PGE Tests Biomass at Boardman Coal Plant – New Report Highlights Climate and Forest Consequences for Country’s Largest Biomass Proposal

December 20, 2016

On December 7th, 2016, we released a report analyzing a proposal from Portland General Electric (PGE) to convert the state’s last coal plant in Boardman, Oregon into one of the world’s largest biomass facilities. The report finds that the proposal may pose major implications for air quality, forest health, and carbon reduction goals. The Boardman Power Plant in northern Oregon is slated to retire in 2020. However, this month, staff are testing the plant’s capacity to run on woody material and energy crops. If the test succeeds, the Boardman plant could be converted to run on 100 percent forest biomass for 5 months of the year.

The new report demonstrates the likely implications if the conversion is made. Key findings include:

 An average biomass power facility emits 40-60% more carbon than coal plants do per megawatt hour of energy generated.

 Over 3.8 million tons of trees and woody material would be needed to operate the plant for 5 months a year. Despite claims by biomass advocates, waste feedstock levels are negligible when compared to the facility’s needs. Therefore, whole trees from public lands would constitute the majority of the feedstock needed.

 Over 800 trucks a day would be required to supply the Boardman facility during peak operation.

 PGE is growing a highly invasive species of giant cane as a feedstock. Arundo Donax causes major damage to ecosystems and watersheds and is opposed as a viable energy solution by dozens of environmental grboardman_coaloups.

“The retirement of the Boardman facility creates an opportunity to replace coal with clean energy like wind and solar, which would be in keeping with the landmark coal transition legislation passed in Oregon earlier this year,” said Rhett Lawrence, legislative director for the Oregon Sierra Club. “There is simply no need to turn our forests into fuel because cleaner energy alternatives are already at hand.”

 

Even though the carbon consequences of biomass are well established, Congress is currently considering legislation that would designate biomass energy as “carbon-neutral.” Just as oil, coal, and gas must be kept in the ground, if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change, so too must trees be kept in the forest.


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

December 19, 2016

img_5557A leader from the Yurok Klamath First Nation 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.

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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


Tell State Lawmakers: Cancel the Elliot State Forest Sale

December 6, 2016

By Mike Allen

In one week the State Land Board will vote on whether to sell the oldest state forest in Oregon. The Elliott State Forest near Coos bay is home to several threatened or endangered species including Coho salmon, Pacific lamprey, spotted owl, and the vanishing marbeled murrelet. The murrelet nests high in large trees, and its decline is associated with old forest logging.

The State of Oregon has been frittering away the Elliott for years, selling pieces of it off to timber interests who have gone on to cut off public access and log some massive old trees. Just ten years ago it was 10,000 acres larger. Last year the Land Board decided to put the remaining 83,000 acres up for sale. The asking price of $220.8 million drew exactly one bid.

marbled-murrelet

The Terms of the Elliott Sale Shortchange Oregonian’s Future

Although the deal requires that the purchaser set aside 25% of the land for conservation, it does not specify which part of the land must be set aside. Nearly half of the Elliott is forest nearly 150 years old, with many older trees mixed in. Older trees, which are more economically valuable, could be harvested and younger stands allowed to age.

Only 50% of the land is required to be kept open to the public, and access could involve fees and other restrictions.

The harvest would only be required to produce forty new jobs over the next ten years.

Oregon Could do Better with the Elliott

Meanwhile, if no further harvests were to occur in the Elliott, it would be capable of storing about two thirds of the total carbon output of the state of Oregon, according to a 2010 analysis by ecotrust. This is just one of the many benefits with indirect but real economic impact that isn’t fully appreciated by the state’s analysis.

The Elliott is rugged terrain, with limited access. It has no trails and no official campgrounds. But for the intrepid and adventurous it holds big rewards: massive old growth trees, pristine creeks teaming with fish, deer and elk and the rarest of Western Oregon species. This is our last chance: if the Elliott is sold we will never get it back, and it will never be the same. Call Governor Brown, Secretary Atkins, and Treasurer Wheeler and tell them to save the save the Elliot, a priceless resource for all Oregonians.

Take Action to Save the Elliot State Forest:

Gov. Kate Brown – (503) 378-4582
Ted Wheeler – (503) 378-4329
Jeanne Atkins – (503) 986-1523

The Sierra Club Oregon Chapter will participate in a rally at the Keizer Civic Center at 9 am on December 13th to let lawmakers know how Oregonians feel about losing their wilderness heritage to private interests.  Details HERE!

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Rally for the Elliott State Forest

December 2, 2016

This is it! The Oregon Department of State Lands has received a bid that would see the Elliott State Forest sold to a private timber company and heavily logged. Our elected leaders, including Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler, and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins have the opportunity to stop the privatization process and Save the Elliott.

Join public lands advocates from across Oregon for a rally before the State Land Board Meeting where our leaders could decide protect this public treasure. Plan to stick around and attend the meeting – sign up to testify to make sure your voice is heard!

CARPOOL INFORMATION:

From Eugene you can meet the Many Rivers Group at 7:45 near the bike bridge behind the Valley River Center (293 Valley River Center).

From Portland you can meet at 7:45 at Holladay City Park (NE 11th Ave). RSVP to staylor@audubonportland.org or go here: https://www.groupcarpool.com/t/v5hoju.

If you’d like to carpool from Coos Bay area please add yourself to this rideshare board: https://www.groupcarpool.com/t/6ua89y, or email savetheelliott@gmail.com.

 

More carpool info coming soon.

Wear green. Bring banners and signs. Save the Elliott!

rally


Rally for wild salmon!

November 29, 2016

free-the-snake

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to restore wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia and Snake Rivers, once the greatest salmon rivers in the world. We can do this by removing four outdated and expensive dams on the lower Snake River. But we need your help.

Please RSVP to attend rallies and public meetings in The Dalles, Portland, and Astoria! Details below.

For nearly 20 years, in spite of multiple court rulings that have found their actions illegal, the federal agencies that own these salmon-killing dams have refused to fully evaluate removing them. That changed last May when a federal court judge directly ordered the agencies to develop a plan for dam operations that will restore our wild salmon — and directed them to specifically consider dam removal.

Now the agencies are seeking the public’s input on what they should do. For years scientists have said that removing the four deadly dams on the lower Snake is the single biggest step we can take to restore wild salmon to the river basin. Come out to a rally and public meeting in The Dalles, Portland, and Astoria.salmon

The time is now to remove the four outdated, low-value, deadbeat dams on the lower Snake River. If we free the Snake, we can save the salmon and bring about the biggest river restoration in history.

Rallies for Wild Salmon

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WHAT:   The Dalles Rally for Wild Salmon and to “Free the Snake!”
WHEN:     Tuesday, December 6, 2016 staring at 4 pm
WHERE:  Columbia Gorge Discovery Ctr., Downstairs Classroom
5000 Discovery Drive, The Dalles, OR 97058
(Use “West Side” door, follow signs for “Service Entrance”)
MAP:        https://goo.gl/maps/reimivTB6572
WHAT:     Salmon Reception and Speakers – Meet old and new friends. Socialize with river people.  Hear from scientists, advocates and the Native perspective.
4:00PM – Sunset welcome ceremony overlooking the Columbia River
5:00PM – Speakers & new short video by Nimiipuu – Protecting the Environment
6:00PM – Columbia River salmon and other light fare
7:30PM – Depart for pub after-meeting. Location TBD
Feds’ public meeting will be upstairs. Open until 7 pm.

WHAT:     Portland Rally for Wild Salmon and to “Free the Snake!”
WHEN:    Wednesday, December 7, 2016 starting at 4 pm
WHERE:  The Mezzanine in Spirit of 77
(directly across the street from the Convention Center)
500 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Portland, OR 97232
MAP:         https://goo.gl/maps/NwAqpg6hKc42
WHAT:     We’ll gather for a rally and speakers at 4 pm, then go together to the feds’ Public Meeting across the street. Afterward, we’ll return to the Spirit of 77 to celebrate!

WHAT:    Astoria Rally for Wild Salmon and to “Free the Snake!”
WHEN: Thursday, December 15th, 2016 – Public Hearings: From 4 pm to 7 pm. Salmon advocates will gather beforehand at 3:30 pm
WHERE: The Loft at the Red Building, Basin St., Astoria, OR.  Salmon advocates will gather at the Bridgewater Bistro in the Red Building at 3:30 pm for a rally.
WHY: To meet up with fellow salmon and river advocates and show strong support for healthy rivers and salmon. Members of the public concerned about wild salmon restoration are encouraged to attend. Please share with your friends and family and encourage others to come. Just like wild salmon – more is better!
Read the rest of this entry »


On Replanting

November 17, 2016

Imagine that you were told by your neighbor that he was going to tear down your house, rip out your plumbing, (and spray you with a blend of chemicals (something we won’t get into here). In response to your protests, he just calmly told you not to worry: “Oregon law requires that I rebuild it.”

There is plenty to criticize about how private and state-owned forests are managed in Oregon. Among the common ways that people defend our weak logging rules is by pointing out that we “replant”—that replanting recently clearcut areas is mandatory by law and so clearcuts aren’t actually damaging our forest landscape.

This is an amazing suggestions. Yes, to some people, businesses, and hedge fund managers, forests are only a crop. Something to be grown, chopped down, and replanted. But that is missing most of what forests actually provide: water & air filtration, fish & wildlife habitat, places to play and find peace, and physical structures that keep our slopes intact and prevent flooding and drought. When we clearcut a forest parcel, we lose or significantly damage all of these functions for many many years.

A clearcut and replanted forest parcel releases CO2 for at least the first 15 years. It does not help to slow climate change. The notion that CO2 is stored in wood products forever is highly dubious. Studies indicate that a large portion (most?) of CO2 is released from the wood during logging, milling, and processing. So, replanting does not help with the climate.

Fish & wildlife rely on forests for innumerable habitat qualities. Many of these qualities are instantly lost during clearcutting and others—water quality and temperature—can be compromised in the short and long-term. This is analogous to a person having their home demolished and their plumbing ripped out. Yes, a refugee may be taken in by his/her family or might find another temporary home, but we can all very easily imagine the problems this creates. Can you imagine dealing with this scenario for 40+ years while your home is rebuilt? Even FEMA does better than that!

When a hillside is clearcut, it can take a handful of years before root structures decompose. However, once that decomposition takes place, it becomes appartent that clearcutting has adverse affects on slope stability. Clearcuts can increase the likelihood of landslides—bad for water quality, bad for roads, and bad for human safety. Again, it may take 40 years to rebuild those stabilizing root systems which keep our hillsides intact.

bs_slide_atcreek_wdog

Perhaps most importantly, replanting in the style of industrial logging lands is not an effort to restore forests. It is an agricultural practice whereby monoculture plantations of densely packed doug fir dominate the landscape. This may be prudent for short-term financial gain, but it does not provide the types of resilient, diverse, healthy forests that we need.

Replanting may be better than not replanting. But let’s not kid ourselves by pretending that we can destroy our forests at any rate we so choose so long as we follow Oregon’s replanting law. Anyone who tries to defend Oregon’s forest laws by relying on the fact that we replant, is being deceived or deceitful.

cannon-beach-clearcuts


UPDATE #3: Portland Moving Forward Against New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

November 16, 2016

teds-imageSometimes it takes a long time for things to happen quickly — in this case, good things.  Portland City Council is finally poised to approve unprecedented zoning restrictions on new fossil fuel infrastructure (FFI) for export or storage, before year’s end.  This process began in 2015, culminating last November with a pair of unprecedented binding policy resolutions, opposing both crude by rail and new FFI.  Over the past year, the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability, the Planning & Sustainability Commission, and now the Council itself have worked to craft zoning ordinances to implement the resolutions.

At this writing, the likely results (scheduled for a final vote in early December) look pretty good — in no small part because of energetic leadership from a grassroots movement and broad environmental coalition.  Stay tuned!

— Ted Gleichman, Policy Advisor, Beyond Gas & Oil Team