By Kristine Cates and Emma Marris
Seldom does one issue unite Oregonians like this one. Last month, nearly 1,000 of us from all over the state met at the state Capitol to demand that Gov. Kate Brown do all she can to stop the ill-advised Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas export terminal and Pacific Connector fracked gas pipeline.
Some spoke about their heartbreak at the prospect of the government seizing private land to make a huge fossil fuel corporation rich.
Some talked about how their livelihoods as fishers and crabbers would be threatened by a huge new fracked-gas export plant in Coos Bay.
Some spoke about how the pipeline would threaten natural resources that indigenous communities have relied on for millennia.
Others focused on climate change’s threat to all of us, since the project would be the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.
Republican and Democrat, rural and urban, old and young—we sang together, chanted together, and demanded our governor stand with us. After a massive rally, 10 of us with a personal stake in her decision moved inside the governor’s office to put our bodies on the line.
We 10 represented the spectrum of opposition to this project: Hoopa and Yurok tribal members protecting the Klamath River; a Southern Oregon rancher desperate to protect her beloved salmon stream; a former Department of State Lands employee who lives in the proposed terminal’s hazardous burn zone; a student at Southern Oregon University; a faith leader from the Rogue Valley; former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury; and us—a Klamath Falls writer and mother and a Camas Valley landowner. We are all wildly different, but we share one thing that Pembina, the Canadian corporation behind this proposal, does not: A dedication to protect this region – our home – behind which we all will stand.
About 100 others joined us and together we stayed in the governor’s office for nine hours. She came to speak to us but did not agree to oppose the project.
We ask that she publicly oppose the project and commit to using all legal avenues to stop it, including challenging the federal government if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rubber-stamps it early next year.
In early 2020, the state of Oregon will also have deadlines for two critical permits from the Department of State Lands and Land Conservation & Development that could, if denied, stop the Jordan Cove LNG project before the company could ever use eminent domain or begin clearing trees. All eyes will be on Gov. Brown and her state agencies to deny those permits.
We are confused by Brown’s reluctance to take a stand. Other governors, including Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, have recently declared opposition to similar fracked gas projects in their own states. Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski challenged FERC on its inadequate review of this same project years ago.
When the federal government announced that the United States would bow out of the Paris climate agreement, Brown joined other states in affirming her commitment to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius. There’s no way she can keep her commitment without stopping this project. Just counting emissions that would occur in Oregon, it would become the biggest single source of climate pollution in the state once the Boardman coal plant closes next year.
As we told her in person, we are ready to support the governor if she takes this opportunity to lead. We are encouraged by her recent legal action to protect Oregon’s right to safeguard our water and air in the face of federal rollbacks of environmental protections. We are glad that she is interested in investing to create good, permanent jobs in the renewable energy industry—much better than the mostly temporary jobs that the Jordan Cove LNG project would create. All that we need now is for her to promise to also fight with us to stop this dangerous, destructive project.
Many of us have been fighting this project for 15 years. If the FERC approves the project, people’s land could be seized and their trees cut down through eminent domain as early as February, even if state permits are still pending. Irreparable harm could be done: Old growth forest could fall, streams could be befouled with sediment, hearts could be broken.
Governor, the time to oppose the Jordan Cove LNG project is now.
Kristine Cates is a property owner in Camas Valley. Emma Marris is an environmental writer in Klamath Falls.
This opinion piece was posted on December 4 at Oregon Live.