Jordan Cove & Pacific Connector: A Summer for Organizing — Key State Decisions This Fall

April 28, 2019

By Ted Gleichman

No-LNG-Sign

Here’s a quick update on the regulatory and grassroots status of the fight against the deceptive fracked-gas export scheme on Oregon’s southern coast, the Jordan Cove Energy Project, and the 229-mile pipeline necessary to feed it, the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has published its latest Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on Jordan Cove & Pacific Connector (JC/PC).  This opened up a comment period that will close Friday, July 5 (right in the middle of a long holiday weekend for a lot of folks).

In May and June, we will be providing guidelines on different ways to submit comments on the DEIS, highlighting key issues that the Trump FERC is ignoring, distorting, and failing to address.  (With all attachments and appendices, the DEIS comprises some 6,000 pages.)   FERC plans to produce a Final EIS late this fall, and is scheduled to vote on whether to approve the $10 billion JC/PC in early 2020.

In the meantime, here are some key push-points to keep in mind:

  1. We can’t trust FERC. 
    The Trump regime has taken a pretty lousy agency and made it much worse.  FERC officially ignores the climate crisis in every way that it can, and has fought back hard against every effort to bring its behavior in line with the science on fossil fuels, greenhouse-gas emissions, and environmental destruction.
  2. Fortunately, it’s not just about the Trump FERC.
    Federal power against the climate is terrible, but it is not the only piece of the puzzle.  States still have significant regulatory authority.  The State of Oregon has direct power over key permits that JC/PC must have to go forward.
  3. The Department of State Lands is scheduled to decide by September 20.
    Oregon DSL has authority to protect state waterways of all types from damage by dredging and filling — and JC/PC would require a lot of that, attacking 485 waterways: the five major rivers in Southern Oregon and hundreds of tributaries, streams, and wetlands, crossing both the Cascades and the Coast Range.  All the information that we have so far is that DSL is taking this responsibility really seriously.  This decision date may change, but the process generally seems to be operating with adequate integrity.
  4. The Department of Environmental Quality must decide by September 29.
    Oregon DEQ must decide by September 29  whether JC/PC complies with state approval authority under the Clean Water Act (Section 401).  As with DSL, all the information that we have so far is that DEQ is taking this responsibility really seriously.  This decision date is a hard deadline, and DEQ is working hard to meet.
  5. Our statewide coalition fighting JC/PC continues to grow.
    The struggle for climate sanity and a just transition continues to strengthen, among dozen of organizations.  We’ve reached critical mass among grassroots activists and climate leaders on an understanding of the insanity of new fossil fuel infrastructure like Jordan Cove.  Comment periods for DEQ and DSL, last year and this, generated almost one hundred thousand comments to the State of Oregon! — a totally unprecedented number.  Almost 60% came through Sierra Club.  Early this year, more than a thousand people attended DSL hearings in Southern Oregon and Salem — also unprecedented.
  6. Sierra Club plays a vital role.
    The Oregon Sierra Club has been a key part of this struggle for more than a decade, with critically-important assistance from National Sierra Club.  Sierra has been supporting the the front line groups, working for environmental justice, and staying deep in the regulatory and legal battles in various ways.  That won’t change.

For this summer, before these critical Oregon agency decisions in September, many of the most vital chores will focus on more community organizing.  We have a lot more work to do: both grassroots, and “grass-tops”: educating and persuading legislators and other leaders that their responsibility is to serve and protect.   Please stay tuned!

Proposed Jordan Cove Construction Site-OPB-EarthFix

The proposed site of the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal, in Coos Bay on the Oregon coast, in the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake / tsunami junction. Photo: EarthFix

Ted Gleichman is a policy advisor with the Oregon Sierra Club Beyond Gas & Oil Priority Campaign, and has been a member of the National Strategy Team for Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign.  He has been fighting against the export of LNG (liquefied natural gas) through Oregon since 2006.


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


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. 


Climate Recovery’s Essential Ingredients

May 12, 2017

If you’re concerned about climate change, you know that time is of the essence. To meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 Degree Celsius target (that Climate scientists recommend), the world must reduce GHG emissions to essentially zero by 2050[1]. To accomplish this we must immediately start to replace fossil fuel energy with renewable energy and energy efficiency.  However, at the national level and even at the state-level here in Oregon, it’s hard to get effective and sufficient carbon reduction legislation passed. That’s why work at the city level is becoming increasingly important.

The Sierra Club’s YouCAN Corvallis group, in partnership with Our Children Trust, is working to pass a Climate Recovery Ordinance to ensure implementation of Corvallis’s Climate Action Plan (CAP).  The City is set to propose an ordinance and a way to implement the CAP, but it’s missing essential ingredients, such as: up-to-date, science-based GHG reduction goals that the City can be held accountable to; and annually tracking our progress with ways to get back on track if we’re not. We need these ingredients so that the earth doesn’t reach the 6+ Degrees Celsius that’s predicted if President Trump’s pledge to expand fossil fuel extraction to the max is followed through with. We might not be able to influence Trump’s administration right away, but we can influence our local leaders right now.

YouCanCorvallis Team Members

Therefore we submitted to the City Council Climate Recovery Ordinance, and we’re asking people to add their name here, in support. By adding your name you’ll let the Corvallis City Council know you support adding all the essential ingredients needed to make a greenhouse reduction ordinance meaningful.  –Thank you from the YouCAN Corvallis Team!

[1] On the last day of the Paris Summit, a panel of leading climate scientists evaluated what would be necessary to achieve its targets.  Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said that for any chance of reaching the 1.5C target the richest nations need to reach zero fossil fuel use by 2030.  Kim Nicholas, “Top Scientists weigh in on current draft of Paris climate agreement,” Road to Paris, December 11, 2015, http://roadtoparis.info/2015/12/11/top-scientists-weigh-in-on-current-draft-of-paris-climate-agreement/.


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!

 

 

 

 

 


Investing in the Future: The Healthy Climate Bill and the Coal Transition Plan

February 4, 2016

2167696800_4dedae718d_oWhen I was a kid, teachers always gave us the same piece of environmental advice: reduce, reuse, recycle. The emphasis was always on what we could do as individuals. We could pick up litter. We could recycle cans and bottles. We could donate our old clothes. If everyone did these small things, they would add up and make a difference in the world. Reduce, reuse, and recycle, and everything would be okay.

It took me until college to question this. In fact, it was in one of my very first college classes—intro to environmental studies—that my professor brought it up. I can still remember what he said: our lifestyle decisions as consumers are important, but they also distract from larger issues. What we need is not just for individuals to change, but for the entire infrastructure of our society to change. We need movements, protests, political change. And I remember him saying something about how there was “no free lunch”, how even just sitting in that lecture hall we were taking part in the dirty energy economy, what with the lights and the heating system, and if we went to the library, or the city hall, or anywhere in town, really, we would come upon the same problem, because it wasn’t just us—it was the way things were set up.

I always thought that part was particularly unfair. coalThis isn’t our mess. None of us in that lecture, none of us who went on to graduate in 2015, are responsible for the way things have been set up. We’re the inheritors of greed and chaos. I mean, look at what they’ve left us: heartbreaking mass extinctions, an ocean full of plastic garbage, an economy dependent on polluting fossil fuels that threaten the existence of all life.

But I also saw this beautiful possibility—this vision of change, of the sustainable society we could create. This isn’t our mess, but we can be the ones to fix it.

I’m not the only one with such a vision, of course. The quest for positive change is one of the main tenets of the Sierra Club. They’ve long been champions of clean energy, environmental justice, and conservation. In a way, they’re the embodiment of that big change, that infrastructural shift that my professor was talking about. I’m honored to be interning with them, especially at this moment of climactic urgency. With the hottest year on record behind us, and all this evidence of widespread droughts, reduced snow-packs, and crazy weather events—well, climate change is progressing right before our eyes. We have a small window here in which we can prohibit catastrophic warming.

Now is the time to make those big changes, and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club is taking action. During the 2016 legislative session, the Sierra Club is promoting two bills that work together to revitalize Oregon’s energy system.

windmillsThe Healthy Climate Bill, Senate Bill 1574, proposes a “cap and invest” system. This means that polluting industries would actually pay the true price for the environmental havoc they impose upon us, and for their disastrous contributions to climate change. The money would then be invested in the clean energy sector. We’d have reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and a proliferation of local, well-paying clean energy jobs. Not only that, but investments would be targeted towards those who, today, are most threatened by environmental injustices—low-income and rural communities, as well as communities of color.

The other bill—the Oregon Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan (House Bill 4036—also seeks to reduce emissions, but does so in partnership with PGE and Pacific Power, Oregon’s two largest utilities. Under this bill’s provisions, Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard would double to 50% by 2040. Though Oregon’s last coal-fired power plant will close in 2020, PGE and Pacific Power still source much of their electricity from coal-fired plants in other states, such as Montana. This plan would make them completely coal free by 2035 and enable them to transition to renewable energy projects, like community solar programs that prioritize low-income communities. New infrastructure would be created to encourage green transportation, such as charging stations for electric cars, thereby lessening our dependence on gas and oil. I mean, imagine that: driving an electric car powered by 100% solar or wind power. Or going into almost any building in the state and knowing it’s powered mostly by clean energy.

These two bills complement each solar farm. 1st pictures. September 2012 30192Dother in that they have varying timelines and methods to achieve a shared vision. This is way more than reduce-reuse-recycle. This is the big stuff; the big changes that need to happen if we want a better future. These bills make clean energy more affordable than dirty energy. They lift disadvantaged communities into positions of climate leadership. They create new jobs for local community members. And, of course, they reduce carbon emissions. Oregon could serve as a model of justice and sustainability. We could provide the rest of the country—and even the world—with the glimpse of a promising future. These bills work because they address our issues at the source. They not only fix old problems but they lead us on to better things, to a cleaner, healthier, healed future, in which the next generation can look back, smile, and say, look at what they’ve left us.

Take action today by contacting your legislators in support of these bills!

 

 

 

 


Hart Mountain

August 13, 2015
Recently, a group of 10 desert enthusiasts, led by Sierra Club High Desert Committee members, visited the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge in south-central Oregon. Hart Mountain is a conservation success story, and it was exciting to see how DSC_0052this area has come back to ecological health since grazing was removed  from the refuge nearly twenty years ago and management practices changed. At that time, the antelope population was struggling due to the damage done to the landscape by grazing and fire suppression. Once cattle were removed and prescribed burns started, the landscape, and antelope numbers, have returned to healthy levels. The fires and removing the cattle allowed forbes, herbaceous plants that the antelope depend on, to rejuvenate. This was evident on our hikes, as we were treated to vast stretches of wildflowers, including a hilltop swathed in fragrant lupine. We felt like Dorothy in a poppy field in Oz!
Please help the Sierra Club protect other fragile high desert ecosystems in Oregon. The High Desert Committee currently is working on a campaign to permanently protect 2.5 million acres of wilderness-quality lands in the Owyhee Canyonlands, DSC_0018which is in the far southeast corner of Oregon. Please take a minute to sign the petition at http://wildowyhee.org/act/sign-the-petition_sierra_club, join us on an outing (see our offerings at http://oregon2.sierraclub.org/chapter/high-desert-outings)  or attend one of our monthly meetings to see what we are working on. The High Desert Committee meets on the first Wednesday of every month at 6:30 pm for a potluck, with the meeting starting at 7:00 pm.
Heidi Dahlin