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.

Please click here to download our straightforward

six-page synopsis of this new climate science.
 
 .  

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!


North Coast State Forest Happenings

August 7, 2014

Late summer is a magical time in the Tillamook & Clatsop State Forests. Refreshing swimming holes provide families fun relief from summer heat; spring chinook and summer steelhead return up the north coast rivers and streams, offering anglers young & old the opportunity for iconic pursuit; and hikers rejoice on trails to University Falls, up Kings Mountain, and along the Wilson River. Mountain bikers are found throughout the forest. Horeseback riding is prevalent near Reehers camp. Hunters gear up for the Fall deer season.

Fish 2

Just one reason to protect the Tillamook & Clatsop

 

These yearly rituals are all the products of forests that are hanging in the balance. The Board of Forestry is in the process of writing a new Forest Management Plan. In early September, the Board will receive science reviews indicating the best way forward. We are hopeful that the best available science will guide the Board towards a plan that protects fish & wildlife habitat, clean drinking water, and abundant recreation opportunities. Along with good science, it will be crucial that the public weighs-in over the next few months, explaining to the Board what we value on these lands. Sign up for the North Coast State Forest Coalition’s email list to receive important action alerts!

In the meantime, here are some good ways to be involved in the future of these forests:

  • The Salmonberry Corridor Coalition is group of public and private partners (including Oregon Parks and the Oregon Department of Forestry) that is working to develop a new trail through the Tillamook State Forest along the old Salmonberry Railroad. We and our state forest protection partners (Northwest Steelheaders Association, Northwest Guides & Anglers Association, Trout Unlimited, and the Wild Salmon Center) think it’s a terrific vision with great promise. It would be a tremendous boost to the region and would improve recreation opportunities on Oregon‘s north coast. But it has to be done in a way that does not harm the Salmonberry River and its iconic steelhead run. Click here to share your comments in support of a primitive trail through the Salmonberry canyon!
  • Trygve Steen is a professor of Forest Ecology, Environmental Sustainability, and Photography at Portland State University. Trygve has joined several North Coast State Forest Coalition outings, generously contributing his contagious energy and knowledge of our forest landscapes. On Thursday September 18th, Trygve will be sharing his thoughts on Forest Ecology and Photography with us at the Columbia Group’s monthly program night. This evening should prove to be a fascinating and beautiful introduction to forest ecology and the numerous ways that forest management impacts us. Click here for more details!

 

Trygve Steen considering an old growth Douglas Fir in the Clatsop Forest

Trygve Steen considering an old growth Douglas Fir in the Clatsop Forest


Volunteers Give Oregon Chapter Garden a Facelift

July 17, 2014

If you’ve been by the Oregon Chapter lately, you haven’t been able to miss the exciting things happening right outside our doors!

The garden space next to the club that used to be full of garbage and invasive plants has been taken over by our volunteers. Several volunteers came out in early may to turn an underutilized piece of ground into a productive veggie garden and native plant haven.

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Volunteers work on Sierra Club Garden

The garden space next to the club that used to be full of garbage and invasive plants has been taken over by our volunteers. Several volunteers came out in early may to turn an underutilized piece of ground into a productive veggie garden and native plant haven.

Those who came out managed to completely remove all the trash and old landscaping in one afternoon. What they removed was given over to Metro to be composted or recycled and in exchange Metro donated to the club enough Recology compost to really give the space a lift.

Now that the compost has been spread and seeds have been planted our garden is certainly growing! We have lettuces, squash, beets and beans lining our walk and welcoming visitors.

The hope of the group working on the garden is that the space will function as a “community garden” where active members of the club can participate in growing food and native plants. Over time we hope that the space sustains itself with the exception of seasonal planting and of course harvest.

20140715_100635

Squash growing right outside our door!

Very soon, the gardeners will be getting together to make plans for a fall planting of native plants that will attract birds and provide a beautiful landscape in the garden space as well as additional edibles.

Our volunteers have taken what once was overgrown and littered and turned it into something educational and sustainable.

If you would like to help with this project or any of our other volunteer projects, we’d love you help! Simply fill out the form below and let us know what you’d like to do, we need everything from help to donations of plants and materials.

 

 


Welcoming Michael Brune and his family to Oregon

July 16, 2014
Mike Brune (16)

Mike Brune and family.

The week of July 7 was an exciting one for the Oregon Chapter, as we welcomed national Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune to Oregon for several days. Mike and his family are currently in the midst of a Northwest roadtrip in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. After departing their home in the Bay Area and stopping over for a night in the redwoods of northern California, their first stop in Oregon was at Odell Lake, just down the road from Waldo Lake.

We had a nice gathering of Sierra Club volunteers and staff with Mike and his family (wife Mary, daughters Olivia and Genevieve, and son Sebastian) on Monday evening, enjoying a cookout at a cabin near Crescent Lake. Then on Tuesday morning, the real fun began!

Mike Brune (4)

Mike looks over Waldo plans.

We began the morning with a press conference and briefing on the scenic shore of Waldo Lake about the Sierra Club’s Keep Waldo Wild campaign. In addition to Brune and his family and Sierra Club staff and volunteers, we also had a good assemblage of Congressional and Forest Service staffers present. They heard about our exciting plan to protect more than 76,000 acres of forest and wild areas around Waldo, developed in concert with other non-motorized user groups like the Central Oregon Trail Alliance mountain biking organization. We were pleased to be joined by COTA Chairman, Woody Starr, and by Bruce and Brian Johnson, the great-grandsons of Judge John Waldo, for whom the lake is named.

After the briefing, we took the Brunes for a fun, 3.5-mile hike around Charlton Lake. Despite the heat and the mosquitoes, Mike’s 9 and 5-year-old children did an amazing job on the hike. Then we did a great 5-mile roundtrip mountain biking trek over to Bobby Lake. Mike and his 5-year-old son Sebastian had to turn back about midway through the mountain bike ride, but his 9-year-old daughter Olivia did the entire ride and wanted even more when we were finished!

Click here to read Mike’s Huffington Post blog about his visit to Waldo Lake!

Then, on Wednesday, July 9, with the assistance of several members of our Many Rivers Group from Eugene and outdoor writer William Sullivan, we treated Mike and his family to an excellent hike up Mt. June, just outside of Dexter, Oregon. This hike is found in the Hardesty Wildlands area about 25 miles east of Eugene/Springfield, which our Many Rivers Group has been working to protect.

Mike and Mike Show (4)

Mike Brune and Mike McCloskey.

Thursday was another busy day for the Brunes, who had to depart their cabin at Odell Lake early in order for Mike to get to a morning Editorial Board meeting with the Eugene Register-Guard. Then they drove up to Portland for an exciting evening program with a packed room at the Chapter office with former national Sierra Club Executive Director Mike McCloskey, who discussed his great new book, Conserving Oregon’s Environment.

Mike Brune also spoke movingly about his road trip and about his desire to preserve wilderness and protect the planet for his (and all of our) kids to enjoy. And then it was off to Seattle for the Brunes, as they continued on to the next leg of their road trip.

It was a great few days with Mike, Mary, Olivia, Sebastian, and Genevieve, and I was honored to be one of the tour guides showing them some of the spectacular areas of our state. Obviously, 4 days is not nearly enough to really let them see the wonders Oregon has to offer, so we hope they will be back soon. We’ve got a few hundred other places we’d like to take them to!


Oregon Sierra Club Volunteers Lobby for Wilderness

July 7, 2014

Oregon Chapter Sierra Club members, Jill Workman and Chris Smith recently returned from Washington D.C. where they were lobbying Oregon’s delegates on behalf of the Club in support of a good, clean package of lands bills during the 113th Congress. Despite an extraordinarily challenging partisan environment in the Capitol, Great Outdoors America Week served as a positive context for a wide variety of constituents to impress upon their representatives the importance for wildlands across our country. Along with advocating for the creation and expansion of wilderness areas in Oregon and beyond, we also pushed for the Healthy Kids Outdoor Act, a bill that would help improve access and opportunities for kids to get into green spaces. This is part of a broader effort to kick nature-deficit disorder to the curb as kids are spending less and less time outside.

Getting kids outside is hugely important to public health.

Getting kids outside is hugely important to public health.

We were met with plenty of pessimism and frustration from our Oregon delegates, many of whom would like to see good lands bills go through this congress. Despite this frustration, there were glimmers of optimism that the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness Act and the Oregon Caves Revitalization Act might see some progress. We were also heartened to hear that some of our delegates shared the Club’s concern about bad lands bills such as the Sealaska and Resolution Copper, which would greatly damage America’s public landscape.

In the end, this work was well worth it in spite of the difficult politics reigning on Capitol Hill. The powerful message that individual citizens can send to their local DC delegates by paying them a visit is crucial as we fight for our environment and, though national-level politics is rife with deadlock and partisanship, there are still consistent environmental champions like Senator Jeff Merkley, who was kind enough to pose for a picture.

Senator Jeff Merkley with Oregon Chapter Sierra Club members, Jill Workman and Chris Smith

Senator Jeff Merkley with Oregon Chapter Sierra Club members, Jill Workman and Chris Smith


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