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!

 

 

 

 


The Adverse Effects of Climate Change in Oregon

September 23, 2013

Climate change is gradually unveiling itself throughout the Pacific Northwest in a variety of ways, including alterations in precipitation and temperature that will ultimately affect numerous industries in the state of Oregon. More specifically, agriculture, skiing, forestry, and salmon will all be impacted by Oregon’s changing climate. Salmon are often identified as an iconic species for the Pacific Northwest, as well as a keystone species in many ecosystems, thus their endangerment as a result of warming temperatures is an extremely significant issue. Warmer temperatures in Oregon will result in more rain precipitation and less snowfall, which will cause overall smaller annual snow-packs and consequently altered stream-flow times. An increase in precipitation could potentially cause frequent floods, therefore increasing mortality rates among salmon eggs due to gravel aggravation. The salmon life cycle may also be affected as a result of snow-pack melting earlier in the spring, hence disrupting the normal migration patterns for sea-bound fish.  Additionally, warmer river temperatures bring an influx of problems for developing salmon, such as providing ideal habitat for other fish species that pose as competitors or predators of salmon, thus lowering their survival rates. Warm water temperatures may also provide insufficient nutrients and resources for developing salmon.

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon

Evidently, salmon will be negatively affected by climate change in countless ways, thus the management and restoration of salmon habitat has the utmost importance when dealing with global warming in the Pacific Northwest. Salmon are also crucial to the livelihoods of many Native American tribes of the Northwest, which is another incentive to protect and restore their delicate habitats. The Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition is a large group of organizations devoted to the protection and restoration of native salmon species in the Columbia and Snake river basins. Visit their page to learn more about their efforts in the Northwest!

While salmon will undoubtedly be adversely impacted by warming temperatures, there are other consequences of climate change in Oregon that also hold significance, such as agriculture. More frequent droughts could reduce water supply needed for sufficient irrigation, growing seasons could be altered, and an invasion of pests may arrive due to warmer temperatures. All of these concerns may jeopardize the stability of Oregon’s agriculture industry. Health distresses may also become significant if Oregon begins to see increased smog as a result of higher temperatures. Pollen seasons could be longer as well, posing additional threats to people with allergies or asthma. Economically, many industries in Oregon will most likely be affected because of a disruption in BPA hydroelectric power, due to a lower water supply in the summer months. Moreover, the skiing industry could disappear altogether if winter snow-pack is dramatically reduced. Frequent droughts in the summertime will bring recurrent and heightened wildfires, so the timber industry could likewise be adversely affected. Clearly, Oregon is already seeing the effects of a changing climate, but many unforeseen consequences are possible in the near future, which is why Oregonians need to use mitigation and management to alleviate these impending costs.  To learn more about climate change in Oregon, visit this OEC page for details regarding climate impacts, protection, solutions, and more!

The list of ways in which Oregon is affected by global warming is innumerable as well as unpredictable. Unfortunately, climate change is already underway, so many of these consequences are most likely irreversible. However, putting a stop to CO2 emissions could possibly help slow down the warming of our planet, thus discontinuing dirty oil and coal drilling could help to alleviate our problems. This is why climate change in Oregon can directly be related to oil exploration in the Arctic, because increased drilling would only increase our reliance on nonrenewable energy sources, hence furthering emissions and enhancing global warming. The Oregon Chapter of Sierra Club is working diligently to fight against Arctic oil development in the Chill the Drills campaign to help alleviate climate impacts not only in the Arctic, but in Oregon as well.


Oregon Chapter takes on Chill the Drills Campaign

July 8, 2013

Protecting America’s Arctic from oil development is a prominent issue that demands nationwide support, which is why the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club is finally taking charge to stop additional oil drilling in Alaska.

Chill the Drills CampaignAlaska is home to America’s greatest wilderness that encompasses a wide range of refuges and habitats, including the coastal plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the pristine Brooks Range Mountains and the vast Chukchi Sea. Protecting these areas from oil development has the utmost importance because they’re home to numerous endangered species, including the famed polar bear. While the Arctic is under the spotlight for oil development, it’s also a region that could potentially be hardest hit by the side effects of global warming. The combined pressures of both climate change and oil drilling completely jeopardize the health and beauty of Alaska’s wilderness, which is why Oregonians need to step up and let our politicians know our stance on the issue of oil drilling.

Coal mining and oil drilling in the Arctic will continue America’s reliance on dirty, nonrenewable energy sources which will further the negative consequences of global warming. By protecting the migratory corridors between wilderness areas and refuges in Alaska, wildlife will have easier access to move when pressures from global warming and oil development transpire.

The Sierra Club, including the Oregon Chapter, is now working with the Obama Administration as well as Congress, to pass legislature to permanently protect the numerous wilderness areas in Alaska. In addition, the Sierra Club is also working with Alaskan Native communities to protect their subsistence livelihoods from resource depletion by oil companies. An Arctic Conservation Plan is also in the works to organize a comprehensive preservation strategy to permanently protect the coastal areas of the Arctic Refuge and the Arctic Ocean.

Oregonians can play their part in the Chill the Drills campaign  by contacting Senator Wyden and asking him to advocate for permanent protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


In Oregon, Student Governments Call for a Future Beyond Coal

June 1, 2010

It began in January, when Portland General Electric (PGE) made a big announcement: the major Oregon utility, partial owner and sole operator of the Boardman Coal Plant, proposed a possible timeline for phasing out reliance on Boardman.  That was the good news: after months of work on the part of climate activists, PGE had finally acknowledged the risks of associated with their coal-fired coal plant.  The bad news?  The soonest transition date proposed by PGE fell woefully short of what’s needed to protect Oregon’s environment, our economy, and ratepayers being subjected to the risks of coal dependency.  Under PGE’s proposed “2020 Plan,” the Boardman Plant would remain open for a minimum of ten more years.

Media outlets in the Northwest were a-flurry with the news that PGE wanted to decommission its coal plant.  Laudatory news articles and editorials poured in, the vast majority framing the issue as one of the PGE responding to public concerns by doing the right thing for the environment.  Unfortunately, few stories in the mainstream media probed deeply into the validity of claims PGE made to justify their preferred timetable.  Most news sources accepted PGE’s arguments at face value, never asking the essential question of whether a private utility that answers to Wall Street investors should be trusted to essentially regulate itself.  Read the rest of this entry »