’re also talking with each other, and working together to build pressure on the State of Oregon and within our local communities and counties.

Our best chances to stop these destructive and irrational projects probably lie within state government, with a strong opportunity to build opposition within towns, cities, and counties as well.

That’s where the long-term action is. We won’t ignore the Federal picture – for example, several Members of Congress have been helpful and supportive. But grass-roots organizing to educate and pressure local and state officials is probably the only way we can win.

Some Style Tips and Talking Points for FERC

First, we’ll be polite and respectful; most (though, sadly, not all) of these Federal employees are just trying to do their jobs within a broken and dysfunctional system.

Second, wear red. That’s one way the Northwest Oregon activists have built recognition during years of battles against LNG plants and pipelines.

Third, be prepared to be polite to the folks there to support Oregon LNG and Williams. They are bringing union members – many of whom are unemployed – and others to speak in support.

We support unions and working people. We will listen to them and work politely to help them understand our concerns. Their concern for jobs is completely valid and needs our support: through building renewable energy systems and sustainable culture. (The Sierra Club co-founded the Blue-Green Alliance with the United Steelworkers Union.)

Talking Points: Pick your favorite

You can get one- to three minutes to speak, and also submit thoughts in writing.

  1. Exporting methane will reduce domestic energy security. Natural gas is important to the U.S. until we can transition away from fossil fuels; it is destructive of our national interest to export it.
  2. Exporting methane raises domestic prices and hurts homeowners, small businesses, and manufacturers – and all consumers, since many price increases are passed on. Federal estimates (by the U.S. Energy Information Agency) are that prices could increase by as much as half, with maximum export.
  3. Exporting methane to countries with lower labor and environmental standards, and therefore lower manufacturing costs, just makes it that much easier for them for them to compete unfairly against American manufacturers and take American jobs.
  4. Oregon LNG wants to build an explosive industrial facility on a sand spit in a major earthquake zone. How stupid is that?
  5. Methane pipelines are also explosive, and often leak, and will crack when the next earthquake hits. Running one under the Columbia River and through some of the most valuable timber on the planet puts the river and Oregon forests at severe risk. Ditto for the Williams Washington Expansion pipeline.
  6. Pipelines require clearcuts the size of interstate highways, and would run through communities, farms, woodlands, streams and wetlands. The environmental destruction is huge.
  7. Building huge industrial facilities in one of the most productive salmon estuaries on earth will inevitably damage it in major ways. Moving massive explosive tankers across the Columbia bar carries its own risks. These projects do not justify the risks on any level.
  8. It’s getting hotter on our planet – and climate disruption is getting worse. No increase in the use of fossil fuels can be justified; the obligation is to move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. Renewable energy is ready for prime time, technically and economically; that’s where the focus must be.

Other Washington Hearings

FERC is “evaluating” the Oregon LNG project and the Williams Washington Expansion pipeline project simultaneously. That’s good, because the two projects are joined at hip: each needs the other.

But FERC has chosen to run hearings simultaneously, as if these were two separate projects. That’s not good; in fact, it’s irresponsible.

Here are the additional FERC hearings in Washington:

Monday, October 15, 6 p.m.
Sedro-Woolley High School Auditorium
1235 3rd Street, Sedro-Woolley, WA, 360-855-3903

Tuesday, October 16, 6 p.m.
Riverview Elementary
7322 64th St. SE, Snohomish, WA, 360-563-7332

Wednesday, October 17, 6 p.m.
V.R. Lee Community Building
221 SW 13th Street, Chehalis, WA, 360-748-0271

Wednesday, October 17, 6 p.m.
Auburn Parks and Recreation Admin. Bldg.
910 Ninth Street SE., Auburn, WA, 253-931-3043

For more information, contact:
Ted Gleichman, Chair, Oregon Chapter LNG Committee
ted.gleichman@oregon.sierraclub.org

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