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LNG's unforeseen consequences

According to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, during the last 30 years there have been 9,000 reported significant pipeline incidents nationwide with thousands of smaller events. This has resulted in nearly 550 deaths, 2,600 injuries, and a staggering $8.5 billion in financial damages. During the past 10 years, pipeline accidents are accelerating as the U.S. increases its fossil fuel production despite the catastrophic impacts of such actions on greenhouse gas emissions and global climate changes.

According to a 2001 study by the Natural Gas Association of America, there are no significant impacts on property values where underground gas pipelines have been installed. This industry rhetoric has been significantly countered by several more recent real estate studies conducted throughout the U.S. including in Oregon, Colorado, and Ohio. Property values out to 2.5 miles from pipelines have been shown to be negatively affected; decreases in property values with actual gas lines have been estimated to be as much as 25 percent to 40 percent; in many cases buyers have simply walked away from purchases after discovering buried pipelines on the property or even anticipated pipeline installations, including those associated with the Jordan Cove LNG project.

The inability to sell one’s property can be a life-changing event. Can you imagine having plans to subdivide your property only to learn that the piece that would contain the LNG pipeline involves the strip of land you wanted to sell off as a new homesite? Can you imagine being the adjoining property owner with no buyout benefits and learn that a high-pressure gas pipeline is going to be installed just across your property line? Can you imagine having plans to bequeath your property to a grandchild who will have to think every day about an aging pressurized gas pipeline buried on her property, property that likely cannot be sold?

Eminent domain laws can put existing homeowners or even new buyers at the mercy of lenders with newer post-recession banking recall rules and other unique requirements that prohibit commercial developments on home mortgaged property, especially when potentially explosive pipelines are involved. Lenders don’t want the liability. Would you?

The critical decisions to be made by the Department of State Lands and others on this Pembina permit process will have numerous reverberating impacts on the economic vitality of our region. Using the estimated 600 landowners facing eminent domain proceedings from the Jordan Cove project and an estimated average property value of $350,000, a permit approval will decrease the property values on over $200 million of Southern Oregon real estate and cause unmeasurable reductions in values even on neighboring properties.

Such loss of property values can result in lower county tax revenues and funding levels for local services such as fire and police. Can you imagine the extent of further property value declines resulting from even a “minor” event with the pressurized pipeline?

In another economic context, one should not ignore what professional stock market evaluators are saying about a company that might invest in Oregon, and maybe in your backyard. Zacks, an American investment research firm producing independent stock market research, gives Pembina an F grade as a Value class of stocks. Zacks valuation metrics show that Pembina Pipeline Corp. may be overvalued. Zacks ranks Pembina in the lower 28 percent of all similar companies. Is this the kind of company that Oregonians want to be associated with?

A DSL permit denial in this case will show the country and the world that Oregon has serious intentions in becoming part of the progressive international community to curb fossil fuel emissions. Oregon is not a place to facilitate fossil fuel proliferation and certainly not by a second-tier corporation. Industry, why not bring us your renewable energy projects and build them on the Oregon coast for export?

Ray Seidler lives in Ashland.