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?


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.

Harmful and Costly LNG Export Proposed for Oregon

August 10, 2012

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission opens paltry 30 day comment period to identify major impacts of Southern Oregon LNG export plans

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is giving you 30 days to provide input on what impacts to consider when exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States to Asia.

The Jordan Cove LNG export/Pacific Connector pipeline proposal would build a 235-mile pipeline through southern Oregon, cutting through nearly 400 streams, clearcutting through 80 miles of public forests, and increasing domestic energy prices by exporting U.S. natural gas from a proposed terminal in Coos Bay.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is expected to be released this winter, but now, within the next 30 days, FERC wants to hear from the public on what issues to include in the DEIS.

30 days is not near enough time.

Natural gas companies envision U.S. LNG exports to China and other Asian nations from Oregon as a new way to capitalize on low-cost US natural gas made abundant by ‘fracking’ for gas in shale deposits in the Rocky Mountains. Fracking has come under intense scrutiny due to harms to water quality and the gas drilling boom it has created. Unfortunately, exporting this gas will only increase the amount of harmful fracking, build a damaging gas pipeline across Oregon, intensify climate change, and raise US energy prices.

Federal regulators should give the American public a reasonable amount of time to provide input on this precedent-setting proposal.

Please ask FERC to extend the public commenting time to at least 60 days. Please click here to send a quick email to Paul Friedman, the FERC representative for this project, and ask him to convey to the FERC commissioners that they should extend the comment time to at least 60 days.

More time is needed for this complicated and wide-reaching project that includes impacts to public forests, endangered fish and wildlife, climate change, family farms and forest owners, domestic gas prices for homes, businesses and manufacturers as well as the cumulative impacts of fracking more gas in the Rockies.

Governor issues draft 10-year energy plan – Comments Due July 31

July 12, 2012

In early June, Governor Kitzhaber unveiled a draft 10-year energy plan for the state of Oregon. The plan focuses on strategies geared at ensuring that Oregon will meet significant greenhouse gas reduction goals and strengthen our economy by moving away from fossil fuels, like coal. The Governor is taking comments on the plan until July 31, and three public meetings are being held to take testimony

Click here to send the Governor a letter asking for a strong 10-year plan to move Oregon beyond coal and towards a clean energy future!

If you can, please also attend one of the upcoming public meetings:

Wednesday, July 18th, 5:30pm-7:30pm
Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT), 3201 Campus Drive, College Union Auditorium,

Thursday, July 19th, 5:30pm-7:30pm; Location: Central Oregon Community College (COCC), 2600 NW College Way, Pioneer 201 Auditorium,

Friday, July 20th, 5:30-7:30pm
Location: Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC), 6000 SE Stark St., Visual Arts Theater (in back)

Key points to make in your public testimony and comments:

  • The plan should require all Oregon utilities to make major gains in phasing out coal power between now and 2020.
  • New energy needs over the next decade should be obtained with substantial increases in energy efficiency and conservation in homes, public buildings and commercial buildings; through the creation of ‘energy performance scores’ for buildings; and expansion of the Clean Energy Works weatherization program.
  • The plan should increase ‘distributed energy’ like rooftop solar across the state, and should include a large-scale, state-wide ‘feed-in tariff’ program to allow homeowners, small businesses, farmers, houses of worship, and local governments to be paid a fair rate by utilities for producing clean energy.
  • The plan should make Oregon’s greenhouse gas reduction goals legally binding to push all utilities to reduce coal use, and should also expand the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to obtain 33% of the state’s energy from new renewable sources by 2025.
  • The plan should ensure that state and federal permits for the export of coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG) are not issued. If approved by state agencies, coal and LNG export could render irrelevant all of Oregon’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

You can submit your own comments on the plan by emailing or by clicking here.

In unveiling the draft 10-year energy plan, the Governor wrote:

Oregon has a track record of successfully pursuing clean energy policy, programs and practices to reduce energy use and promote renewable alternatives to fossil fuels. These public and private initiatives have made Oregon a national leader, but we continue to face a fundamental challenge –
that is, to develop a comprehensive energy strategy that meets the state’s carbon reduction, energy conservation and renewable energy goals and timetables, and that balances complex needs – including affordability and reliability – while enhancing Oregon’s economic objectives.

This 10-Year Energy Action Plan takes a practical approach to that challenge, focusing on specific initiatives that move the dial in the short term and can be scaled up over time. It is also an economic action plan, emphasizing priorities that can get Oregonians back to work on energy related projects in urban and rural communities across the state.

The Governor’s plan is an important opportunity to accelerate our region’s transition from a fossil fuel dependent energy and transportation system to a clean energy future. We encourage all Oregonians concerned about the growing harms from climate change and the need for urgency and decisive action to weigh in to help create a final plan that will result in decisive near term and long term actions.

You can email comments here until July 31 by clicking here.

And you can read both the plan and background materials here, as well as sign up for email updates.

We thank Governor Kitzhaber for bringing Oregonians together to focus on a 10-year energy plan for the state designed to significantly reduce reliance on fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.

LNG: Now it’s all about Export and Fracking

June 7, 2012

By Ted Gleichman, Chair
Oregon Chapter Anti-LNG Committee 

Note: “Natural gas” may be the most effective rebranding in history.  It is actually 100% methane (see “The Gory Details,” below), so here we call it by its name.

We’ve been working to prevent mega-ports for liquefied natural gas (LNG) on the Oregon Coast and in the Columbia estuary, and to stop the new pipelines necessary to feed them, for most of a decade.  We’ve learned a lot, and this article tackles a few current FAQs.

So they don’t want to import it anymore?

Right.  Until this year, LNG was sold officially as the right way to import methane, to increase domestic supplies and protect our fossil-fuel future.  But that was only a marketing ploy.  North America has the least-costly methane in the world.  Prices in Asia are four- to six times as much; in Europe, they are triple.  Import economics made no sense.

Anti-LNG activists, including Sierra Club leaders, pointed this out to federal, state, and local authorities years ago.  In fact, we warned the Oregon Legislature about this in 2011, to no avail.  The developers consistently denied this was their plan.  Now, throughout the U.S., they have flipped formally to EXPORT, with hedge-fund financing to send methane overseas.

Why is import versus export important?

There are three big reasons.  First, imported LNG was touted as a key fossil fuel for our entire society: to bolster our business-as-usual economy, to protect our way of life, and to enhance our energy security.

That sales pitch is distorted too.  Regardless, though, none of that applies to export.  Depleting our supplies by sending significant quantities overseas risks more job loss, economic stress, and energy problems.  Estimates are that 20-40% of North American methane could be exported if the industry simply plays to foreign markets.

Which leads to the second major difference:  Methane export will raise costs for all domestic users – from folks heating homes with methane furnaces and frying eggs on methane stoves, through manufacturers in all segments of our job-starved economy, to the chemical industry, where methane is a major feedstock. The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently estimated that if all of these export proposals come to pass, methane prices in the U.S. could increase by as much as 54%.  A single plant in Louisiana is estimated to increase all U.S. prices by 10%.

We know that the oil market is a global market, affected only a tiny bit on the margins by domestic production and oil policy.  (It turns out that the President doesn’t actually set gas prices at the pump, campaign rhetoric notwithstanding.)

So globalizing the methane market has been a key industry goal. But moving a gas across oceans is tougher than moving a fluid, and liquefying methane into LNG targets that problem.  The move to export clarifies that the hearts-and-flowers about domestic energy security was just so much fluff.

In a globalized methane market, we will all pay more.  Just as OPEC reaps windfall profits from oil geography, North America’s methane is targeted for windfall profits through LNG export.

Finally, much export methane would come from FRACKING.  Hydro-fracturing of tight underground shale formations is exploding throughout North America, based on new and enhanced extraction technologies.  There are more than 46,000 wells in Colorado alone.  Severe damage to air, land, and water has been documented, and most fracking impacts are wholly or partially unknown (see “The Gory Details,” below).

As eco-leader Bill McKibben points out, no restaurant could dump toxic fumes, deadly fluids, and hazardous waste into the neighborhood, but that’s standard operating procedure within much of the hydrocarbon industry.  The fracking specialists are among the very worst offenders, and human and ecosystem health are being dramatically damaged as a result.

Maybe some fracking can be safe; EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says that’s possible.  Others disagree; apparently the jury’s still out. While information leaks out and assessment evolves, I use “renegade fracking” for toxic industry practices.

So follow the windfall profits:  LNG export would bring the money for renegade fracking, and renegade fracking fuels LNG export.  They are two sides of the same coin, fused by money.

The Gory Details:To liquefy methane for LNG, it must be cooled to -261° F, reducing its volume to 1/600th of normal to ship by tanker.  This is energy- and carbon-intensive; LNG export terminals must have their own power plants, and LNG tankers burn significant amounts of fossil fuels to maintain that temperature.  LNG is warmed and regasified at the destination port, to move by pipeline.Most hydrocarbons are found mixed together; hence the need for refineries.  Methane is often found with oil, benzene, propane, other hydrocarbons, and miscellaneous chemical compounds; these are stripped out in refining to make it pure methane (CH4).  When methane is burned, the primary byproduct (in addition to heat) is carbon dioxide.  So, contrary to the industry-fueled myth that “natural gas” is a clean fuel, methane is a carbon-based fossil fuel and invariably contributes to global warming and climate change.The cleanliness myth is understandable (and marketable), however, for two reasons:  First, unlike coal, tar sands, and oil, burning methane does not directly create toxic byproducts.  You can burn small quantities in your kitchen at low risk.  Second, when burned, it releases less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than coal and other hydrocarbons.

But methane itself is a potent greenhouse gas, contributing massively to climate disruption.  For its first 20 years in the atmosphere, by volume, methane traps 75 times more heat than carbon dioxide.  Within the general crisis of fossil fuels, methane that leaks or is vented from fracked wells is a major problem.  Atmospheric leaks are epidemic, and significant in volume.  Methane is not clean.

Hydro-fracturing (fracking) is the process of pumping high-pressure fluids into methane-rich shale formations, breaking the rock down so methane and other hydrocarbons will flow into wells for extraction.  Formulas for fracking fluids – most of which are highly toxic – are secret under the 2005 Energy Act.  More than 500 fracking compounds have been identified by independent activists.  That federal law, structured by then-Vice President Richard Cheney, also removed EPA jurisdiction over fracking.  States and local jurisdictions throughout the country are struggling with how to protect their people and ecosystems, since there is such minimal federal opportunity for leadership.

What about the pipelines?

Moving methane for LNG would require hundreds of miles of new high-pressure explosive pipelines.  Developers want eminent-domain paths as wide as interstates, ripping through national and state forests, woodlands, farms, and vineyards.

These new pipelines are unnecessary (and in the wrong place) for any current or projected actual need; existing methane infrastructure is decent for that.  These would only run from the existing major pipelines serving population centers to feed the new LNG export terminals.

What’s going on with the projects we’re trying to stop?

Glad you asked: there are two now, bookending the Oregon Coast.

Oregon LNG.  In Northwestern Oregon, Oregon LNG recently came roaring back from apparent dormancy.   They’ve restructured their effort to build in Warrenton, on the south bank of the Columbia River by Astoria.  The Port of Astoria is leasing State-owned land there, and subletting it to Oregon LNG.

They have re-routed their pipeline to bypass Washington County, where many of the best-organized opponents are.  Now, they want to dig from a major pipeline in Washington State, near Woodland.  It would run 86 miles, tunneling under the Columbia, through Columbia and Clatsop Counties, and back to the river.

In Clatsop County, years of first-class political organizing helped to flip the County Commission to a strong anti-LNG majority.  They revoked a prior decision authorizing the pipeline, and Oregon LNG sued over their right to do that.  That case is currently in the Oregon Court of Appeals and will go on for months to come.

But Oregon LNG is pitching their refurbished plan to elected officials, labor leaders, and bureaucrats across the communities of interest.  They are claiming a $6 billion project, with 2,000 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs; they are getting strong support from some Building Trades union leaders.   (They are focusing on export, of course, but claim they’ll establish import capability too, in case we ever need it.)  Regardless of the Court of Appeals outcome, this will be a tough battle for the duration.

Jordan Cove.  In Southwestern Oregon, this Coos Bay project has moved completely to export.  So the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruled that export does not equal import, and revoked licenses for both the LNG import terminal and its pipeline.  The Pacific Connector Pipeline would run 235 miles from the existing methane network near Klamath Falls, through Klamath, Jackson, Douglas, and Coos Counties.

This was good news; Jordan Cove must redo major parts of federal, state, and local approvals, including new environmental impact statements.  However, FERC made a point of noting that they still see “the market” as determining facility need – not any independent analysis of the value to the people of the United States.  So if a developer believes they can make money, they can get a site license and build.

Now, state and local issues are critically important.  One is the decision by the Oregon Department of State Lands to authorize the Port of Coos Bay to dredge some 5.6 million cubic yards from the estuary to make room for LNG tankers (and coal tankers, another goal for the Port).  This is the largest dredging project in an Oregon bay in history; one leader in Southern Oregon calculated that the dredging spoils would fill the Rose Bowl 16 times over.

Sierra Club’s national leaders have been vital, helping to assemble a coalition (and helping to pay for the legal team!) for a formal state appeal of this dredging permit.

Liquefaction Power.  It takes a lot of juice to liquefy methane for ocean shipment.  Jordan Cove has proposed a new 350-megawatt methane-fired power plant.  Oregon LNG has not yet revealed their liquefaction energy plans.

What’s Sierra Club doing nationally now about methane?

Attention and determination have spiked upwards this year.  Our Natural Gas Reform Campaign, which has focused heavily on fracking, has just been renamed the Beyond Natural Gas Campaign and added staffing.

Most critically to us, national Sierra Club leaders are serious about fighting LNG export.  Our leadership knows it is irrevocably linked to fracking, and we are engaged in five legal battles against LNG export (including the Coos Bay dredging appeal) and tracking eight other project proposals (including Oregon LNG).

We can’t overstate the importance of having serious legal resources on our side.  Industry money is unlimited, and our lawyers keep us in the institutional game.  That’s been vital – although, in most cases, it is probably not enough to win all by itself.

So how do we win on LNG export and fracking?

Good question.  I don’t think anybody knows yet.  There’s a lot of good work going on, within Sierra Club and with our allies, on the various legal, technical, and political questions.  We know grass-roots organizing will be vital to our success.  As a Buddhist friend says, “More to be revealed!”

And here are two other key things we know:

  • We need to end all use of fossil fuels.  They’ve been pretty wonderful for us over the last 250 years, powering industrial society (along with horrific oil spills, mercury in our food, etc.)  But their time has past: now, they are causing climate disruption that will extinguish civilization if it is not mitigated as quickly as possible.  This slow-motion catastrophe shows up most vividly in extreme weather – and there is nothing slow about hurricanes, tornadoes, and forest fires.  So we know we need an urgent transition to genuine clean renewable energy.
  • And clean renewable energy is here, now, and ready for prime time.  The technology works and the economics work.  This is vital, because it’s not enough for Americans just to fight evil; we need simultaneously to promote the good.  We can do that: it’s what the “Beyond” means in our campaign names.

Ending fossil fuels and developing clean renewable energy are bottom-line policies for Sierra Club, nationally and in Oregon.  I’m confident we’ll come up with the right ways to stop LNG export and renegade fracking.  So stay tuned: we’ll definitely be in touch!

Ted Gleichman, Chair, Oregon Chapter LNG Committee – 503-781-2498;

Big Coal Eyes Oregon – Oregonians Fight Back

January 19, 2012

Big coal companies are eying Oregon. With coal fired power plants closing across the Northwest and nation due to public demand for cleaner energy, big coal companies want to export the dirty fossil fuel to fast-growing countries in Asia were environmental standards are far lower than in the U.S.

In 2011, the Port of St. Helens along the Columbia River, and the Port of Coos Bay on the southern Oregon Coast, revealed they were in confidential negotiations with unnamed coal companies seeking to export tens of millions of tons of coal to Asia. The Ports have kept the plans secret for months.

But things have been heating up recently. In late December, the Oregon Department of State Lands approved a controversial dredging in north spit of Coos Bay necessary for huge ships that export coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG). On January 18, a coalition of conservation groups and local citizens appealed the decision, arguing that the dredging would cause significant harm to water quality in Coos Bay, and that environmental and public health impacts of exporting LNG and coal were never considered. Read the coalition press release.

Meanwhile, the Port of St. Helens has announced a public meeting to hear from two companies vying to build a coal export terminal on the Columbia River. This is in addition to a coal export terminal proposed for the Washington side of the river in Longview, and another in Bellingham, WA. Read the press release on St. Helens’ coal export plans.

The Sierra Club is fighting multiple coal export plans in the Pacific Northwest as well as plans to export LNG.

Keystone tar sands pipeline on hold!

November 11, 2011

Sierra Club activists protest the Keystone tar sands pipeline at Pioneer Courthouse in Portland in solidarity with thousands outside the White House on November 6.

After months of input from hundreds of thousands of people, and recent protests from the White House to Portland, the Obama administration has decided to reevaluate the environmental review of the dirty Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. This massive pipeline would bring oil mined from the tar sands underneath the wild boreal forests of Alberta to oil refineries on the Texas Gulf coast, further hooking the US on the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

Send a thank you note to President Obama to taking action to delay the Keystone pipeline!

In Portland on November 6, Sierra Club activists rallied in solidarity with a simultaneous protest against the Keystone pipeline in Washington, DC, which drew some 12,000 people to the White House.

Here’s a recap from one of the organizers of the Portland event, Ted Gleichman, co-chair of the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club’s anti-LNG committee:

Alberta vs. Ontario: What does that mean for the energy and climate future of Oregon?

First, Alberta: This past Sunday, November 6, the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club was the key grass-roots environmental group working with Occupy Portland in a peaceful and enthusiastic rally and march against the Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

This pipeline would take the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet, the Alberta Tar Sands, 1,700 miles across the Midwest and the Ogallala Aquifer to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.  Whether it would then be burned in our vehicles or exported to China, it would be the most drastic contribution to irreversible global warming of anything we could do in North America.  A sour deal on every level, this pipeline must be stopped.

Sierra Club volunteers, with staff support, worked with Occupiers to demonstrate West Coast solidarity with “Hands Around the White House,” where 12,000 people demonstrated three and four deep to urge President Obama to stand against further exploitation of the Tar Sands – one year to the day before the 2012 general election.

The Portland event completely encircled the downtown block of the historic Pioneer Courthouse, at the busiest transit intersection in the city.  The 250 demonstrators, fully compliant with free-speech laws, chanted and sang for an hour on a beautiful clear afternoon.

Previously, we’d heard from six speakers, including me and Bonnie McKinlay of the Chapter Beyond Coal campaign.  We were among the 1,252 people arrested at the Tar Sands Action protests at the White House in late August and early September.

We focused on the future at our Portland event: More than 100 people signed up for more involvement, and we passed out 200 brochures on ways people can get involved with all types of Club activities and other organizations that share Sierra Club values.

And now we’ve learned that President Obama has heard enough of our urgent message to at least delay the pipeline for additional environmental review for a year and a half – well after the 2012 voting.

And that’s where Ontario comes in.  They’ve taken the opposite path from Alberta.  Instead of drowning their eggs in a basket of toxic fossil fuel waste, they are hatching renewable chickens!

In 2010, Ontario passed the first true “feed-in tariff” program in North American, where utilities are required to pay folks who generate renewable energy a guaranteed contract price that lets them finance their equipment and generate a fair return on investment. Oregon currently has a small-scale pilot feed-in tariff, which has been highly successful, and needs to be improved and expanded.

Through its program, in just one year, the Ontario Green Energy & Green Economy Act has generated five thousand megawatts of renewable-energy capacity and created more than 40,000 jobs.  Most new solar photovoltaic and other renewable-energy systems are being installed in small- and medium-sized configurations, on individual homes and public buildings, on churches and farms and factories.  Many are being done as community-based projects with many neighbors or tribal members participating in common: even renters can own a piece of a solar system!

As a result of this dramatic explosion of clean energy and green jobs, Ontario will close all of their coal-fired power plants by 2014!

Here in Oregon, the Sierra Club is once again leading the way.  Chapter leaders have developed a strategic alliance with Oregonians for Renewable Energy Policy (OREP), a leading non-profit working on a feed-in tariff program for our state, and other clean energy organizations.  The groups plan to influence the development of the Governor’s 10-year energy plan, including a hoped for expansion of Oregon’s small-scale pilot feed-in tariff program.

The Oregon Sierra Club is also leading the way on energy efficiency. Working with Clean Energy Works Oregon, the Oregon Chapter is promoting deep weatherization: a powerful remodeling program that allows homeowners to cut energy use dramatically while improving the livability, comfort, and value of their homes.  This program provides for loans that are repaid through utility bills, providing convenience to the homeowner and security to the lender.

Overall, the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club is showing the way on both the positive and the negative: stepping out front to stop destructive efforts like the Keystone XL, coal export, and LNG terminals and pipelines – and simultaneously taking concrete, practical steps to create the sensible clean energy future and good local jobs we all know we need.

Alberta vs. Ontario?  We’re choosing Ontario!

LNG – Its About Export

September 12, 2011

The site of the proposed Oregon LNG terminal near Astoria, now considering export.

“There is currently no need for import into North America,” said Bob Braddock, manager of the Jordan Cove LNG project in Coos Bay. “We accept that. If anything makes sense, it’s export.” September 1, 2011 – The Oregonian

During the 2011 legislative session, the Sierra Club teamed up with the Oregon Small Woodlands Association and other allies to fight HB 2700, a bill that would expedite the process for applying for wetland removal-fill permits for ‘linear utilities’ like pipelines.

Our concern was not so much about a new process for transmission lines, roads, or water pipes, but because we knew this was a backdoor way to jump start the process for the development of highly controversial and damaging liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipelines. We advocated an amendment that would have prevented the provisions of the bill from applying to pipelines intended to import or export of LNG.

Unfortunately, our common-sense amendment was not adopted. The bill was signed by the Governor, but he issued a letter on August 3 noting his ongoing concern over LNG development in Oregon and intention to have state agencies hold LNG companies firmly to state and local laws given the track record of previous damaging pipeline developments in Oregon.

The Governor wrote on August 3: ‘I fully expect and will demand that Oregon agencies with a regulatory role relating to LNG facilities scrutinize applications carefully, and deny applications that do not meet applicable state and local standards. I also will insist that conditions to assure that environmental standards are met are carefully drawn and vigorously enforced.’

Throughout the session, proponents of HB 2700 claimed it had nothing to do with LNG, despite abundant evidence to the contrary. Further, some of those in favor of the bill also pointed to the bankruptcy of Bradwood Landing LNG, claiming this proved that the market could not support LNG import terminals, so there was nothing to worry about.

We pointed out that the new game in town wasn’t LNG import, its was export of US natural gas to overseas markets. Once a terminal and connecting pipelines get built in Astoria or Coos Bay, international gas companies will export or import based on where they can get the best price. Gas export not only poses the same environmental problems (pipelines crossing rivers, wetlands and farms; development and dredging of sensitive estuaries; and increased reliance on fossil fuels) it also threatens existing jobs and industry in Oregon sensitive to export related energy price spikes.

Back on July 16, the Oregonian newspaper reported that Oregon LNG’s proposed terminal along the Columbia River near Astoria (pictured above) was considering LNG export in an article titled ‘Oregon LNG terminal plans reverse from importing to exporting gas.’

And with the recent completion of the Ruby gas pipeline, carrying gas from Wyoming to a hub southern Oregon near the California boarder, a September 1 article in the Oregonian newspaper revealed even more details on the impact of the Ruby pipeline on the aspirations of LNG companies. After years spent denying that LNG export is on the table, developers have quickly changed their tune. From the Oregonian on September 1:

In the short run, Ruby puts a market-based exclamation point on the notion that there is no need for terminals in Oregon to import liquefied natural gas. The rationale for those projects relied largely on demand in California — needs now served by Ruby and the existing TransCanda GTN  pipeline that runs through central Oregon.

If anything, Ruby gives weight to the idea to convert LNG import projects to export facilities to serve lucrative gas markets in Asia. Backers of the proposed LNG terminal in Coos Bay and its associated pipeline, which also terminates in Malin, are discussing that notion with U.S. producers and Asian buyers to determine how serious their interest is.

“There is currently no need for import into North America,” said Bob Braddock, manager of the Jordan Cove LNG project in Coos Bay. “We accept that. If anything makes sense, it’s export.”

Braddock said the company plans to finish its licensing for an import facility because most of the money necessary has already been expended. Converting that application to a dual-use facility would involve minimal work, he said, because most of the main structures are the same.

As has become clear for several years since the price of domestic gas started plummeting, its all about export.


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