Salmon: Closer to home than you might think!

December 9, 2014

For most people, “salmon” is an expensive, unnaturally pink piece of fish at the grocery store. It is a potential meal, detached from its context by thousands of miles. Even those of us who are lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest often have only a distant relationship to these iconic fish. However, there are places where we can bridge the gap and connect with an elusive and integral part of our history, culture, cuisine, and economy.

Just over an hour from Portland, and a mere 30 minutes from the fast-growing cities of Beaverton and Hillsboro, one can sit on an isolated stream bank and share hours with spawning coho salmon. For the uninitiated, this is an eye-opening experience that can open new ways of looking at the natural world on which we depend. However, these are also the last hours of the salmons’ lives. They travel over 100 miles up rivers like the Nehalem, the Salmonberry, the Trask, and the Wilson to spawn where they hatched 3-5 years before, dying in the process of continuing their line.

Photo Dec 06, 11 48 02 AM

Oregon coastal coho are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. 2014 saw a very good return, but ocean conditions and inadequately protected inland habitat remain concerns for these fish.  The Tillamook and Nehalem basins are producers of some of the strongest and most diverse wild runs of salmon in Oregon, but the emphasis given to industrial timber in the region threatens these strongholds.

Our publicly-owned north coast forests, the Tillamook & Clatsop State Forests, likely hold the key to salmon habitat in northwest Oregon. The management of these lands is currently undergoing a revision. Some stakeholders would like to see these lands managed with even more emphasis on timber production, a move that would likely harm wild salmon and take away the possibility of connecting with these fish.

Click here to find out more about the Sierra Club’s efforts to protect these lands.


OREGON CHAPTER SEEKS NEXT CHAPTER DIRECTOR

October 22, 2014

Sierra Club LogoIn 2008, Brian Pasko joined the Oregon Chapter as our Chapter Director. After more than a decade of employment with the Sierra Club he will be leaving the Chapter around the end of 2014.  In preparation for his departure, the Oregon Chapter is actively recruiting our next Chapter Director.

This is an opportunity to work with the best environmental activists in the state on conservation issues close to home. We’re looking for that unique combination of a green fire in the belly, strong budget and team management skills, and the ability to work with a wide variety of stakeholders to accomplish great things, including increased financial support for our programs.

If you’re ready to tackle a leadership role for an organization focused on keeping the Oregon air clear, our trees green and our wildlife protected, please click here for all the details and to apply.


Pacific Power has you hooked on coal

October 7, 2014

 

By Amy Hojnowski

Over two-thirds of the energy Pacific Power supplies to their half-a-million customers in Oregon comes from out-of-state coal.  Recently the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) issued a final order on the long-term energy mix of PacifiCorp, operating as Pacific Power in Oregon. Their final decision was clear: no more business as usual for coal-dependent Pacific Power.

colstrip

For the last year, the Commissioners have been outspoken in their skepticism that Pacific Power’s fleet-wide, multi-billion coal expenditures provide the least-cost option for Oregon customers. In their final decision, the Commissioners refused to acknowledge Pacific Power’s coal expenditures at two of the Jim Bridger units in Wyoming and one unit at the Hunter plant in Utah, which means that Pacific Power will likely face significant challenges seeking additional rate hikes to pay for their coal.

The company’s rates in Oregon have already increased 61 percent during the last seven years, accounting for the billions spent to prop up dirty coal plants in other states. PGE, for example, uses half as much coal and their rate increases have been significantly less than Pacific Power’s.

The PUC’s final order reflects their findings that Pacific Power is putting its customers at risk of large price increases by investing in its coal fleet rather than honestly considering real investments in viable alternatives like wind and solar that create jobs here in Oregon. The Commission is charged with making sure that Pacific Power and all utilities are providing their customers with the least cost, least risk energy options, and clearly coal doesn’t cut it anymore.

While other utility companies in Oregon, like PGE, are more quickly moving away from coal, Pacific Power continues to cling to its outdated coal plants. Cheaper, safer and cleaner sources of energy like wind and solar are available now but account for less than 10% of Pacific Power’s energy mix and their long-term planning shows virtually no change.

Pacific Power’s customers expect more from their utility and are often shocked to learn how much coal they buy in their monthly bill. The reality is that the coal industry is dying out and the future is in modern solutions like wind and solar. Looming overhead are further public health protections and the first national standards limiting carbon pollution from power plants—a key driver of climate disruption—making dirty coal even more expensive and a shaky investment proposition. Even new analysis from Citigroup shows that coal is priced out of the market, while solar and wind power are already competing on costs with dirty fuels.

Meanwhile, Oregon is home to a burgeoning clean energy economy. There is no reason for Pacific Power to continue to burn coal in other states to power homes here in Oregon, other than to continue business as usual. Oregon ranks 5th in the nation for total wind energy installation and there is enough solar energy installed in the state to power over 7,000 homes. Investments in local solar and wind power will keep money in Oregon and provide jobs. A new report from the American Wind Energy Association shows that the states with the most wind power see electricity prices decline, while other states see price increases. Renewable energy development in Oregon has already brought over 5,000 long term jobs and over 9 billion in investment.

The Oregon Public Utility Commission stood up for Oregonians and sent a clear signal to Pacific Power that the utility cannot keep dumping money into outdated coal plants and expect customers to pick up the bill. Now it’s time for citizens and elected officials to engage and call for a truly coal-free Oregon. Together we can stop importing dirty coal from Pacific Power and start investing in clean energy.

The Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign is launching a statewide effort to transition Oregon completely off of coal power and onto clean renewable energy. We held launch events this past month in both Bend and Portland that rolled out our organizing campaign to build a broad coalition of environment and health care organizations, business and community leaders to educate and motivate Oregonians. Our goal is to bolster the great work of the PUC and create a transition plan and become a truly coal-free state. We’ve seen a lot of successes in Oregon- from the grassroots campaigns to set a retirement date for Boardman and the victory over coal export terminals. Now is the time to take the next step and reject all coal use in our electricity mix while promoting clean energy alternatives and jobs here at home.

Amy Hojnowski, of Portland, is the Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.

 

 


What’s in a Plan?

October 1, 2014

The Oregon Board of Forestry continues to explore new Forest Management Plans that will both provide financial viability to the Department of Forestry and improve conservation outcomes on the Tillamook & Clatsop state forests. On September 29th, the Board weighed two options developed by ODF. A “Land Allocation” proposal suggested putting at least 30% of the forest into a conservation zone and managing other portions of the forest for different degrees of timber production. A “Landscape Management” proposal is similar to the current forest management plan, with various types of forest structure moved around the landscape over time. The latter proposal suggests sacrificing habitat in smaller forest districts, such as the Santiam. The Board moved a motion to explore/pursue land allocation proposal, but did not move any specifics such as those in the ODF proposal.

As Ian Fergusson, Resource Director for NW Steelheaders, put it, either proposal has the potential to succeed or fail. The devil is in the details, and as of now, the details haven’t been worked out. In order to improve conservation outcomes, any plan would likely need to improve riparian buffers to provide adequate shade and wood delivery to streams, increase the amount of older forest on the landscape, reduce clearcutting on steep slopes, and decrease the forest road network, which currently is very expansive and can lead to sediment problems in streams. Both ODF proposals include expanding no-cut buffer zones on fish-bearing streams to 115 feet, reflecting current scientific literature that suggests little or no riparian management is best for stream health. 115 feet is a good start, but it is unclear that it is adequate. Non-fish bearing streams would benefit from a no-cut buffer of at least 75 feet. Current standards are much less protective.

Buster Creek in the Clatsop State Forest

Buster Creek in the Clatsop State Forest

The timber industry delivered extensive testimony asking for a zoned approach, such as the “Land Allocation” proposal. However, timber representatives asked for a significant reduction in conservation areas. Their vision would see nearly twice as much landscape clearcut as the current plan! An Association of Oregon Loggers representative urged the Board to curtail public input and not seek public approval when devising a new plan, stating that the timber industry was a more important stakeholder than the Oregonians who own these lands.

The Trust Land Counties, who receive a significant portion of revenue from state forest timber harvests, did not advocate for either proposal nor did they put forward alternative ideas. They argued against the Department pursuing a Habitat Conservation Plan, which would provide habitat and timber predictability for the long-term. The Counties’ unwillingness to meaningfully participate in the process does not bode well for a new plan being created.

Sierra Club staff and volunteers, along with our ally groups in the North Coast State Forest Coalition urged the Board to move forward keeping conservation improvements in mind. The success of either plan hinges on balance, public input, and the best science available. Dollars cannot be the only driver determining the future of these forests. These lands have been over-logged and burnt. They are just beginning to recover, and their protection is crucial to Oregon’s economy and environment.

Read the Forest Grove News-Times’ coverage of this process here.


Larry and Rhett go to DC (and survive!)

September 25, 2014

By Larry Pennington, Oregon Chapter Chair

On September 14 to 17, Rhett Lawrence (our Conservation Director) and I traveled to our nation’s capital to participate in Wilderness Week, an annual lobbying effort jointly sponsored by the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and Pew Charitable Trusts. The focus this year, of course, was celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, signed into law by President Johnson on September 3rd in 1964.

Larry Pennington at the U.S. Capitol

Larry Pennington at the U.S. Capitol

Our first day was a lobbying training conducted at the Pew offices, featuring distinguished speakers from Pew, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and several other conservation non-profits. We also heard from Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and senior staff from the U.S. Forest Service, BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the National Park Service.

The second and third days were dedicated to meeting with the Oregon Congressional delegation and their staffs to promote conservation and environmental issues in Oregon. Several other Oregon conservation organizations joined us for some of the meetings, such as the Pew Charitable Trusts, Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), Oregon Wild, KS Wild, American Rivers, the Geos Institute, and longtime wilderness advocate Andy Kerr.

We were privileged to meet with staff members for all five U.S. Representatives and both Senators, as well as with Senator Jeff Merkley himself. Rhett and I focused on the Keep Waldo Wild campaign and the Owyhee Canyonlands at all our meetings. Getting a universally positive response to our Waldo conservation campaign – though most of the Congressional delegation had never learned of it before – was most gratifying!

The most enthusiastic responses came from the staff members for Sen. Merkley, Sen. Wyden, and Rep. DeFazio. All posed some tough, probing questions and asked for more information – a good sign, we think. Our cause was helped by recent trips to Waldo Lake by two of Sen. Merkley’s staff and one of Rep. DeFazio’s staff, all of whom were instant converts to keeping Waldo wild. When Sen. Merkley said he wanted to visit Waldo as soon as he could fit it in (there’s an election soon, you know), ear-to-ear smiles broke out on our faces! Jumping on the bandwagon, other Merkley staff members also expressed a desire to tour the gem of the High Cascades.

For the Owyhee, Rhett and I worked in tandem with Brent Fenty of ONDA and Brett Swift of Pew to promote either Wilderness or National Monument designation, whichever can get done the soonest and provide adequate protection.

And as a wonderful side benefit to the trip, we were treated to making good new connections with the Sierra Club DC staff, as well as Pew and Wilderness Society staff, while renewing bonds with old friends from many organizations.

We concluded that it was a most valuable week for us, for Waldo Lake, for the Owyhee, and for our Congresspersons! We hope they learned something, too, and were persuaded to join our conservation efforts, so future generations will have the ability to explore and enjoy these precious wild places of Oregon.


Climate Science is Clear: LNG Export is NOT a Climate Solution!

September 23, 2014

By: Ted Gleichman

National and Oregon Sierra Club teams, as members of a vibrant coalition of many of Oregon’s most important environmental groups, have now assembled the latest climate science studies to answer one of the most important questions about liquefied natural gas (LNG):

We know that the proposed LNG terminals and pipelines in Oregon, and the fracking fields needed to serve them, would cause monumental environmental and economic damage.  

But could burning North American natural gas in
Asia actually be
good for the global climate?

NO!

Climate science now shows that both LNG export and natural gas production are climate killers – just like every other fossil fuel.

Click on the links below to read our one page science summary or the expanded eight page summary:

Climate Impacts of Gas & LNG-One page Science Summary

Climate Impacts of Natural Gas Production & LNG Export–Edition 1.3–November 2014

  .  

Gas is a Gangplank, Not a Bridge

LNG tankerNatural gas can no longer be considered a “bridge to the future.”  As Sierra Club executive director Mike Brune puts it, “natural gas is not a bridge – it’s a gangplank.”

Despite the scientific findings to the contrary, the industry continues to claim that natural gas is actually “clean.”  Industry advertising surrounds us, pitching the bright future with gas.  Even many of us who have long known that no fossil fuel is actually clean – that all fossil fuels are dirty sources of carbon pollution – thought for a long time that natural gas was “the best of the worst” – the least dirty.  But now we know that was a myth, and we must face the reality.

The Myth: “Now You’re Cookin’ With Gas!”

Here’s why this myth came to dominate our old understanding.

First, natural gas, post-refinery, is essentially pure methane.  When you burn methane, it emits only carbon dioxide and water vapor. That’s why it’s reasonably safe to burn in your kitchen, and why we’ve felt good about it, personally.

Second, at the point of combustion, burning methane puts out only about half as much carbon dioxide as, say, burning coal. It’s still putting out dirty carbon pollution, but at a lower rate.  That’s why we’ve felt good about it economically and politically.

But the key to this second point is “the point of combustion.”  That turns out to be just a small piece of a global puzzle.  It completely ignores the long, complex natural gas supply chain.

It’s like saying that milk is invented inside the supermarket in plastic jugs.  Turns out there’s a history for supermarket milk, including grass, cows, pasteurization, trucks, fossil fuels for plastic-jug manufacturers, and so on.

The same thing applies to methane, and the key issue for the climate is methane leakage.

The Reality: Fugitive Methane Emissions are Deadly for the Planet

Methane leaks at every stage of the natural gas supply chain.  It leaks at the well, during drilling and production, and wellhead leakage rates get worse as wells age and well casings decay and fail.  Methane leaks in pipeline transmission from the well fields, in processing and refining at multiple steps along the way, and in pipeline distribution to consumers after it’s been refined.

IMG_2511Methane also leaks throughout the LNG process: during pipeline delivery from wellhead to terminal; during liquefaction, ocean transport, re-gasification, and redistributing by pipelines and tanker trucks in the destination country.

These fugitive methane emissions are critical factors in the overall life-cycle pollution of natural gas because, molecule for molecule, methane is MUCH more dangerous to the planet than carbon dioxide.  Unburned methane is a much more potent heat-trapping greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assesses methane impact over a twenty-year period as having a global warming potential 86 times greater than carbon dioxide. Over a 100-year period, methane presents a global-warming effect 34 times that of carbon dioxide – still a massive imbalance, with dangerous ramifications.

Because methane is such a devastating greenhouse gas, even tiny leaks have an enormously destructive climate impact. Variations that may superficially seem small – say, from a rate of 1.5% spiking to 3% – drastically increase overall pollution.

As the new science shows, methane leakage is endemic, and so severe that natural gas production and LNG export are inherently deadly to the planet.  They offer no advantage over other fossil fuels.

The LNG Export Assault on Oregon

We face two sets of massive LNG export terminals and the pipelines needed to feed them, aimed at the corners of our coast:

– Oregon LNG, Warrenton.  For this $7 billion project, the pipeline would run 220 miles, from the Canadian border to Woodland, Washington, then under the Columbia River for one mile (!), and across Columbia and Clatsop counties.  The industrial terminal, with its two twenty-story liquefaction tanks, would be built on dredged land, just inside the mouth of the Columbia, in Warrenton, on the Youngs Bay steelhead and salmon breeding grounds, across from Astoria.

– Jordan Cove, Coos Bay.  For this project, another $7 billion, the pipeline would run 234 miles from Malin (near Klamath Falls), across Klamath, Jackson, Douglas and Coos counties, traversing more than 400 rivers, streams, and wetlands, and crossing the most rugged and dangerous part of the Coast range.  The industrial terminal, with two 22-story liquefaction tanks, would be built on a Coos Bay sand spit.

Both projects would suck massive quantities of fracked gas out of the entire western half of North America.  These methane exports would ship to Asia under 20-year contracts.  Proponents cite two good reasons to build them: jobs, and helping the climate.

LNG Jobs are NOT “Good” Jobs

Now we know the climate claim is bogus.  The jobs argument is false too.  LNG jobs are not “good” jobs because LNG export is bad for the planet – as well as being bad for Oregon, environmentally and economically.  No job that damages the climate, the environment, and the broader economy can be considered a good job.

What the Oregon Coast needs, instead of $14 Billion of fossil-fuels investment in the two destructive and dangerous LNG pipeline and terminal projects, is a two-fold alternative:

  1. Invest in Seismic and Tsunami Safety.  First, we sit on the most dangerous earthquake and tsunami zone in North America, the Cascadia subduction zone.  We are guaranteed to suffer a catastrophic break, the mirror image of the 2011 Tohoku-Fukashima fracture, at a minimum of Magnitude 8, and an eventual Magnitude 9.  The odds of that massive earthquake, and the huge tsunami that will result, happening during the planned lifespan of the proposed LNG export projects are well over 50%.
  2. Invest in Decentralized Renewable Energy and Energy Reform.  Second, we all know the climate requires the complete conversion away from fossil energy to sustainable renewable energy.  And renewable energy is completely ready for prime time, technologically and economically.  The only barriers to a sustainable energy economy are political: the destructive subsidized power of the fossil fuels companies.

Therefore, half this $14 Billion of investment needs to be channeled into seismic upgrades, earthquake-proof reconstruction, and relocation out of the tsunami zone.  The other half needs to go for the development of decentralized, community-based renewable energy, with smart grids for resilience and a universal upgrading of efficiency and conservation in energy use.

This two-part jobs program is feasible.  Financing for it can be structured. It would dwarf these LNG projects in short- and long-term jobs, and would provide a vital permanent contribution to our economic and environmental health.

We Need Genuine Good Jobs

We’ll talk in detail about jobs over the next few months.  Genuine good jobs are vital; hundreds of thousands of people here in Oregon are still suffering from the 2008 Great Recession brought on by the megabanks. But LNG jobs are not “good” jobs: we can do better, and we must.

In the meantime, the climate science is clear: No longer can anyone say that LNG export is good for the planet.

Please check it out and pass it on.

# # #

Ted Gleichman has chaired the Beyond LNG Team of the Oregon Sierra Club since 2011, and served on the National Leadership Team of Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas Campaign from 2012-14.


2014 Desert Conference: Sept 19-20

August 12, 2014

Deschutes Wychus confluence Come join desert wilderness advocates for the 2014 Desert Conference to be held in Bend on Sept. 19-20!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and the Oregon Chapter and High Desert Committee are again pleased to help sponsor this conference as a way to educate and excite people about the possibilities for wilderness in Oregon’s renowned and beautiful High Desert.

This event is being organized by the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) and will include a mixture of informative break out sessions on a variety of topics on Friday as well as several preeminent keynote speakers. The speakers include Roderick Nash, author of the classic, Wilderness and the American Mind. Panels topics include Sage Grouse, Riparian Ecology, Desert History, Art in the Desert and more.

Painted Canyon OwyheeOn Saturday there will be an opportunity for day outings and a 50th anniversary celebration of wilderness block party in the evening.

Thursday evening will also offer a separate (but related) event, the showing of the Wild and Scenic Film Festival.

Registration for the conference is $60 and more information (schedule and speakers) can be found at: http://onda.org/2014desertconference

This is an incredible opportunity to learn about and get involved in desert wildlands protection and to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. We hope you will be able to join us in Bend!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,771 other followers