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Students want governor to say "no" to pipeline

At a romping, sunny, Friday afternoon pizza party, a group of Southern Oregon University students released their report on the Jordan Cove Energy Project and Pacific Connector Pipeline, gathered petition signatures to help sway Gov. Kate Brown and taught students how to post pics on social media and tag Brown, so she or staff would look at them.

The student members of the Oregon Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG) at SOU condemned the proposed 232-mile pipeline from Klamath County to Coos Bay, saying it would harm salmon by increasing water temperatures, as well as harm riparian habitat and endanger nine already threatened species: the Pacific fisher, marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl, vernal pool fairy shrimp and six species of fish.

The OSPIRG report, written by intern Emily Newbury, an SOU student, said it would greatly compromise private land and homes, as it needs a 95-foot clearance around the pipe throughout its length, much of which land builders would have to acquire through eminent domain. The cleared land would then trigger severe erosion of farm soils, the study says.

The pipeline, which would be built by Canadian interests for shipment to Asia, has been blocked twice by FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), but has resubmitted its application to the Trump administration. Gov. Brown has not stated her position on it as yet, nor has U.S. Senator Ron Wyden. Backers say building the pipeline would created jobs.

“Oregon would get a lot of property tax value from it, but otherwise,” said Newbury, in an interview, “we think she is being tactically political, knowing she would lose votes no matter which side she takes. She’s keeping quiet in hopes of being reelected in November.”

One strategy, much quicker and easier than “calling your Congressman,” is when OSPIRG “tables” on campus, they ask interested people to take photos of the rally and post them on Facebook or Instagram and tag the Governor, said Newbury, which triggers an alert to be sent to the tagged account.

OSPIRG campus chairwoman Darcy O’Brien, who also heads the LNG effort at SOU, says the three groups, including OSPIRG chapters at University of Oregon and Lane Community College, have gathered 2,000 petition signatures urging Brown to stand up against the pipeline application, especially in this time of intense global warming.

“It’s a major new source of greenhouse gas pollution and the current administration has shown little interest in stopping it,” says O’Brien, but Brown can do a lot, using her presence on the State Land Board and other avenues.

The report says it increases wildfire threat with forest clearcutting for the pipeline and “because of the nature of the chemical compounds in natural gas, their molecules are very small, which means it is easy for it to leak even if the pipeline is aptly assembled. This would increase the chance of large wildfires or explosions in Oregon’s arid landscape.”

Coos Bay, the export point for ships, sits close to the Cascadia Subduction Zone, birthplace of many earthquakes and tsunamis over time, the report said. “The facility would sit partially on fine sand and the probability of a natural disaster is high,” it stated, “due to estimated future increases in seismic levels in the area.”

The report detailed huge amounts of water use to build and run the plant and pipeline. Air pollution, it said, includes 2.1 million tons of carbon dioxide a year.

Jobs are often cited as a plus for the project, but the report says while 6,000 jobs will come with construction, only 200 will be permanent.

The report concludes on a dark note: “If this project is approved, the terminal will become the single most polluting plant in Oregon. The overwhelming opposition from communities and individuals who live in the affected area also contribute to our decision to write this report and keep the ‘No Pipelines Campaign our lead state campaign.”

SOU sustainability director and student government officer Lindsay Swanson praised OSPIRG for “educating us about our fears and challenging our legislators.” She joins the fight against the pipeline because “We’re so incredibly lucky to have a place to live that’s so beautiful and that’s why we support denial of an industry that would compromise our future.”

Native valley resident and OSPIRG campus organizer Morgan Bechtold-Enge said, “I found out what it could do to my home town and home valley and it’s just ridiculous. Oregon is beautiful and all that but by supporting the LNG industry we are just moving backwards.”

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.