We are about to get FERC’d

The Federal Government Prepares to Bless a Catastrophic LNG Project –
Running from Canada to the Columbia

by Ted Gleichman

We are about to get FERC’d in Northwest Oregon and Western Washington. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the agency responsible for awarding the key Federal permission for major fossil-fuels energy infrastructure projects. FERC is now preparing to approve the projects proposed by a hedge fund / conglomerate subsidiary named Oregon LNG: more than $6 billion of huge new natural gas pipelines feeding into a planned massive industrial plant to liquefy this gas for export to Asia.

LNG tanker

The Oregon LNG (OLNG) project set includes:

  • a pipeline from Canada all the way through Washington State to Woodland, where it would tunnel under the Columbia River for a mile into Columbia County, Oregon;
  • a linked pipeline running through Columbia and Clatsop counties to Warrenton, on Young’s Bay, adjacent to Astoria; and
  • a gigantic liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal on the Skipanon River peninsula in Warrenton, protruding into the Columbia River, with docking and LNG transfer facilities for tankers 20 stories tall, with the LNG stored in 19-story tall tanks.

FERC is holding legally-required hearings in Washington and Oregon, but let’s be clear: FERC is 100% funded by the industry, and they have never rejected a major fossil fuels infrastructure project. For protecting the interests of the people of Oregon, the United States, and the world, FERC is a sham, a fraud, and a rubber stamp for an industry rapidly destroying a livable planet.

So why should you consider coming to FERC hearings in Astoria on Monday, September 21, and in Vernonia on Tuesday, September 22? There are three reasons:

  • First and most importantly, we are building a mass movement of opposition, and we need to get to know each other and learn how to work together. If you can come to a hearing, wear red and sign in not just with FERC but also with the Statewide Anti-LNG Coalition organizing team.
  • Second, it is imperative that we show the media, the general public, and Oregon elected officials and agency staff who are watching these hearings closely, that we will not accept these dangerous, destructive projects. We can’t stop them through FERC, but we can through the State of Oregon if we build enough pressure.
  • Finally, it is also important to build a record of opposition, with citizens from all walks of life standing up to the Federal government to object – to use our First Amendment rights to petition for redress of grievances.

Here are a few key talking points you can use for the paltry three minutes FERC allows for members of the public to speak. Feel free to think of your three minutes of oral testimony as an executive summary and then turn in longer written testimony at the hearing, or mail it in afterwards.

The Truth about Fracked Gas and LNG exports:

  • Methane is a major source of global warming and climate disruption; LNG exports and fracked gas production are NOT “climate solutions.”
    – Methane, CH4, is the first hydrocarbon and the smallest hydrocarbon molecule. This miniscule molecule carries with it 86 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
    – Because it is so small, it leaks throughout the supply chain: at the wellhead, in transmission and distribution pipelines, at compressor stations and processing plants, during liquefaction, during ocean going transit, in re-gasification in a foreign port, in overseas distribution, and in end-use facilities.
    – Atmospheric methane levels, like atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, are rising catastrophically, and we must reduce its extraction and use as quickly as possible.
  • Exporting LNG will increase natural gas costs for US households, businesses, and manufacturers, hurting our fragile economy.
    – Supply and demand is a straightforward concept: if major quantities of a commodity are removed from a marketplace and shipped overseas, domestic prices will go up. Natural gas is the most versatile fossil fuel and holds the most complex role in our economy of any fossil fuel.
    – Although we must quickly reduce and eventually eliminate its use for all but perhaps a few specialized manufacturing needs, for now the major urgent requirement is to protect it from corporate export exploitation and keep it in the ground.
  • Corporate power to take property rights with eminent domain and anti-democracy corporate trade powers like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership abuse the public trust.
    – Eminent domain was designed as a Constitutional provision by our nation’s founders to provide for fair compensation to landowners losing land for the public good. No public good has been demonstrated. For a multinational corporation to take family farms, woodlands, and homes as well as public forests for private profit through foreign export is a gross violation of the public interest.
    – And corporate trade deals that remove the right of the public to be represented by our governmental agencies and U.S. courts are a clear assault on sovereignty and basic American rights.
  • Toxic fracking irreversibly damages community water and land.
    – Industry-secret toxic fracking fluids permanently pollute underground formations with cracks and channels that often link to aquifers and eventually to the surface. Fracking lubricates stressed rock formations and has been proven to cause earthquakes.
    – The mixed gaseous hydrocarbons coming from the fracking wells are mostly methane, but also include butane, propane, ethanes, carbon dioxide, radon, mercury, and other toxins. Especially dangerous for land pollution is “produced water”: permanently polluted water that comes to the surface with the wellhead gases, and then must be disposed of somehow.
    – Fracking zones throughout the U.S. are already permanently damaged from this toxic brew.
  • Siting explosive, toxic facilities on the Oregon coast, guaranteed to suffer the most catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in US history, is outrageous and must not be allowed.
    – The earthquake from the Cascadia Subduction Zone that will hit Warrenton-Astoria will be a Magnitude 9 and generate a tsunami that could be 10 stories tall or more. It has a one-third chance of hitting within the 50-year lifespan of the OLNG plant.
    – No explosive tanker, LNG storage tank, or pipeline can be guaranteed to withstand such force. It will be the mirror image of the Japanese Tohoku-Fukushima earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Check out what the State of Oregon says about seismic hazards here.
  • Communities all along pipelines suffer air and water pollution and risk constant danger from explosive pipeline failures.
    – Pipelines and LNG processing plants always leak, sooner or later, and are at constant risk of catastrophic leaks and explosive failure. In the forest zones of Columbia and Clatsop counties, a pipeline rupture during fire season would create a massive conflagration.
    – When the earthquake hits, the 40-foot sections of the pipeline will rupture at every joint, and then the metal edges will rub and spark for several minutes. This would create a 90-mile line of wildfire across Northwest Oregon at a time when the First Responders are already completely overwhelmed.
    – The reverse is also a serious risk: a natural wildfire can heat and fracture a gas pipeline, even under a clearcut, burning through root systems or heating from above with a flaming tree falling across the pipeline path.
    – Running an explosive pipeline through forests experiencing severe, larger, and more frequent wildfires is a formula for disaster.
  • Jobs that damage our climate are not “good jobs”; we need clean, sustainable renewable energy and earthquake/tsunami protection jobs.
    – We need to rebuild our coastal and inland infrastructure to provide resilience against the coming earthquake, and we need an urgent complete transition to a green energy economy, where renewables, efficiency, and conservation eliminate the CO2 pollution that is rapidly overheating our oceans and atmosphere.
    – Genuine good jobs can be created and funded here and now! It’s up to us to build the political will for new ways to build economic health.

If you cannot attend a hearing and want to submit written testimony, or if you want to expand on your hearing testimony, the FERC deadline to accept additional information and comments is October 6. You can see instructions for submitting comments at http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/08/f25/EIS-0492-DEIS-2015.pdf.

The Bottom Line:

The Oregon LNG plans are essentially a criminal enterprise, aiming at locking in a long-term export plan for fracked gas that would constitute double the amount used now by all the households, businesses, and manufacturers in Oregon. Our state, our nation, and our planet cannot withstand this assault. They must be stopped, and we would be honored to have your help. Thank you!

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Ted Gleichman is Co-chair of Oregon Sierra Club Beyond Gas & Oil Team and a member of the National Strategy Team for Sierra Club’s Stop Dirty Fuels Initiative. You can reach Ted at ted.gleichman@oregon.sierraclub.org or 503-781-2498.

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