Hood River County Votes Against Nestlé!

May 21, 2016

 

KeepNestleOutOfTheGorgeCoalition

The Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Coalition celebrates the passage of Ballot Measure 14-55

by Francesca Varela

On Tuesday, the people of Hood River County voted to block Nestlé from building a water-bottling plant near the city of Cascade Locks. Ballot Measure 14-55—a countywide ban on commercial bottled-water facilities—passed easily, and has set an important precedent, not only for Oregon, but for the rest of the country.

Massive corporations like Nestlé are not invulnerable; they can be challenged by citizens, by people. Environmental groups like the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, and BARK joined with the Alliance for Democracy, AFSCME, and several others to create the Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Coalition, which has led the effort against Nestlé. It’s been a long fight, one spanning almost eight years, but well worth the effort.

Nestlé’s plan was to bottle 100 million gallons annually from state-owned Oxbow Springs. A public resource turned into a commodity; fresh, wild spring water entrapped on grocery store shelves, branded as Arrowhead and Pure Life, and sold at a steep profit. Shipping trucks would have rumbled continuously through the Gorge, carrying away the water that once wove through its hills. In a time of increasing droughts, this just didn’t seem right. Why should we have our own water sold back to us?

Climate change is making droughts more common throughout the Pacific Northwest, and, ironically, the bottled water industry is contributing to the situation; just think of the shipping, the energy intensive factories, and the bottles themselves, which are made of petroleum-based plastic. These bottles, once empty, usually end up in our oceans, or our rivers, until they’re eaten by aquatic life and leach plastic chemicals into all layers of the food web, or lie tangled in a mass of floating garbage for millennia.

Farmers, orchardists, fishermen, and Native peoples from varied backgrounds supported the measure, citing their worries about water depletion and the chance that, if Nestlé’s plant was built, other companies might follow their lead, bottling up the cold, clean water needed for agriculture, salmon, and life in Hood River County.

With their supposed omnipotence, multi-national corporations like Nestlé are difficult foes to face, but, as we’ve seen, they’re far from unbeatable. Rather than Oregon being the first state to transfer state-owned water rights to a private entity, we’re the first to house a county ban on water bottling. This is thanks in part to the efforts of Sierra Club members Joy Keen and Nancy Hatch, and their work with the Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Coalition. They kept Nestlé at bay long enough that, despite spending $105,000 to defeat the measure, citizen voices have still been heard, saying that water is life— and our lives are not for sale.


Join us in Salem on May 23 to speak out for the Owyhee!

May 18, 2016

The Owyhee needs you NOW.

South Fork Owyhee (photo credit: Chad Case)

South Fork Owyhee (photo credit: Chad Case)

Will you join us in Salem on Monday, May 23, to ensure our Oregon lawmakers know Oregonians want the Owyhee Canyonlands protected?

The House Rural Communities, Land Use, and Water Committee will meet to discuss permanent protection for the Owyhee. A group opposing protection will be there in force, so it’s critical that supporters like you show our leaders how much you care about protecting the Owyhee.

We’ll meet at Oregon Capitol Building’s main entrance (900 Court St NE, Salem, OR 97301) at 8 a.m. on Monday, May 23. See map.

Schedule
8 a.m. Arrive at Capitol
8:30 a.m. Committee session starts
Noon: Owyhee Rally!
1:30 p.m. Grab a slice of pizza and head for the bus or your car to travel home!

Getting There
Drive yourself: Arrive at Capitol Building’s main entrance (900 Court St NE, Salem, OR 97301) at 8 a.m. Get parking information here.

Get on the bus: We’ll have coffee and pastries for early risers!

 

  • Bend Bus: Departs Oregon Natural Desert Association’s office (50 SW Bond St. Ste #4, Bend, OR 97702) at 5 a.m. Monday. Returns by 4:30 p.m.

 

What to bring
Please wear bright blue to show you’re an Oregonian who is #WildForTheOwyhee! We’ll have buttons and posters for everyone. Birder? Kayaker? Backpacker? Bring the gear you love to use in the Owyhee. And bring family and friends!

RSVP!
Let us know you can make it AND if you’ll be hopping on the Portland or Bend bus. RSVP here by noon on May 20.

Thank you for being a strong voice for the wildlife, lands and waters of the Owyhee. Together, we’ll ensure this Oregon treasure is protected, forever!

P.S. Can’t make it? Please send an email telling the House Committee that you love the Owyhee and want to see it protected, now! Send your note to hrcluw.exhibits@state.or.us


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.


Volunteer Spotlight: Dian Odell

March 25, 2016

SI Exif

Dian Odell has been volunteering with the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club since August 2014. She comes in twice a week to help out in the office. “Usually entry of donations and event attendance into Helen (the central Sierra Club database), preparing for mailings, research, procedure documentation. But also computer support, ‘cleaning’, optimizing, [and] upgrading,” Dian said.

When she saw a posting for the Sierra Club on a local volunteering website, she knew it would be a good fit for her. “I certainly support the work of the Sierra Club, and the work they wanted done was certainly within my skill set,” Dian said.

As a retiree, Dian enjoys having a schedule and a routine, and maintaining structure in her days. “My objectives are to be useful, learn new things, and work with nice people,” Dian said. “I certainly have all those working with Hilary and the others at the Ankeny office.”

Dian grew up in Oregon, attending primary school in La Grande. “[It was a] small town, in the 1950’s—idyllic for kids,” Dian said. In middle school she moved to Portland and, aside from four years of college in California, and two years of the Peace Corps in South Korea, she’s been a Portlander ever since.

Dian keeps active in her daily life; she takes swimming and yoga classes; she’s an usher for Portland’5 and Portland Center Stage; and she spends ample time with her friends and grandchildren. These days she said she does “more ‘walking’ instead of ‘hiking’”, but she still loves being outdoors. She enjoys traveling to Central Oregon “for the different weather and smells there”, to the mountains for downhill skiing, and to the Columbia and Willamette for water skiing and sailing.

Each week Dian spends 10-12 hours donating her time and talents to the Sierra Club. Volunteers like her breathe life into the Sierra Club and make our accomplishments possible. Thank you for your dedication to the environment, Dian!

 

 

 

 

 


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


2016 Legislative Wrap-up: Victory on Coal and Clean Energy!

March 17, 2016

Oregon capitol

It was a whirlwind session of the Oregon Legislature for 4 weeks of February (and 3 days of March). Sierra Club staff worked hard to track bills, provide testimony, and meet with legislators in Salem to advocate for renewable energy, wildlife protection, our state forests, and more. And though there were some real disappointments out of the session, passing the biggest climate legislation in Oregon in many years was a very significant victory!

It was a session marked by bitter partisanship on many fronts, underscored by parliamentary brinksmanship and some very long floor sessions. Many important bills got mired in the legislative quicksand and we were lucky to have emerged with something as important (and bipartisan!) as our Clean Energy and Coal Transition bill, given those circumstances. Clearly, it was your e-mails and phone calls that made the difference!

Here are some of the highlights of the 2016 short session:

  • Clean Energy and Coal Transition Plan: If you’ve paid any attention at all to the news recently, you’ve likely heard the inspiring news about the passage and signing of Senate Bill 1547, the Clean Energy and Coal Transition Bill. When Governor Kate Brown put her pen to this landmark legislation on March 11, it set Oregon on a path to eliminate its use of coal power by 2035 and double the amount of clean, renewable energy serving Oregonians to 50 percent by 2040.

The Clean Energy and Coal Transition plan was crafted by bringing diverse parties to the table, including Oregon’s two largest electric utilities, energy industry and business groups, and advocacy and community organizations. Chapter staff worked closely with the national Beyond Coal Campaign on this critical legislation. With it, Oregon has charted a bold course for the nation as we accelerate the transition away from dirty fuels of the past. Sierra Club members and supporters should be very proud of the role we all played in this victory!

  • Healthy Climate Act: Unfortunately, we did not see similar success with our other climate priority for the 2016 session. Senate Bill 1574, the Healthy Climate Act, would have held big polluters accountable for the cost of what they are dumping into our air and water by instituting a “cap and invest” program in Oregon. Similar to the program put in place by AB 32 in California, the bill would have put a cap on carbon emissions and helped to achieve Oregon’s goal to reduce pollution while creating incentives to accelerate the transition to a   clean energy economy. And though we failed to move the legislation this year, our coalition fully intends to be back in 2017, more motivated than ever to continue this critical work!
  • Solar energy: The Clean Energy and Coal Transition bill included some important provisions to help create a “community solar” program for Oregon and ensure that at least 10% of the program’s capacity be provided to low-income customers. We also worked to help pass House Bill 4037, which will dramatically increase the amount of solar energy being produced in Oregon by helping to ensure that 16 to 18 new large-scale solar projects will be built in Oregon over the next two years. In addition to the clear carbon reduction benefits of these large solar projects, they will also create hundreds of jobs and pour millions of property tax dollars into the coffers of rural Oregon communities that need it the most.
  • Defending Wildlife: Unfortunately, we did not do so well on wildlife bills in the 2016 session. On the bright side, for once we did not have to contend with any bills related to the hunting of cougars, and we did see the passage of House Bill 4046, which increased penalties for wildlife poaching.

However, one very disheartening loss was the passage and signing of House Bill 4040. Though this legislation was framed by its proponents as a mere “ratification” of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission’s decision to remove gray wolves from the state’s endangered species list, the effects of the bill were much more sinister. In addition to setting a bad precedent for the legislature to step in and review scientific decisions of administrative agencies, the bill was also revealed to be a blatant attempt to moot out a lawsuit that had been filed by several groups that disputed the scientific basis of the Commission’s delisting decision. Despite the best efforts of the conservation community, the bill passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor on March 15.

  • Suction Dredge Mining: One other disappointment from the session was the failure to pass Senate Bill 1530, which would have taken steps to improve the regulation of suction dredge mining in our state. Though the bill appeared to have had the votes to pass, it unfortunately got caught up in the partisan wrangling and bill trading at the end of the session and it died without a floor vote. Some questionable tactics by the opponents of the bill added to the frustration over failing to pass it and led to some strong statements of disappointment by the bill’s lead sponsor on the Senate floor. Again, it was a discouraging end to some common-sense legislation, but we hope to work with partners to bring back similar legislation in the 2017 session.

So that’s a wrap on the 2016 session! Many thanks to our members for all of their e-mails and phone calls to legislators; we could not have passed the historic Clean Energy and Coal Transition bill without you! Relish that victory, folks, and here’s to even more successes in 2017!


On the Linn County Lawsuit

February 17, 2016

You know when you drive to the coast, like out to Cannon Beach or Tillamook, and you pass by those clear-cuts? There’s a thin layer of trees in front of them—a disguise of sorts—but if you look past them, through those dark branches, you can see whole fields of dry, broken, dirt, painfully bright and empty in the scattered sunlight. This is instantly and intrinsically a sad thing to see. I always wonder what it looked like before. What was it like, back when the fir trees rose toward the sky? I wished I could gaze up into the plush arms of those hemlock and spruce as they braided the sunlight between each frond. And where were the deer, and the owls, and all the others who were displaced?

DBH Measuring

Measuring old trees in the Clatsop State Forest – photo by Trygve Steen

Logging—especially in its most intense, disruptive form—contributes to climate change, causes erosion, destroys habitat, dirties water sources, and detracts from the aesthetic and recreational value of our forests. Unfortunately, there are those who nonetheless want more—more timber harvesting, more clear-cutting, more revenue. And I’m not just talking about logging companies; one Oregon county is taking legal action to increase logging on state forests.

On January 13th, Linn County threatened to sue the State of Oregon for 1.4 billion dollars. Linn County believes that the State isn’t doing enough logging in our State Forests. You see, back in the 1930’s, timber companies logged and logged until, in certain places, there wasn’t anything left to log. The companies cut bait and the lands went back to the counties in which they were located. These counties—including Linn County—got tired of paying taxes on these profitless lands, so, through a series of statutes in the 1930’s and 1940’s, they sold them to the State of Oregon.

Since then they’ve been reseeded and restored. As State Forests, they’re managed under a multi-use philosophy of watershed protection, recreation, and sustainable timber production. The State still shares the majority of its logging revenue with those original counties, while using the rest of the money for management expenses.

4942

Clearcut with aerial pesticide application – photo by Francis Eatherington

But Linn County wants more. They believe that the State should be logging as much as possible to create the highest revenue possible. Under a 1941 Act, the Board of Forestry is required to manage State Forests to “secure the greatest permanent value to the state”. Linn County takes this to mean the greatest monetary value to the state—or, more accurately, to the counties—and they don’t think the State is doing enough.

The State’s sustainable multi-value approach takes habitat, water health, and recreation into consideration as much as logging. What, after all, secures a more permanent value? Logging profits that will quickly be spent, our forests lost to us for a hundred years or more? Or healthy forests that for the foreseeable years will provide a broad set of benefits to humans and animals, along with an ongoing timber harvest? The latter option could contribute recreation and conservation jobs that would last much longer than the smattering of logging jobs that would end when the forests were logged over.

There are no previous court cases or statutes that support Linn County’s lawsuit. Previous court cases have established only that the State must pay some of its forest revenues to the counties. They don’t specify the rate at which the logging has to take place, or even whether the money has to come specifically from logging.  The State could potentially create revenue through recreational purposes, as long as they give the counties their share.

Our State Forests are publicly owned and provide so many benefits besides logging money. Talk to your local representative today and urge them to put a stop to this lawsuit, or tell Governor Brown to stand up for our state forests and the Greatest Permanent Value for all Oregonians! There is so much more to our forests than money and the maximization of profit. Steady sunlight through the trees. Deer tracks in the leaf-lined mud. The first, purple salmonberry in the late spring. The forest is so much more than money—it’s alive.


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