Mosier Derailment Anniversary Observance and Rally

June 12, 2017

When oil trains derail, they explode. We saw this happen last year in Mosier, Oregon, dangerously close to the community school. Children had to be evacuated and families remained separated without any way of contacting each other for hours. On the first anniversary of this catastrophe, June 3rd, over 250 community members from across the region gathered to call for an end to reckless oil trains on the one-year anniversary of the dangerous oil train disaster in Mosier, Oregon. Tribal leaders, elected officials, and community members gathered at the Mosier Community School to send a clear message of support for Mosier.

All were united in their resolution to stop the flow of bomb trains to transport explosive, toxic crude oil through our communities.

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Tribal hip hop artists Kunu Dittmer and Fish Martinez shared their music at the rally. Their music resonated with the audience. Photo Credit: Gregory Monahan

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Photo Credit: Gregory Monahan

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Photo Credit: Kyle Ramey

Chairman of the Yakima Nation, JoDe Goudy, shown above and to the right, gave a highly evocative speech expressing empathy with the residents of Mosier telling them that they were collateral damage of a corporate business decision. He reminded us that tribal people are very familiar with the feeling that their lives and culture don’t matter and that we were all standing on tribal lands taken using “the doctrine of discovery” established by Papal Bull in 1493.

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo Credit: Kyle Ramey

Following the rally, participants marched to the sight of the derailment and down to the banks of the Columbia River where oil from the conflagration enter the river.

If you want to work to halt toxic dirty fuel trains through our communities contact:

Cecile Gernez, Conservation Organizer, Sierra Club Washington State Chapter, cecile.gernez@sierraclub.org


Coal to Clean, NOT Coal to Gas

June 12, 2017

Early this year, the Oregon Chapter’s Beyond Gas and Oil Campaign and the Beyond Coal Oregon Campaign recognized that they both wanted the same thing:

  • In general to stop the spread of natural gas usage
  • In particular, to block PGE’s plan to go From Coal to Gas instead of Coal to Clean
  • We also recognized that this was an opportunity to push FOR what we WANT, A Clean Energy Future,  as well as AGAINST what we DON”T WANT, A  Dirty Fossil Fuel Future.
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Laura Stevens, Sierra Club Beyond Coal, Organizer speaks at the rally before the May 15th hearing held in Portland by the Public Utility Commission (PUC). Banner made by volunteer members of the Oregon Chapter’s Clean Energy Task Force. Photo Credit: Colin McLean

The Beyond Coal Campaign has spent  years of setting expectations of replacing the Boardman coal plant with clean energy, including in our work together with allies to pass the historic Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Act last year. Portland General Electric (PGE) instead proposed to replace the retiring Boardman coal plant with a total of 1300 MW of fracked gas. Back in November they filed a very flawed Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) with the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) that tipped the scales entirely towards more self-built gas resources to replace Boardman – for a total of 3 units at the Carty Generating Station right next to the Boardman Coal Plant. In a parallel process they also began to pursue all the required permits for the two new units including requests to increase their emissions limits at the first existing unit.

Adopting the latest strategy for developing effective campaigns, the Sierra Club recruited a strong network of groups to work on developing a shared strategy to significantly increase the public pressure on the company and the agencies in charge of the various approval processes. Over 15 different local groups came together to form the Carty Gas Working Group and began meeting weekly. It turned out that we had a very compelling ask: Do you want a Clean Energy Future?

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Students lead the way to a Fossil Fuel Free Energy Future, after the rally, activists marched to the PUC public hearing from the nearby park. Photo Credit: Colin McClean

In March we submitted a record 7,000 comments to the Energy Facilities Siting Council (EFSC) opposing the permits required to expand the Carty gas plant. On May 15th we broke another record submitting 10,000 public comments to the PUC directing them to reject any plans for new fossil fuel infrastructure and to do what they could to facilitate a faster transition to 100% clean and renewable energy.

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Volunteers from the broad coalition of groups who helped gather of 17,000 comments (7,000 to EFSEC and 10,000 to the PUC pose with the boxes that were presented to the PUC at the May 15th public hearing. Each box represents 1,000 comments. Photo Credit: Colin McClean

In March we submitted a record 7,000 comments to the Energy Facilities Siting Council (EFSC) opposing the permits required to expand the Carty gas plant. On May 15th we broke another record submitting 10,000 public comments to the PUC directing them to reject any plans for new fossil fuel infrastructure and to do what they could to facilitate a faster transition to 100% clean and renewable energy.

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Volunteers deliver comment cards to the PUC while students deliver testimony reminding  the commissioners that they will inherit the future created by the decisions made in the present. Photo Credit: Gregory Monahan

The Sierra Club is also an intervener in PGE’s  IRP docket at the PUC and on May31st, we submitted our final technical comments making the strong case that

  • the company has not justified any long term capital investments and
  • they did not adequately assess the risks associated with building new fossil infrastructure or
  • the many alternate options on the market including deeper energy efficiency savings as well as other short term market contracts that help satisfy the near term need.

The Sierra Club’s final recommendations concluded that “ratepayers may be better served with a short-term contract now so that they can pursue lower cost options in the mid to long term. A long-term resource decision made now to fulfill a 2021 capacity need could foreclose future, lower cost options—such as wind near the Colstrip site.”

The staff at the PUC also submitted their final reply comments into the docket and they were scathing in their critique of the company’s process as well as their conclusions. The commission staff ultimately determined “we cannot conclude anything other than that key parts of the plan do not fully consider or adequately plan for the significant changes that are expected in the electricity industry over the next five to ten years” and “staff recommends the Commission not acknowledge PGE’s Action Plan item to issue an RFP for dispatchable capacity between 375 – 550 MW.” While this is great progress the staff did leave open the possibility for the need for dispatchable capacity in the near future as well as an IRP Update which may include one or both of the gas units or may instead include purchasing an existing gas plant to serve Oregon.

PGE also submitted letters to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and to the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) asking them to suspend any further process to approve their pending permits for expanding the Carty Generating Station. These suspensions are not equivalent to permanently withdrawing their intentions to move forward with these plants and the permit processes can be restarted at any time. Some consider this move a calculated public relations strategy attempting to derail the momentum and enthusiasm for our campaign days before our much anticipated public hearing. If that was the intention it was not successful.

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Over 100 members of the public lined up to speak to a packed hearing chamber in the PUC public hearing on May 15th. Photo Credit: Colin McClean.

On Monday May 15th, the PUC held a special public meeting in Portland at our request to give ratepayers a needed voice in these often very wonky proceedings. PGE and the standard array of stakeholders who are interveners in the docket were asked not to testify. This was an opportunity for PGE and the PUC to hear directly from ratepayers and the community at large. Together with our allies from the Carty Gas Campaign working group and our incredible teams of comment card collectors and phone-bank recruitment volunteers we held a rally before the hearing and then packed the hearing room with 260 people. 105 people had the opportunity to testify in near unanimous support for rejecting plans for any new gas serving PGE ratepayers as well as showing deep support for a full transition to 100% clean and renewable energy.  Messengers at the hearing included renewable industry groups and developers, a Building Trades rank and file member, high school student climate activists, the Mayor of Milwaukie, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Chair of the Global Warming Commission of Oregon, a Unitarian Minister, a Zen Teacher, and many long time PGE ratepayers.


The fight to stop these gas plants is not over and we have a few more key decision points to manage in the PUC process, including the reply comments from PGE due in June and a final public hearing at the commission in early August. The commission will issue its final order on August 31. Our campaign hopes to see a positive resolution to the question of expanding Carty in that order and then we turn our sights to supporting all the other ways we can leverage the replacement of Boardman with clean and renewable energy.

An outgrowth of this campaign was the passage of 100% Renewable Energy Resolutions by Portland and Multnomah County which you can read about in a companion blog post.

This blog post was written by: Amy Hojnowski, Senior Campaign Representative, Beyond Coal Campaign, Sierra Club and Gregory Monahan, Chair, Beyond Gas & Oil Team, Oregon Sierra Club.

If you want to be a part of creating An Energy System Free From Fossil Fuels Closely coupled with: A Just Equitable Transition Where All Members of Society Have Their Voices Represented and Can Thrive Contact one of the following people:

Nakisha Nathan, Climate Justice Organizer, nakisha.nathan@sierraclub.org
Laura Stevens, Beyond Coal Organizer, laura.stevens@sierraclub.org
Gregory Monahan, Chair, Beyond Gas & Oil Team, gregory,monahan@oregon,sierraclub.org

See below a compilation of the best of news clips from the campaign as well as rally and public hearing photos. For archived livestream video of the hearing with testimony see here and for archived livestream video of the rally see here.

The Oregonian – Opinion: PGE faces critical choice on Boardman gas-plant

Portland Business Journal – Sierra Club: PGE ‘backsliding’ on renewables commitment

East Oregonian – Tribal members petition against Carty expansion

Portland Business Journal – PGE gas opponents hit state siting council with deluge of comments

Oregon Public Broadcasting – Climate Activists Tell PGE: Don’t Even Think About New Natural Gas Plants

Portland Business Journal  –Protest of Portland General Electric’s resource plan takes a fracking twist

Portland Tribune – PGE may opt against natural gas plants to replace coal plant in Eastern Oregon

AP – Portland Utility Suspends Effort on New Natural Gas Plants

Portland Business Journal  – Analysis: How an assault on natural gas upended PGE’s power plan

East Oregonian – Backlash against Carty gas plant in Boardman continues

The Oregonian – Ratepayers and activists insist PGE reject natural gas


Portland and Multnomah County Pass 100% Renewable Energy Resolutions

June 12, 2017

Last Wednesday, June 1st, on the same day that Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement, the Portland, OR, City Council and Multnomah County Commission committed to a just transition to 100% renewable electricity by 2035, and to meet all energy needs, including transportation, heating and cooling, and electricity, with 100% renewable energy by 2050. Both of these resolutions were adopted by unanimous votes of those present. (Councilor Amanda Fritz was absent from the Portland City Council meeting.)

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This is a very big deal! These 2 landmark 100% Renewable Energy Resolutions are among the strongest resolutions of their kind in the nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the bottom of this post there is a list of articles about the resolutions which will help you understand how important they are.

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Before the hearing there was a rally with speakers, among them, Beyond Coal Organizer Laura Stevens, pictured here. Photo Credit Colin McClean

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Both floors of the Portland City Council Chamber were filled, requiring the city to open up an overflow room with over 200 people in attendance. Photo Credit Colin McClean

If you would like to read the resolutions that were adopted here are links to the Portland resolution and the Multnomah County [link coming soon] resolution.

We owe our success in getting these strong resolutions passed in large part due to the groundwork laid down during the work on the campaign to block Portland General Electric (PGE) from adding 2 new fracked gas powered plants to the Carty-Boardman site (read the blog post on that campaign ). That campaign was organized by first reaching out to partner groups and then developing a campaign plan based on inputs from all member groups. When it came time to develop a campaign plan for these 100% Renewable Energy Resolutions we repeated this process and added new partner groups.

This victory was made possible by the work of our amazing Sierra Club volunteers along with the work of hundreds of other dedicated volunteers from our allies.

Thank you to all the amazing volunteers who contributed to this effort by:

  • Talking to People About What is Important to you
  • Comment Card Collecting
  • Comment Card Processing
  • Phone Banking
  • Submitting Email Comments
  • Encouraging Your Circle of Contacts to Submit Email Comments
  • Calling Elected Officials
  • Making Banners and Public Hearing Props
  • Helping to Stage Rallies and Hearings
  • Planning and Attending Rallies
  • Planning, Testifying and Attending Hearings.

Individually, each of these actions does not seem like it’s accomplishing much.

But look what happens when you put them all together!

The next time someone asks you: “What can one person do to make a difference?” You can tell them:

Join the Sierra Club!
            
Activism Makes a Difference!

There is one more important point that needs to be understood. Getting these strong resolutions passed is not the end of this work, it is the beginning. We need to be a part of the process of implementing these resolutions in a way that is true to their intent. Strong implementation is critical to getting what we really want:

An Energy System Free From Fossil Fuels Closely coupled with: A Just Equitable Transition Where All Members of Society Have Their Voices Represented and Can Thrive

If you want to be a part of this important work, contact one of the following people:

Nakisha Nathan, Climate Justice Organizer, nakisha.nathan@sierraclub.org
Laura Stevens, Beyond Coal Organizer, laura.stevens@sierraclub.org
Gregory Monahan, Chair, Beyond Gas & Oil Team, gregory.monahan@oregon.sierraclub.org


Update on Proposed Kalama Methanol Refinery

June 11, 2017

The proposed Kalama Methanol Refinery has received approval for their Shoreline Substantial Development Permit from the Washington State Department of Ecology. This comes after environmental and social justice groups flooded Ecology with over 19.000 comments opposed to the refinery.

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If built, this would be the largest methanol refinery in the world! It would refine fracked gas into methanol in Kalama, WA, and ship it to China to make plastics. This single project would consume more fracked gas than any sector of Washington’s economy. It would require new gas pipeline infrastructure, likely down the I-5 corridor in Washington bringing fracked gas down from Canada. Gas infrastructure carries a big risk of explosions.

The production, refinement and transportation of fracked (so called “natural”) gas leaks methane, a greenhouse gas over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This means that the climate impact of this project is HUGE.

We need Governor Inslee to come out against this project, and realize that natural gas is no bridge fuel to a clean energy future; instead it is a gang plank to a dirty fossil fuel future.

Governor Inslee recently championed a coalition of governors committed to climate action. Approval of this methanol refinery runs counter to his and Washington State’s climate commitments. His commitments to our climate will mean nothing unless he stands up against this refinery! Click here to send an email to Governor Inslee Urging him to come out against the proposed Kalama Refinery. 

The Sierra Club and other public interest organizations intend to appeal the Shoreline permit, and the project’s dreadfully inadequate Environmental Impact Statement, to the Washington Shorelines Hearings Board.

The same company, Northwest Innovation Works, that is trying to build this plant in Kalama has plans to build an identical plant across the Columbia at Port Westward in Clatskanie, OR. One more reason to stop this project from being built.

If you want to work to stop this dirty, dangerous project contact Cecile Gernez, Conservation Organizer, Sierra Club Washington State Chapter                               email: cecile.gernez@sierraclub.org


A huge step forward on the Elliott State Forest

May 18, 2017

Many breathed a sigh of relief on May 9th as the State Land Board voted to keep the Elliott State Forest open and accessible to all. While there’s still much work to be done to craft an inclusive solution that preserves this ecologically unique and historically special place that connects us to our past and future – the Land Board has taken a major step in the right direction by reversing their decision to sell the forest.

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(Photo by Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands)

Located in the Southern Oregon Coast Range, the Elliott State Forest contains within its bounty over 82,000 acres of vital wildlife habitat and some of Oregon’s last remaining coastal old-growth. Approximately half of the forest is over a century old, and provides a home to threatened and endangered species, vital habitat to elk, black bear, northern spotted owls, and marbled murrelets. Among the ancestral homelands for Tribal Nations who have hunted, fished and lived among the region for many generations before the forest came into state ownership, this place has deep meaning – connecting communities to a rich past and vital future. It also contains some of the strongest wild salmon and steelhead runs left on the Oregon Coast, with biologists estimating that 22% of all wild Oregon coastal coho salmon originate in the Elliott.

The State Land Board – consisting of Governor Kate Brown, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson and state Treasurer Tobias Read – had proposed the sale of the Elliott’s obligation to the state’s Common School Fund for $221 million. But the Land Board rejected that approach on May 9 and voted to keep the Elliott in state ownership. We are appreciate the work that Governor Brown and Treasurer Read did, but more work lies ahead to come up with a solution that engages all stakeholders equally in finding a solution for the Elliott.

The biggest unanswered question is whether the Oregon Legislature can come up with the $100 million in bonding proposed by Governor Brown to buy out the most sensitive areas of the forest from the Common School Fund obligation. In addition to using that money to end the state’s obligation to tear down forests to fund our schools, the Governor’s plan would establish a “Habitat Conservation Plan” for much of the rest of the land. This would allow some logging to occur while also protecting endangered and threatened species such as spotted owls and murrelets. Treasurer Read presented a complementary plan that would allow Oregon State University an option to buy the Elliott for the $121 million remaining if the $100 million in bonding can be found.

In addition to working diligently in the Legislature to try to assure that the securing adequate bonding money, the Oregon Chapter will also be working to pass Senate Bill 847, which would establish a Trust Land Transfer program. Such a program could help provide part of a solution to the Elliott by providing a mechanism by which money could be appropriated over time to purchase encumbered lands.Salmon Elliott

We are hopeful that all of these answers can be found and that we can indeed come up with a solution that results in a forest that is preserved for all of us – the hikers, hunters, anglers, bird watchers, and Oregon’s diverse communities. And importantly, the Sierra Club believes that the State must engage Tribes as sovereign equals in crafting this solution – recognizing and addressing the past seizure of their ancestral lands.

No one believes that any of this will be easy, but we now at least have reason to believe that we are headed in the right direction and for that we should all be thankful.

 


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.

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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.

 

 

 

 


We are thrilled to announce two new faces!

May 17, 2017

Ethan Taswell joins us as our Storyteller Intern for the summer of 2017.  In his new role, Ethan will embark on a multimedia storytelling project to increase awareness of our Organization’s work, with a focus on the volunteer, community-based advocates who make it possible.  In addition to telling the story of the Oregon Chapter and the environmental issues it works to solve, Ethan will travel the state meeting the Chapter’s volunteers, writing and photographing their stories in order to engage more grassroots advocates, donors and supporters to rally around the Chapter’s efforts to stand up for Oregon’s natural resources, wildlife, and wild places.

unnamed-2Ethan is a rising junior at Brown University where he is studying Environmental Science with a specific track in Conservation Science and Policy.  He is currently working on an initiative in Rhode Island to reduce peak electricity demand and has previously worked as an assistant to a professional photography firm and later as a communications intern for the Nature Conservancy Maryland/DC Field Office.  So far, his studies have centered around ecology and environmental law.

Originally from Maryland, Ethan developed his love and appreciation for the outdoors by exploring the Potomac River via trail and canoe. In his free time, Ethan likes to hike, climb, play board games, read a good book, and fine-tune his key lime pie recipe.  He is thrilled to explore Oregon for the first time this summer!

Preferred Gender Pronouns: He/Him/His

Languages Spoken: English

contact: ethan_taswell@brown.edu

Olivia (Libby) Bakonyi joins us as an intern from Melbourne University. She is currently in the last phase of her Masters of Environment degree which she began in March 2015. She has studied a range of subjects regarding food policy, food security, local food production methods, climate change, sustainable behavior change, sustainable development, renewable energy alternatives, environmental policy, and forest ecosystems.

She hopes to implement the skills and knowledge gained from her Masters degree into her internship placement with The Sierra Club. Libby is very excited to be part of the team and observe and learn how environmental organisations operate. She has previously completed an internship in Melbourne with The Wildernimage1ess Society, assisting with research on The Great Australian Bight campaign.

Libby and her 4 siblings lived in Italy, Holland, Norway, Scotland, and Houston before settling in Sydney, Australia in 2001. She has spent 5 years studying in Melbourne, where she enjoyed exploring its unique lifestyle and culture. She loves to walk, run, swim in the ocean, and explore all kinds of nature. She also loves to sew, take photographs, and go to music festivals. This will be Libby‘s first visit to Oregon so she is very excited to get out and explore its natural beauty and lifestyle in her free time.

Preferred Gender Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Languages: English

Contact: libbybakonyi4@gmail.com