BREAKING? BROKEN! Three Agencies Tackle Jordan Cove

May 29, 2018

Hot news: One key Oregon agency and two Federal have launched formal comment periods on the combined Jordan Cove Energy Project & Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline (together, JCPC).  So now Round Three of this abominable project, opposed by most Oregonians, gets real!

Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) must evaluate JCPC under the Clean Water Act §401, which gives states broad, definitive authority to assess the risk of unacceptable damage to water quality.  If DEQ denies JCPC’s application for the §401 permit, it cannot be built.  Pacific Connector (PCGP) would cross almost 500 wetlands, waterways, streams, and rivers; Jordan Cove (JCEP) needs the largest dredging project for any coastal bay or estuary in Oregon history.  What could possibly go wrong with  that?

Proposed Jordan Cove Construction Site-OPB-EarthFix

The site of the proposed JCEP fracked-gas export terminal on (and in) Coos Bay.  Photo: Earthfix.

DEQ has struggled mightily in recent years, with undercutting by the Legislature and notable failures on air pollution especially.  But it seems to be on a better path now… Is it going to “break” under the pressure of the largest construction scheme of any kind in Oregon history? — or do its duty to fully protect Oregon’s people, land, and water?

Simultaneously, working in rough tandem with DEQ, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is tasked with assessing potential water quality damage by JCPC from removal and fill operations during construction, under the Clean Water Act §404.

The Corps is known for its by-the-numbers rigidity, but occasionally that has shown benefits.  Will they do the right thing?

And in a timing coincidence, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has launched a review of its fracked-gas pipeline approval procedures, as structured under the Natural Gas Act.  The new Trump-regime FERC wants comments from industry — but fortunately, by law, they also must accept comments from the millions of people and thousands of communities being damaged by fracking, pipelines, and that industry’s contribution to climate change.

FERC-Francis Eatherington-September 2015

Oregon activist Francis Eatherington participated in a protest fast at the FERC headquarters in Washington, D.C., in 2015.  Photo: Ted Gleichman

FERC has clearly been “broken” under Trump, and was designed to be inherently pro-industry.  It was only rarely helpful under prior presidents.  We are focused on a long slog toward reform into making FERC serve our true needs for the just transition; how much impact can we have on it now?

Sierra Club has been working actively, both locally and nationally, against fracked-gas infrastructure for years.  Please click here to help #FixFERC!

We have more than a month on each of these comment periods — we’ll stay in touch on how to get involved and write powerful comments to these agencies. 

Ted Gleichman
Policy Advisor, Beyond Gas & Oil Priority Campaign, Oregon Chapter
Member, National Strategy Team, Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign


Art Feeds Our Souls, Science Builds Our Wisdom, Unity Makes Us Strong

April 27, 2018

Coming Together Against the Fracked-Gas Pipeline & Jordan Cove Export Scheme
By Ted Gleichman

The struggle for a just transition toward sane culture moves on many fronts. Last week, I had the privilege of participating in a community TV discussion on the Jordan Cove Energy Project and the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline (JC/PC).

Host Jim Lockhart interviews activists on a long-time volunteer-staffed show, A Growing Concern, which airs live on public access channels.  Then he posts the interviews to YouTube.  He invited me to update him, and we asked outstanding Indigenous artist Ka’ila Farrell-Smith to join us.

Ka'ila Farrell-Smith

Ka’ila Farrell-Smith in Cienfuegos, Cuba, 2017. Photo: Cale Christi

Ka’ila is a member of The Klamath Tribes (and participated in Standing Rock). For years, she has used her superb artistic and presentation talents and skills to strengthen the heart and soul of the movement against Pacific Connector and Jordan Cove – and the quest for the essence of cultural and social health.

The Wocus Gathers-Ka'ila Farrell-Smith-2013

The Wocus Gatherers – Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, 2013, 90″ x 66″. This painting evokes the traditional Indigenous harvest of edible lotus bulbs in the Klamath-Modoc-Yahooskin wetlands and lakes.

The three of us dove deep in a 35-minute investigation, which we launched with a video from the brilliant students at Sunnyside Environmental School. We agreed that I would then frame the crisis, Ka’ila would share her heritage and examples of her work, and Jim would blend the dialogue. It was a lovely evening.

We hope that you too will find meaning in the video of our exploration:

A Growing Concern: Jordan Cove LNG Project & Pipeline

Thanks to all who care!

Ted Gleichman
Policy Advisor, Beyond Gas & Oil Priority Campaign, Oregon Sierra Club
Member, National Strategy Team, Beyond Dirty Fuels Priority Campaign
tedgleichman.oregon.sierraclub.org

After Boarding School-In Mourning-Ka'ila Farell-Smith

After Boarding School: In Mourning. Painting, Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, 2011, 36″ x 24.” Permanent Collection, Portland Art Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Jordan Cove / Pacific Connector: Welcome Back to the Wild Wild West!

February 26, 2018

By Ted Gleichman.  First of a Series.

Part One:
What in the Bloody Blue Blazes is Really Going On With the LNG Push?

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Image: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=640516

As we fight the constant brutality of the fossil fuels industry, feeling stuck in perpetual whack-a-cockroach mode, we are confronted with the fact that there is no honor among cannibals.  These exploiters know full well that we are in the throes of climate breakdown, and yet they continue at breakneck speed into the apocalypse.

Fracked gas (and oil) exploitation and export are the second-largest 21st Century energy revolution on the planet — second only to renewables.  Here’s a simplified framing for what we face: Globally, there has never been more turmoil in the present and future of the political economy of energy than there is now.  Locally, the Jordan Cove Energy Project (JCEP) & Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline (PCGP) scheme exemplifies a couple of the reasons why this is happening — and shows how.

As to why:

First, the industry knows that the projects that will be stopped first are those that haven’t started yet.  As the momentum for “Keep It In the Ground” builds, human psychology and standard political operating procedures dictate that — except for traditional emergencies like explosions — shutting down existing fossil fuels infrastructure (FFI) will be hardest and happen last.  So they are getting as much new FFI under construction and putting it into service as fast as they can.  They see this as their best way to protect market share, cash flow, and stock value.

Second, they are cut-throats — not just to front-line communities and the global atmosphere, but to each other.  Again, they know the climate science and they know that stranded assets are coming (see: coal).  They also know that demand for their products will fall — so they need to be the fastest guns in this new Wild West at piling up cash now.

And part of the how:

The Jordan Cove & Pacific Connector (JC/PC) project set is a perfect example.  The last of three proposals for Oregon, and now the only one still alive on the US Lower-48 West Coast, JC/PC has fought with no scruples to market itself both as inherently good and as inevitable.

Both these claims are completely bogus, but the level of desperation within the LNG / fracked gas export industry is so high that this form of vulture capitalism fights dirty by its very nature.  This political / scientific pseudo-wizardry dovetails with the JC/PC efforts to game the federal, state, and local permitting processes to push the new agenda of the Trump regime down our throats here.

“Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain…” {The Wizard of Oz}

No Parking on the Yellow Brick Road-Wizard of Oz-Wikimedia

Photo: Smallbones-Own work, CC0, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18353293

Tomorrow, two subcommittees in the U.S. House of Representatives (motto: “The Best Gerrymandering Big Money Can Buy”) are holding relevant hearings.  The Energy Subcommittee of the Committee on Energy & Commerce hearing is “State of the Nation’s Energy Infrastructure.”  Fracked gas and LNG will be part of the package.  Simultaneously, the Energy & Mineral Resources Subcommittee of the Committee on Natural Resources hearing is “Liquefied Natural Gas & U.S. Geopolitics.”

Globally, we need to pay attention as the Republicans in the House work to drive the atmosphere into further paroxysms of overheating and weather distortion.  Simultaneously, locally, we have learned that JC/PC has fallen a bit behind on their plan to have all construction permits in place this year, and now is aiming to be able to begin construction in March 2019.

So this may be a good time to review where we are, around the planet and in Oregon, as part of keeping on keeping on in our struggle for political and energy sanity and the Just Transition.  My hope is that this little series of short blog posts, over the coming weeks, will be useful as we Davids take on (and ultimately defeat!) these Goliaths.

Part of what we will see is that it is crazy out there — and even crazier here in Oregon.  Fracking was invented in Texas, and the West Coast of North America is key to the prospects for Jordan Cove.  So welcome to the new era of the Wild Wild West.

Coming next:

Part Two:
Making Canada Great Again?  Where Would the PCGP Fracked Gas Come From?

Ted Gleichman serves as Policy Director for the Oregon Sierra Club Beyond Gas & Oil Priority Campaign, and is a member of the National Strategy Team for the Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign. 


Mike Brune Cracks the Methane Myth, Hits Jordan Cove / Pacific Connector

January 17, 2018

By Ted Gleichman

How many times have you heard the meme “Natural gas is the bridge to the future”?  We’ve known for years that is not true, but now we can quantify exactly how much ‘natural’ gas — that is, fracked gas or fossil gas — can contribute to solving the climate crisis.  It’s an important number: Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. A Goose Egg. A Shut Out. In fact, a complete myth.  Let’s call this fallacy the Methane Myth, and it is past time to end it.

A top national leader in fighting this obsolete belief for many years now, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune just struck a blow in the national press against Oregon’s own worst, most dangerous, most destructive fossil fuel exploitation project: the scheme to bring fracked gas from Canada and/or the Rockies through Southern Oregon for liquefaction in Coos Bay and export to Asia.

Michael Brune

Mike Brune.  Photo credit: Sierra Club

Brune used his January 12 Huffington Post article to highlight a comprehensive new national report on Jordan Cove & Pacific Connector by Oil Change International (OCI).  OCI is a top national ally to Sierra Club, and focuses on state-of-the-art deep analytical work, “exposing the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitating the … transition to clean energy.”

Brune created his own brilliant framing on the Methane Myth in a 2013 debate on fracking sponsored by The Economist, when he summed it up: “Natural gas is not a bridge: it’s a gangplank.”  Sierra Club has long been the top eco-group fighting coal, and on Brune’s watch has dramatically expanded its national leadership as one of the key players against oil and gas as well.  Brune, working with leadership from the Member-elected national Board of Directors and with strong support from the seasoned executive team he’s built and strengthened,  and the rapidly-diversifying national and local staff, has also led the Sierra Club into its most innovative and ground-breaking evolution yet: a deep commitment to environmental justice and its growth, social justice and immigration, and the fight against income inequality and for green jobs.

The OCI report on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the proposed Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline & Jordan Cove Energy Project (JC/PC) is the best assessment that has ever been done and is summarized in this press release.  The OCI evaluation of the climate devastation that this Canadian fracked-gas export scheme represents includes three key components:

  • It is comprehensive.  It includes and charts every aspect of fracked-gas extraction, distribution, processing, liquefaction, shipping, and overseas consumption — all based specifically on JC/PC.
  • It is conservative.  OCI used the numbers provided by JC/PC for their own direct in-state emissions, from the JC/PC application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a federal construction license and eminent domain approval, taking them at their legally-binding word.  Then they added in the best peer-reviewed science available for other emissions.  This approach means that the analysis is solid: it cannot be attacked as puffed or overblown.  It is intentionally on the low-end of the damage assessment.
  • It is completely damning.  OCI shows that there is no “climate benefit” whatsoever in mining fossil gas, shipping it across the Pacific, and burning it in Asia.  The Canadian developer’s continued claims that this is good for planet are just another climate-denier distortion in the Methane Myth.
    My simple summary is this:
    There is no fossil fuel solution to the fossil fuel crisis.
    The only solution is to keep it in the ground and build the just transition.

IMPORTANT: Please download this vital report.  And please distribute it and Brune’s analysis of it far and wide!  Generations to come thank you!

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

Ruby Pipeline Clearcut-Klamath County

The end of the Ruby Pipeline near Malin, Oregon, bringing fracked gas from the Rockies to the interstate interconnection point where the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline would begin.
Photo: Ted Gleichman

 


Fighting Fracked Gas, 334 Miles Away

September 19, 2017

By Ted Gleichman, Beyond Gas & Oil Team

Can Portland leadership help stop the largest, most dangerous, and most devastating fossil fuel scheme in state history?  

We are in “round three” of trying to stop Canadian energy speculator Veresen, Inc., from slashing a clearcut through 235 miles of public forest land, farms, ranches, homes, and communities for an explosive fracked-gas pipeline, Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline.  This 36-inch diameter monstrosity would carry Canadian fracked gas from the interstate gas pipeline hub near Malin to Coos Bay, on the coast.  (The Malin pipeline hub is 334 miles from the Oregon Chapter office in Portland.)

Nature's nurtured bounty in Southern Oregon-September 19 2017

Today’s organic harvest by an “Affected Landowner.”  Their land includes a sustainably-harvested woodlot that Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline would tear through.  Photo: Ted Gleichman

In Coos Bay, Veresen plans a massive industrial terminal to export this Canadian gas to Asia as LNG (liquefied natural gas): the Jordan Cove Energy Project.  Pacific Connector/Jordan Cove (PC/JC) would become the largest greenhouse gas polluter in Oregon.  Oregonians have been fighting to stop this for almost 13 years now.

This scheme is the Trump Regime’s top energy priority now, after Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline.  So how can we who live in Portland make a difference?

Easy! … and hard: basic grassroots organizing.  Here’s the deal: Two-thirds of the Democrats in the Oregon Legislature live in the Portland Metro area.  They need to be part of this fight, and you can help!

Oregon Chapter and Columbia Network are key leaders in developing a new multi-organization action team, Stop Fracked Gas/PDX.  We are asking Sierra Club Members and supporters to join us in educating and persuading our State Representatives and Senators on how they can make a difference.  Down the road, we expect to work with other stakeholders as well.

To join in, please email me for the simple details for the next step.

Portland Democrats must not support the Trump fossil fuels agenda !!!

Thank you!  Email: ted.gleichman@oregon.sierraclub.org

 

 


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.

 

 

 

 


City of Portland Will Divest all Corporate Securities & Consider a Public Bank

April 13, 2017

By Ted Gleichman

In a local political shocker, the Portland City Council, deeply divided, has voted to divest all corporate securities from its investment portfolio.  A majority also said they will consider creating a public bank.  This surprise turn to a decade of arguments over corporate behavior and city investments came at the end of a four-hour public hearing April 5.Raging Grannies singing testimony to Portland City Council

 Raging Grannies sing their testimony to Portland City Council. Credit: Ted Gleichman

The city commissioners had wrestled for years with ruling on which companies should or should not be able to use cash owned by the people of Portland.  In the end, they voted 3-2, over strong opposition from new mayor Ted Wheeler, to eliminate all corporate securities from the city’s portfolio, which approaches some $2 billion.  Currently, $539 million of that is invested in corporate bonds and commercial paper.   These funds will be moved into non-corporate investments (generally, government bonds) as each specific corporate security reaches its maturity date or can be redeemed early for greater profit.

Long term, the most important piece of the dramatic meeting may turn out be an informal commitment by a majority of the commissioners to consider creating a city-owned bank, as the vehicle to manage the city’s portfolio.  If that happens, the City of Portland would join the State of North Dakota as owners of the only public banks in the U.S.

The April 5 decision came through the approval of the city’s 2017 investment policy, a document required annually under Oregon law.  In past years, up to 35% of city funds could be invested in top-quality corporate securities, with current specific exclusions on a “Do-Not-Buy List” as a result of earlier battles: Walmart, and the Carbon Underground 200 list of the largest publicly-owned fossil fuels companies globally, 100 coal and 100 oil and gas, all ranked by the size of their proven reserves – a “keep it in the ground” tool.

Fracking Rig-BLM-wind_river-small format

Fracking on public land in Wyoming.
Credit: Pinedale BLM Field Office, Wikimedia  Commons public domain

In 2013, as divestment battles from many perspectives heated up, the city council created the Temporary Socially Responsible Investing Committee (SRI) to advise them.  In 2014, they recreated it without the “Temporary” label.  The new SRI committee, in a remarkable document, recommended in September 2016 that as many as ten companies should be kept on or added to the Do-Not-Buy List.  The proposed additions were Wells Fargo, Caterpillar, Nestle, Amazon, and five other global banks.  After a difficult hearing in December, the then-council imposed a four-month moratorium on any new purchases and directed City Treasurer Jennifer Cooperman to come up with a new policy for 2017, taking everything into account.

The treasurer’s proposed policy essentially ignored the SRI recommendations, and about 150 activists showed up on April 5; 40 testified.  No one supported the treasurer’s recommendations; the corporations singled out most often in the testimony as “the worst of the worst” were Caterpillar and Wells Fargo.  Oregon Sierra Club added its voice to the process; Beyond Gas & Oil Team chair Gregory Monahan and I called for a commitment to SRI and transparency, based on the critical importance of environmental justice in Sierra Club.

Then Commissioner Dan Saltzman, the longest-serving member of the city council, startled the room by proposing an amendment prohibiting any new corporate investments.  Commissioner Saltzman said he was deeply frustrated about the amount of time these debates took away from other work every year, and wanted them over.

Treasurer Cooperman said that decision would cost the city from $3-$5 million a year in lost profits.  That was a key factor in opposition to the amendment by Mayor Wheeler and Commissioner Amanda Fritz.  The mayor also made a strong statement opposing divestment on principle, with a lot of detail about his six years as state treasurer.  Nonetheless, the Saltzman amendment passed with support from Commissioners Nick Fish and the newly-elected Chloe Eudaly.  The council then unanimously approved the revised policy, putting the city in compliance with the state requirement.

Most of the activists in the room were shocked; none of the leaders of the environmental and faith organizations present had predicted this.  One local divestment leader told me that she didn’t see it as a win, “because now we can’t call out the worst corporations by name.”  Others (including me) felt that a general policy against corporate investing sends a strong positive message on our city’s priorities.

Mayor Wheeler and Commissioners Fish and Eudaly all responded positively to testimony advocating for a public bank, and it’s clear that idea is going get more attention.  Commissioner Eudaly said she and her staff are preparing a report evaluating the options.

The new divestment policy is not a fire sale; corporate securities will leave the portfolio when the treasurer deems the time is right, not overnight.  On the current schedule, the final piece of Portland’s corporate portfolio is a $10 million Wells Fargo security that will pay the city 2.15% profit when it comes due in December 2019.

Dakota_Access_Pipe_Line,_Central_Iowa

Dakota Access Pipeline in Iowa. Credit: Carl Wycoff, Creative Commons 2.0

Currently, Wells Fargo – a key financier of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines – is Portland’s top corporate issuer, with almost $78 million in holdings.

Ted Gleichman serves as policy advisor with the Chapter’s Beyond Gas & Oil Team