FERC Disses Oregon’s Big Three over Jordan Cove LNG Review Process

July 14, 2017

By Ted Gleichman

IMPORTANT: At the end of this post are two Action Items!

FERC-Francis Eatherington-September 2015

FERC Headquarters, Washington, D.C.  Francis Eatherington, a Landowner on the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline route planned for Douglas County, Oregon, participated in a fast and vigil at FERC in September 2015.  Photo: Ted Gleichman

What kind of a Federal agency ignores both Senators and the Governor of a state, rejecting a simple request from the top three elected officials, for a request it had approved quickly in the past? Tragically for Oregon, it’s an agency that was always generally terrible, and is now in the process of being taken over by the Trump Regime: the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Thirteen Years of Fighting

This is all about the bitterly-controversial new version of the proposed joint Jordan Cove Energy Project & Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline (JC/PC) in Southern Oregon. It consists of a plan to run a new 235-mile explosive 36-inch-diameter fracked-gas pipeline across four counties, linking from the Rockies and Canada, to transport the methane to a massive new industrial-plant export terminal in Coos Bay that would convert it to liquefied natural gas (LNG) to sell in Asia. This $8 billion-plus scheme by a Canadian energy speculator has bedeviled a broad coalition of Oregonians in opposition for more than 13 years, and is now into its third major attempt to win approval.

Now On Tap: A New EIS

So now it is time for FERC to manage a new Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). A month ago, FERC suddenly announced 30 days to receive “scoping” comments, and set three narrowly-constrained public hearings to launch that scoping process: taking advice on what the scope of the DEIS should include.

When this was done before in 2012, the agency began with a 30-day comment period, but scheduled open public hearings in all four “affected counties”: Coos, Douglas, Jackson, and Klamath, with a total population of almost half a million people. That ultimately led to a Final EIS (FEIS) for the Federal eminent domain and construction permit approval process that FERC finally rejected twice, in 2016.

Ruby Pipeline Clearcut-Klamath County

The clearcut in Klamath County above the path of the Ruby Pipeline, delivering fracked gas from Wyoming and Colorado to Malin, Oregon, where Pacific Connector would begin its 235-mile run to the Pacific Coast.  Photo: Ted Gleichman

Oregon’s top elected leaders then requested more time – 90 days – for residents and stakeholders to evaluate and comment on thousands of pages of documents concerning the largest proposed construction project in state history. FERC quickly agreed.

What’s Jackson County?  Chopped Liver??

This year, when FERC abruptly launched scoping again with a 30-day window, they also left out Jackson County, which includes almost half of the total population of the four counties – and has been the heart of the resistance to the pipeline.  And they changed the process from open testimony at a microphone in front of all the attendees to private testimony to a court reporter — so no one else attending can hear others’ thoughts, and build on them or avoid repetition.

Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Governor Kate Brown then formally told FERC that Oregonians deserved 90 days, and Jackson County deserved its own hearing. Others, including the Jackson County Commissioners and the Medford Mail Tribune, joined in.

These requests for a cleaner, more open process, allowing genuine input, were almost completely ignored by FERC.  To be fair, the agency said that they would continue to review new scoping comments after the July 10 deadline they’d set.  But they also emphasized that an open scoping process is entirely voluntary on FERC’s part, not required by law but only an operational procedure to allow community input that they are not required to consider.  FERC cannot be sued for ignoring scoping comments, for example.

Why Does “Inside FERC” Matter?  Because Here Comes the Trump Regime!

This pruning of the process does not bode well for Oregon’s future relationship to the agency, as Trump nominees will be coming in to take it over this summer. Therefore, with FERC looking strongly like it is now already in the pocket of the Canadian energy speculator and the fossil fuels industry for JC/PC – the way FERC has behaved traditionally for almost every other project! – we need to be extra vigilant.

It seems increasingly likely that our work to stop this dangerous and destructive project is going to depend on state and local action. As usual: stay tuned!

Two Opportunities For Action Right Now!

First: Statewide.  We appreciate the Big Three advocating for a better process.  But it would be even better if Wyden, Merkley, and Brown actually came out against this terrible project.  Please ask them to take a stand against the Trump fracked-gas export agenda for Oregon!  They cannot be “climate champion” and “pro-Paris Accords” if they let Jordan Cove / Pacific Connector happen on their watch.

Tell them to take a stand for Oregon and the planet:

https://sierra.secure.force.com/actions/Oregon?actionId=AR0082644&id=70131000001Lp1FAAS&utm_campaign=addthis&utm_source=email&utm_medium=recruit#.WVUUWGv-K80.email

Second: In the Portland Metro area.  We are helping to lead the development of a broad new coalition in Portland to help stop Jordan Cove.  Please come to our  organizing meeting if you can:

WHAT: Portland Area Stop Jordan Cove Organizing Meeting
WHEN: Wednesday, July 19th, 7:00pm – 8:30pm
WHERE: Multnomah Friends Meetinghouse, 4312 SE Stark, Portland
MORE INFO: 503-705-1943, goto350pdx@gmail.com

Please RSVP:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeVqG0jYfUMBLkPyde8qRf-MarZiiDu6bM_2oCzfdvxxp05bA/viewform

Please join us to protect Oregon and block this dangerous climate wrecking project.

Ted Gleichman is policy advisor for the Oregon Chapter Beyond Gas & Oil Team and a member of the National Strategy Team for Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign.

 


Jordan Cove LNG: The Empire Strikes Back

May 18, 2017

By Ted Gleichman

We have complex Jordan Cove news, so I will overstrain this Star Wars metaphor right from the get-go.

Proposed Jordan Cove Construction Site-OPB-EarthFix

View of the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal site on Coos Bay.
Credit: Jes Burns, Oregon Public Broadcasting / EarthFix

We all remember the temporary victories of last year: the valiant Rebel fighters in Southern Oregon brought down the Empire’s local Death Star: the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal plan and the fracked-gas Pacific Connector pipeline necessary to serve it.

Technically, the Rebels persuaded a key Empire directorate, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), to go rogue briefly, for the first time ever on LNG, to deny federal permits to the Death Star (twice).

Then Darth Vader was anointed to take over the Empire, in a structural coup that displaced the assumed new Empress (even though she was supported by more of the Empire’s electorate). And FERC – never a true friend to the Resistance – emphasized that the Death Star owner (Veresen Inc., from the key Empire fossil fuels province of Canada) could re-apply for a new Death Star any time. And so they did, saying that Emperor Vader would save them….

Ok, enough Star Wars…. This 13-year battle now has moved into a blend of old and new terrain. We continue to work to build local and state support, while restructuring how to fight through the new FERC process and defeat state permits. Here are the highlights:

  • Veresen and Jordan Cove get strong support from the Trump Regime
  • Senators Wyden and Merkley try to play both sides with Trump and FERC
  • Merkley proposes a Full-Renewables Policy, with a Jordan Cove Loophole
  • Veresen agrees to a Sweetheart Merger with Pembina Pipeline Corp.
  • The Trump Regime announces new FERC Nominees – Wyden is key
  • Jordan Cove defeats a controversial local-control ordinance in Coos County
  • Coming next: Outreach to Wyden, Merkley, Governor Brown, and others

Veresen and Jordan Cove get strong support from the Trump Regime

Three days after President Trump’s inauguration, leaders of major construction unions met directly with him and top aides (including Steve Bannon) at the White House to promote Jordan Cove. They received a pledge of support: they were told that Jordan Cove would be the third energy infrastructure project on regime list for approval, immediately after the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline. Veresen CEO Donald Althoff was also incorporated into a major Trump corporate sales pitch and is claiming White House support.

Senior Trump aide Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council and a top advisor to the President on infrastructure plans, spoke recently to a key globalization think-tank, the Institute of International Economics. He stated bluntly, “We’re going to approve an LNG export terminal on the West Coast.”

Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive, made it clear that he was speaking specifically about Jordan Cove. He was definitive on Trump’s power to approve it, despite the fact that legally FERC is an independent agency.

Senators Wyden and Merkley try to play both sides with Trump and FERC

In response, Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley issued a joint warning to the White House, saying in essence, ‘Don’t mess with FERC, but we still like Jordan Cove.’

This remarkable letter has, for me, a ‘split the baby’ feel, and is a perfect example of the conundrum facing all of us: A huge percentage of the Democratic Party base opposes Trump on every level. Another traditionally-Democratic set of constituencies, portions of Labor and other rural and blue-collar voters, were vital to Trump’s Electoral College victory.

Both senators have been supportive of Jordan Cove – sometimes strongly supportive – through many twists and turns as the facts on the ground have evolved and opposition has grown.   But now Jordan Cove is a first-tier Trump agenda item.

And in Oregon, the power of the Building Trades in Democratic Party politics and the desperate need for high-wage jobs in Southern Oregon have been the key factors in preventing formal Democratic elected-official opposition to a pipeline and terminal that are terrible for landowners and communities, the local ecology, and the planet.

Furthermore, FERC has been a truly brutal agency, forcing eminent domain abuses on landowners on pipeline routes across the country before the pipelines have even received other mandatory approvals. FERC denied Jordan Cove twice last year because it is one of the worst and weakest LNG export projects in the United States – not because there is anything admirable about FERC’s management of fossil fuels exploitation as we live in climate crisis.

Merkley proposes a Full-Renewables Economy, with a Jordan Cove Loophole

Simultaneously, Senator Merkley was the lead sponsor and prime mover for a massive new bill that (if eventually approved) would constitute the most ambitious federal reform plan yet for our long-term energy use: the 100 by ’50 Plan: 100% renewables in the U.S. by 2050. The 319-page bill, S. 987, is designed to reform every section of the U.S. energy economy. Although controversial in many ways, it is a serious effort…

….EXCEPT the section prohibiting most new fossil fuels infrastructure, Section 501, would not take effect until 2021, for reasons that are unclear. This apparent loophole moves this crucial component of “Keep It In the Ground” past the time when Jordan Cove now expects to receive federal and state approvals and begin construction.

Many in Southern Oregon fighting to stop Jordan Cove and the pipeline see Senator Merkley’s actions as hypocritical.

Veresen agrees to a Sweetheart Merger with Pembina Pipeline Corp.

At the same time, Veresen agreed to a sweetheart merger with another Canadian fossil fuels company, Pembina Pipeline Corp. The two companies expect Canadian regulatory approval this fall, and the merger would make Pembina one of the largest Canadian fossil fuels companies (although still only medium-sized by U.S. and global standards).

The Pembina CEO praised Jordan Cove as a key opportunity, apparently forgetting the 2015 defeat of their $500 million propane export terminal proposal in Portland.

The Trump Regime announces new FERC Nominees – Wyden is key

FERC has been unable to approve any major new project since early February, when the five-member commission fell to two members and lost the ability to constitute a quorum. Under strong pressure from the fossil fuels industry, the Trump regime announced two new nominees last week: both are reliable supporters of all oil and gas projects.

One of Trump’s nominees is the top energy aide to Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The other has been the top state manager of the fracking boom from the Marcellus shale-gas region in Pennsylvania, where many of the worst fracking abuses have happened.

The new nominees must be approved by the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee before the full Senate can move them to re-start FERC. Senator Ron Wyden is a former chair of that committee, and will be one of the most important Senators reviewing theses nominees and the new role of FERC under Trump.   Stay tuned!

Jordan Cove defeats a controversial local-control ordinance in Coos County

On May 16, an ordinance initiated by petition by grass-roots activists in Coos County to promote sustainable energy and stop Jordan Cove was defeated 3-1. The proponents of this initiative were outspent by Jordan Cove more than 50-1.

The long-term impact of this valiant effort remains to be seen, although Jordan Cove proponents will claim it as definitive (wrongly, I believe). The measure, a “community rights” proposal developed in conjunction with the controversial Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, is seen by most legal observers to be unconstitutional when applied solely on a local level, and court challenges to date have borne that out.

But the well-meaning fervor of these local activists to make change will, I believe, rebound and restore itself over time.

Coming next: Outreach to Wyden, Merkley, Governor Brown, and others.

So: what is to be done? Watch your email action alerts: we will be presenting you with opportunities to help educate our Senator and Governor Kate Brown on the fallacy of allowing the Jordan Cove Energy Project fracked-gas export terminal and the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline to proceed forward.

This project will never be built.

Ted Gleichman is policy advisor for the Oregon Chapter Beyond Gas & Oil Team and a member of the National Strategy Team for Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign.

 

 

 

 


FERC Rejects Jordan Cove LNG & Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline – Developer Turns to Trump

December 19, 2016

img_5557

A leader of the Yurok First Nation, of the Klamath River region, speaks to a No LNG Coalition rally at the Oregon State Capitol, November 14, 2016

Article and Photos By Ted Gleichman

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has conclusively rejected the only remaining US West Coast plan to ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Canada and the Rockies to Asia. On December 9, 2016, FERC commissioners announced that they had again voted unanimously, 3-0, to refuse federal approval for the $7.6 billion Jordan Cove Energy Project export terminal and the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline (PCGP).

Jordan Cove and PCGP are owned by Veresen, Inc., a mid-sized Canadian fossil fuel company trying to use LNG export to catapult into the ranks of the energy big-leagues. On December 15, Jordan Cove announced that they expect that Trump appointees to FERC will reverse the decision, so they intend to restructure the project and reapply for federal approval.

Here’s why Veresen thinks that could work:

FERC is chartered for five members serving five-year terms, and they must be divided between the two major parties (or unaffiliated). Two Republican appointees have completed their terms and those seats are vacant. The three remaining commissioners are all Democrats appointed by President Obama. Because of Senate GOP refusals to consider Administration appointees, the White House did not propose anyone to fill the two GOP vacancies. (Obviously, the expectation was that the Hillary Clinton administration would find two moderate Republicans, to be considered by a Senate that seemed likely to be controlled by Democrats.)

The Trump team will nominate for these two vacancies, and select one of those two to become FERC chair. Presumably, that will happen sometime in the first half of 2017. Then, one of the current Democratic commissioners completes her term June 30. When that vacancy is filled by Trump, his people will constitute a majority. By mid-2019, all five members will be Trump appointees.

FERC’s original ruling against this fracked-gas export project came March 11, 2016, in a 4-0 vote – even the last GOP commissioner opposed Jordan Cove and PCGP. The December 9 decision denied Veresen requests to reopen the federal approval process.

This is FERC’s first-ever LNG export rejection. The agency is funded through back-charging its costs as fees to the energy industry, so it is considered a zero-budget entity for the overstressed federal budget process. FERC is notorious for its easy approvals of dirty fossil fuel projects, making this two-part verdict all the more striking.

FERC’s unprecedented double denial needs to be seen through the frame of an 12-year coordinated grassroots campaign. Dozens of organizations, supporting hundreds of outraged landowners along the pipeline route, have brought together thousands of people all over Oregon to fight this LNG terminal and pipeline.

IMG_4488.JPG

Looking across the route of the Pacific Connector fracked-gas pipeline, where it would slash through the Pacific Crest Trail in Jackson County, Oregon

The pipeline would run 232 miles across four counties in southwest Oregon, slashing a clearcut the width of an interstate highway across two mountain ranges, five rivers, and 400-plus wetlands and waterways. It would terminate at the Pacific Ocean in Coos Bay, in a fragile estuary inlet. There, the largest dredging project in Oregon coastal history would reconstruct a sand spit for a massive industrial plant – destroying oyster beds and fisheries.

The plan FERC rejected required a massive new 420-megawatt gas-fired power plant, solely dedicated to Jordan Cove, to cool the fracked gas to minus-261 degrees Fahrenheit, liquefying it for tanker shipping across the Pacific. That plant would have been the largest single carbon emitter in Oregon.

But along with announcing that they would reapply to FERC, Veresen pulled their request to Oregon to approve the new power plant. They said that they would build gas turbines within the liquefaction plant to cool the gas. This may be cheaper for them to construct, but may emit even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  We’ll be watching as they put out new detailed plans.

All this is planned for the most dangerous earthquake and tsunami zone in North America, the Cascadia subduction zone. The region is overdue for a earthquake that is guaranteed to be the largest in U.S. history. The Cascadia fault lines crack at a minimum of Magnitude 8, and can exceed Magnitude 9. The earthquake zone ruptures on an average of every 250 years; the last time was 317 years ago, in 1700. The tsunami wiped out every Indigenous coastal village from Northern California to Vancouver Island.

Veresen has presented itself to Oregon stakeholders and elected officials as an inevitable success. Financially, though, Jordan Cove and PCGP are arguably the weakest of some three dozen multi-billion dollar North American LNG export facilities, proposed, approved, or already operating.

FERC rejected Veresen’s plans because the company has no guaranteed contracts to sell the fracked gas overseas. Developers must show a so-called “public benefit” for the people of the United States, and FERC defines that to be determined by approval by the market: If a developer can sell a planned fossil fuel product, they’re good to go. FERC had warned the Calgary-based company for years that guaranteed contracts would be critical for permission to move ahead, with specific requests for progress reports – but got back only vague promises that Veresen was unable to fulfill.

That bottom line requirement was compounded by Veresen’s dismal record in negotiating construction easements from hundreds of landowners along the pipeline route. By the March 11 denial, PCGP could show FERC easements from only 10% of ranchers, farmers, and other private-sector landowners.

FERC has the power to authorize eminent domain against landowners. This controversial and destructive tool in fracked-gas pipeline development has led to bitter struggles all over the country. Developers typically have to negotiate about 80 percent consent by affected landowners before FERC is comfortable authorizing eminent domain against hold-out landowners and local communities. Forced deprivation of property rights is no small matter.

Along the PCGP route, landowners and their environmentalist supporters have fought back hard, pledging resistance. According to FERC, the refusal of this enormous majority of landowners along a pipeline route to sign on was unprecedented. In the March 11 and December 9 announcements, FERC detailed deep concern about using unheard-of levels of eminent domain against 90 percent of private landowners for a project that could not demonstrate a “public benefit.”

The most difficult public issue for project opponents has of course been jobs. The developer can claim accurately that billions of dollars of equipment manufacturing and project construction will generate thousands of temporary living-wage jobs. But jobs that ravage communities and public lands and contribute massively to climate change are not “good” jobs. So simultaneously, we consistently advocate for genuine good jobs, sustainable jobs, converting our state to clean energy and rebuilding our infrastructure for earthquake preparedness and other urgent needs.

As Veresen showed with the announcement that they will now rely on Trump, the battle is not over. It will take the company several months to assemble a new application for FERC and other agencies; that will launch a renewed environmental impact statement (EIS) process. Veresen contends that their September 2015 Final EIS from FERC is still valid, but that is public spin. It still exists, for a project that has been denied, like an obsolete law. They can recycle much of it for their new application, but big pieces of it are obsolete – or were environmentally-flawed when written. Oregon continues to process state permit requests, but our coalition is fighting those effectively too.

For now, some 12 years since this Canadian company came to Oregon, Veresen has no clear path to construction: FERC has taken them off the federal map. Even a Trump-controlled FERC has to follow the law – although we can expect them to push against their legal obligations. We will push back at each step in a federal process that would likely take two years to get to another FERC decision. In the meantime, we will triumph over them in local and state decision-making.

In a country filled with critically-important fights to “Keep It In the Ground,” this battle is one of the most consequential. One way or another, grassroots Oregonians are going to continue to defeat dirty, dangerous fossil fuels and build the just transition.

Ted Gleichman is Policy Advisor with the Beyond Gas & Oil Team, Oregon Chapter


Beyond Gas & Oil Campaign Work

October 13, 2016

The Oregon Sierra Club Beyond Gas and Oil Team (BG&O) is doing awesome work throughout the region to  move Oregon and the Pacific Northwest in the right direction—away from dirty fossil fuel extraction, transport, and export. A summary of their ongoing work on gas infrastructure and oil trains is below. Contact Gregory Monahan, Chair of the Beyond Gas and Oil Team, if you would like more information or if you would like to volunteer with the Beyond Gas and Oil Team: gregory.monahan@oregon.sierraclub.org.

GAS

Owing to the revolutionary improvements in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology, there are abundant sources of natural gas in the Pacific Northwest which the producers are seeking to get to market, with catastrophic impacts on planetary warming.  Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is produced by compressing and cooling natural gas and requires massive amounts of energy to create, resulting in greater global warming impacts. Methanol is essentially another liquid form of natural gas which also requires massive energy inputs to produce. All of these products, while being touted as clean energy solutions are dirty fossil fuels and need to be left in the ground if we are to leave our children and grandchildren a world in which they can thrive.

If you have not already seen it, take a look at the LNG video produced by the 8th grade Sustainability Cohort from Sunnyside Elementary School last year:

Jordan Cove Export Terminal and Pacific Connector Pipeline Not Dead Yet

The proposed Jordan Cove LNG Export Terminal, Pacific Connector Pipeline and associated South Dunes Power Plant live on as a “dead project walking”. FERC has denied the permits for the pipeline and terminal because of a lack of customers and because too few landowners have signed easements. The applicants have filed a “request for a rehearing” with FERC and have been busy trying to create the impression that they now have contracts to sell gas (they don’t) and that they made headway in signing easements (they haven’t). FERC has is not to make a decision on the request for a rehearing until after the November elections. The companies are paying state agencies to continue to evaluate permits (DEQ water quality permits for the 400+ stream crossings and DSL for the lease of public lands). DEQ has a deadline for issuing a decision by Nov 8th while the deadline for DSL is Nov. 10th. The BG&O team is working closely with our allies in the Statewide No LNG coalition to help educate the public about the status of the project and the threat this project represents to both the impacted landowners and to the health of the planet.

Proposed Kalama Methanol Refinery and Export Terminal
methanolThe work to block the proposed Kalama Methanol terminal and associated natural gas pipeline continues with organizing leadership being provided by WA Chapter of the Sierra Club organizer Cecile Gernez and Jasmine Stukey-Zimmer, Senior Organizer with Columbia Riverkeeper. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the project was released on September 30, 2016. There are significant information gaps in the FEIS, which is supposed to address the potential effects on the environment from the project. Columbia Riverkeeper will appeal the FEIS. Once the appeal is filed, it will take a few months for the Cowlitz County commissioner-appointed Hearings Officer to make a decision.

Expanded Use of Natural Gas for Electrical Power Generating at the Carty-Boardman Site.

kalama

Photo credit: Steve Nehl/The Oregonian

When the Coal to Clean legislation was passed earlier this year, it was with the expectation that Coal fired power sources would phase out and be replaced with renewable energy sources. PGE recently announced its intention to add another Natural Gas powered generator to the Carty-Board man site making this a Coal to Natural Gas transition. The BG&O Campaign is partnering with the Beyond Coal campaign to stop this wrong-headed idea in its tracks. We need to directly transition to a carbon free grid and skip the 30 year side trip that new natural gas powered power plants represent.


OIL TRAINS

meganticMany of the existing and proposed oil terminals and refineries in the state of Washington plan on using the rail lines that run on both sides of the Columbia River through the small towns and cities in the rural areas, through the National Scenic Area of the Columbia Gorge and through the metropolitan areas of Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington. Regardless of which side of the river they run on, these trains represent a threat to the health and safety of the people and environment on both sides of the river.

Trains carrying Bakken Crude have a history of derailments with explosive fires such as the one in Lac-Mégantic. Canada which killed 47 people and demolished the central portion of the town.

Proposed Shell Rail Expansion in Anacortes, WA withdrawn

Shell has withdrawn its proposal to expand its Anacortes Refinery rail siding capacity, which would have resulted in as many as 6 additional explosive crude by rail running through the Columbia Gorge every day.

 

fireball

Photo credit: Dawn Faught via NT

Southern Willamette Valley Crude by Rail Work Beginning

Interest in blocking crude by oil trains through the southern Willamette valley is increasing in the wake of the derailment and explosive fire this past June in Mosier, Oregon. The BG&O team will participate in a 350 Eugene sponsored Expert Panel on Oil Trains as part of their “Awareness and Resistance” Oil Train campaign scheduled for Nov 15th. Preliminary discussions have taken place exploring the idea of establishing a Statewide No Crude by Rail Coalition loosely based in the successful Statewide No LNG Coalition.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Westway oil terminal in Grays Harbor released on September 30th

This proposed project would be another source of long, explosive crude oil trains running through the Columbia River Gorge. Read the working summary of the main points of the final EIS from the Stand Up To Oil (SUTO) Coalition website. Join with over 600 members of the Yakama nation and urge the Mayor of Hoquiam and city manager to deny permits for Westway oil terminal proposal by using the SUTO web site.


Stopping LNG Export through Oregon: Both Projects Collapse!

April 18, 2016

By Ted Gleichman

They seemed insurmountable at first: two massive methane export projects in under-employed Oregon, one on the south bank of the Lower Columbia, and the other grabbing a struggling industrial port on the southern Oregon Coast.  Each $7 billion-plus plan required hundreds of miles of new pipelines, feeding fracked gas from the Rockies and Western Canada into enormous new processing plants for liquefied natural gas (LNG) at minus-261° Fahrenheit, for “terrorist-magnet” tanker export, with mandatory Coast Guard protection, embargoing other shipping hundreds of days per year, to ship LNG to Asia.

LNG tanker

Long-term profits would be tens of billions, with thousands of construction jobs.  And natural gas was the bridge to the future, twice as good as good ol’ coal.  Developers rolled in with instantaneous political support.  Lonely enviros and community activists fighting LNG faced epic headwinds: quixotic struggles by definition.

What a difference a decade makes.  Suddenly this spring, our long-term opposition has blended with global market reversal on oil and gas pricing, scientific evolution on fossil fuel climate impact, and comprehensive evidence of irredeemable ecological destruction to put both projects on the edge of oblivion.  

On Friday, March 11, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) quietly published an unprecedented decision: the commissioners voted unanimously to deny licenses to the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline (PCGP) and the Jordan Cove Energy Project (JCEP).  In Oregon and nationally, almost all observers were shocked: FERC has been widely seen as just a rubber stamp.

If this decision holds, 232 miles of 36-inch explosive pipeline will not slice along a new perpetual clearcut as wide as an interstate highway, and the Port of Coos Bay will not be dominated by gargantuan towers built on a sand spit for LNG that Asia can now get more cheaply elsewhere.

And then, on Friday afternoon, April 15, an unnamed official for Oregon LNG (OLNG), requesting anonymity, telephoned the mayor and planning director of Warrenton, the small town on the Lower Columbia where OLNG planned to build their LNG export terminal on dredging spoils.  The OLNG staffer said their struggling parent company, Leucadia National Corp., would no longer fund their development, so they will withdraw their land use application and abandon terminal and pipeline permitting fights. Simultaneously, an OLNG lawyer emailed the state Department of Environmental Quality, withdrawing state permit requests, and copied the Oregon Attorney General.

If this decision extends to every aspect of OLNG, they will withdraw their pending Final Environmental Impact Statement with FERC, cancelling their planned 87-mile pipeline across Northern Oregon (and perhaps killing another 130 miles of new gas pipeline from Canada through Washington State) to feed a terminal on unstable soil.

Each project was planned, insanely, for the largest, most dangerous earthquake and tsunami zone in North America, the Cascadia subduction zone.  The Pacific Northwest is guaranteed to experience a Magnitude 8-9 seismic monstrosity; coastal elevations may change by some 30 feet in about eight minutes.  This last hit in 1700; it averages every 250 years; and has about a 1/3 chance of striking during the projected lifespan of these projects.

Together, OLNG and JCEP/PCGP planned to export more than two billion cubic feet of refined methane per day: about three times the Oregon daily use.  But now we know there is no fossil fuels solution to the fossil fuels crisis: fugitive methane is a much worse climate disrupter than carbon dioxide.

windmillsSo the jobs and climate arguments are now flipped.  Oregon needs a two-part sustainability program: resilience and renewables.  We must rebuild First-Responder, transportation, and community infrastructure for resilience against our earthquake, and we must convert our energy economy to decentralized and utility-scale smart-grid renewables, bolstered with conservation and efficiency.

The impending demise of the only two LNG export projects on the US West Coast is giving us a teachable moment to help heal our corner of the world, for the better: maybe forever.

————

Ted Gleichman is former chair of and current policy advisor for the Oregon Chapter Beyond Gas & Oil Team, and a member of the national strategy team for the National Sierra Club Stop Dirty Fuels Initiative.


Victory! Jordan Cove LNG Pipeline Denied

March 18, 2016

By Francesca Varela

How does this sound for a bad-news proposal? Stretch a 232-mile pipeline across forests and backyards, old-growth cedars and mushroom-sided streams, halfway across the state. Gouge the forest. Scar it. Fill said pipeline with natural gas—one of the dirtiest fuels available to us. Build a terminal in Coos Bay. Convert natural gas to liquid—AKA liquefied natural gas (LNG). Ship LNG to Asia. Stand at the edge of the wide Pacific and know that, across from it, the fuels will be burned and the greenhouse gases will rise and glisten and warm, and the entire world will be altered by it, perhaps beyond all retrieval.construction of the gas pipeline

This proposed export facility (at first intended to be an import facility) was named the Jordan Cove Energy Project, and for over a decade its impending construction was fervently opposed by environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club. Activists held protests and raised awareness, collaborating with landowners whose properties would have been intersected by the adjoining Pacific Connector Pipeline. Their hard work paid off when, on Friday, March 11, the project’s application was denied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Salem LNG Rally-May 26 2015

According to the FERC report, the denial has been issued “because the record does not support a finding that the public benefits of the Pacific Connector Pipeline outweigh the adverse effects on landowners.” And because the Jordan Cove export facility would be useless without the Pacific Connector Pipeline feeding it natural gas, FERC denied that application as well.

This is a victory for the many volunteers involved, for the communities who would have been impacted by eminent domain, and, of course, for the environment. Had the pipeline been approved, its construction would have led to expansive clear-cuts, denuding streams of important riparian shade that salmon and other fish rely on, and reducing habitat for endangered species like the northern spotted owl. Had the oceanside export facility also been approved, the Coos Bay estuary would have been dredged and degraded, negatively impacting already fragile marine life.

LNG tankerThe FERC denial is a good sign, but it’s not the end; there’s still a chance that the proposal could be reconsidered if the companies behind it—Veresen Inc. and Williams Partners—are able to convince officials of the market value and economic need of their project during the rehearing process. In fact, the entire approvals process is a complicated, many-stepped ordeal involving multiple permits and regulating agencies, both state and federal.

There are still many permits pending with various agencies of the State of Oregon, and it is not clear that those processes will be halted just because of the FERC denial. In order to ensure that the Jordan Cove Energy Project is killed, officially and completely, we need to continue voicing our own disapproval by contacting Governor Kate Brown and asking her to support the FERC decision and shut down the project for good. See volunteer leader Ted Gleichman’s blog post for more info!

 


Volunteer Spotlight: FERC rejects Jordan Cove LNG!!!

March 18, 2016

(Here’s how it happened: Three and a Half Zeros, Plus a Minus)

By Ted Gleichman

Among the most important values of Sierra Club to our planet and society are effective grassroots action, long-term attention to detail, and structured commitment to change.  With the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s astounding decision against the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and the Pacific Connector Pipeline projects (JC/PCP), we are reaping the fruit of many years of work, within Sierra Club and with many important and expert allies in coalition.

A sample of what we're trying to protect (Photo credit: Ted Gleichman)

A sample of what we’re trying to protect (Photo credit: Ted Gleichman)

On March 6, I told 35 activists assembled in Eugene for our quarterly anti-LNG strategy session that I thought there was a genuine chance that FERC would deny Federal approval and eminent domain for JC/PCP.  (People scoffed.)  On March 11, FERC unanimously rejected the pipeline, and therefore the terminal!

I’m not a prophet, nor was I the first Oregon activist to figure this out.  That honor goes to a landowner couple on the PCP route, Deb Evans and Ron Schaaf of Jackson and Klamath counties, who dug deep into FERC history, policy, and procedures, and simultaneously fought hard to help other landowners resist the arrogant low-dollar easement offers that JC/PCP tossed at them.  Deb and Ron put together – and, with other landowners, paid for – a formal legal filing with FERC that the Commissioners explicitly praised in their denial order.

Ron and Deb also schooled me, in exhaustive detail, over a long weekend in early January at their home in the mountains above Ashland.  We did a thorough and careful analysis (aided, fortunately, by a couple of bottles of good wine).  Here’s why we concluded this ground-breaking FERC rejection was possible:

  • Veresen Inc., the Alberta oil and gas shipper that owns Jordan Cove and co-owns PCP with Williams (the brutal Oklahoma pipeline company) is a financial mess.  They barely make money and their market capitalization has dropped by more than half since the beginning of the oil crash, to less than $2 billion.  In recent months, they’ve been trying cut back on their miniscule financial aid commitments to Coos Bay and the pipeline communities.
  • After 11 years of promoting JC/PCP, Veresen had netted a grand total of “three and a half zeros”: Zero contracts to sell gas in Asia; zero supplier contracts with frackers in the Rockies and Alberta; zero sources of financing for this $7.5 billion project set, which they can’t afford to build on their own – and fewer than 5% of landowners on the pipeline route who had sold them easements.
  • FERC traditionally is all about the so-called “free market”: they almost invariably approve any corporation that has the financial means to plan, buy, build, and sell an energy project.  But Veresen has been failing all four of those market tests, leading to these 3½ Zeros.
  • Eminent domain has become increasingly toxic.  People and politicians of all stripes hate the savage assaults on farms, woodlands, businesses, and family homes by frackers and pipeline companies all over the United States.  Eminent domain is supposed to be a fair and open public process for the common good – not a private-profit work-around for greedy victimization.
  • FERC had never approved eminent domain for such a large number of families (some 630 landowners) with so few negotiated easements.  Our battle against PCP, with both grass-roots and professional environmental leadership from Sierra Club and many other wonderful organizations,  has been one of the most effective and politically-charged in the country.
  • FERC has been under severe political pressure nationally and especially on the East Coast, in the brutally-fracked Marcellus shale regions of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.  LNG approvals by FERC in Maryland, Louisiana, and Texas have generated massive protests there and across the environmental movement.
  • We believe FERC was looking for an especially-weak project to deny, to be able to say that they are not just a rubber stamp. Hence, for an agency looking to defend itself, and to avoid the very worst of eminent domain, this gave us “plus a minus.”
Raging Grannies at Hike the Pipe

Raging Grannies at a rally against the pipeline and terminal, Coos Bay, September 2015 (Credit: Ted Gleichman)

So this remarkable FERC decision gives Oregon a major victory that thousands of people from many groups have fought for, now reverberating all over the country. In their ruling, unprecedented for any LNG or pipeline proposal, the FERC Commissioners explicitly said that a company with no contracts to sell a product (which, as noted, it doesn’t yet own, through a project that it can’t afford to build) could not demonstrate overall “public benefit” adequate to justify eminent domain harm to so many “landowners and communities.”

FERC also explicitly called out the work of National Sierra Club senior attorney Nathan Matthews, the brilliant LNG specialist within our expert Environmental Law Program.  The Commissioners noted in detail the specific elements of our condemnation of JC/PCP and the FERC staff’s construction of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).  We have every right to be proud of the Member-owned and staff-built organization that has evolved since John Muir founded it 124 years ago.

Part of the Ruby Pipeline natural gas compressor and transfer station, near Malin in Klamath County

Part of the Ruby Pipeline natural gas compressor and transfer station, near Malin in Klamath County (Credit: Ted Gleichman)

What’s Next?  Because LNG in Oregon is Not Dead Yet

FERC put JC/PCP in a coffin, but they also gave them a path to climb out, saying in essence, come see us again if you get any contracts to sell LNG.  So we are not done.

Plus we also face Oregon LNG, which is proceeding with their plans for massive pipelines through Washington from Canada, across Northern Oregon, and feeding an LNG export terminal in Warrenton, across from Astoria on the Lower Columbia. This $7 billion project is financially strong but politically and technically very weak. FERC staff will issue the Oregon LNG FEIS on June 3.  We need to add Oregon LNG to the JC/PCP coffin, then nail it shut on both of them.

So our next post will include details on our coffin-completion construction plans – stay tuned!  The focus now will be on the State of Oregon and Governor Kate Brown: they now need to do their part, and we will keep you posted.

In the meantime, please do two very important things:

  1. If you have the capacity to work with the Oregon Chapter Beyond Gas & Oil Team, please contact team chair Gregory Monahan at gregory.monahan@oregon.sierraclub.org. We’ve got a lot to do, on LNG and many other fossil fuel attacks!
  2. If you have the capacity to help support the Oregon Chapter even more, please dig deep!  You can make a direct donation, upgrade your Sierra Club membership level, or give a gift membership.  Remember: we Members own the place – so we have an obligation to stewardship.  We have a great staff at the Oregon Chapter, and we need to keep them fed and watered!

From a long-time volunteer Member-leader: thanks for all you do!

Ted Gleichman — 503-781-2498 — Twitter: @tedgleichman
Member, National Strategy Team & National Delivery Team, Stop Dirty Fuels Initiative, Sierra Club
Policy Advisor, Beyond Gas & Oil Team, Oregon Sierra Club