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State capitol pipeline protesters won't be prosecuted

SALEM — Prosecutors in Marion County have declined to file charges against the 21 protesters — including six Southern Oregonians — who were arrested last month during a sit-in at the governor’s office protesting a planned natural gas pipeline and marine terminal.

The office of Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson decided on Wednesday not to charge the 21 with criminal trespass in the second degree, her spokeswoman Amy Queen said in a telephone interview.

Gov. Kate Brown’s spokesman said the governor support the decision.

“Gov. Brown supports freedom of expression for all Oregonians, and she agrees with the district attorney’s office that pursuing charges would not have been a good use of public resources,” spokesman Charles Boyle said.

Hundreds of protesters had come into the Capitol on Nov. 21. Most left within a few hours. But several dozen refused to leave Brown’s office until she opposed the pipeline. She spoke to the protesters by phone, and then in person, but did not denounce the pipeline plan.

The state police warned the protesters they would be subject to arrest if they remained, and then arrested 21 men and women, who ranged in age from 22 to 78. They were jailed overnight and released in the early morning.

“We thought the Oregon State Police reacted safely and appropriately,” Queen said.

Protesters say the pipeline will encourage further use of fossil fuels that leads to global warming, and risk spoiling the land and ocean with spills.

Rianna Koppel, who is from Talent and was one of those arrested, said she is “thrilled” that the district attorney’s office decided not to file charges. Koppel called on Brown to oppose the project, saying “our land, air, water, and climate are at stake.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s final impact statement said it believes the Canadian company behind the Jordan Cove Project, Pembina Pipeline Corporation, will manage risks. Pembina Pipeline Corporation says the project will bring investments, property tax revenue and jobs.

The proposed marine terminal, in Coos Bay, would allow export of American liquid natural gas to Asia, and it would have a 230-mile (370-kilometer) feeder pipeline from an interstate gas hub in southern Oregon’s Klamath County. The pipeline would transport the natural gas, which would be converted from a vapor to more compact liquid natural gas for export.

The impact statement represents the final step in the federal environmental review process before an order is issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approving the project, expected in February 2020, Jordan Cove said.

The project is still undergoing permitting processes by the state. But in August, the Trump Administration proposed streamlining approval of gas pipelines and other energy projects by limiting states’ certification authorities under the Clean Water Act.

Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky.

Demonstrators against a proposed liquid-natural gas pipeline and export terminal in Oregon sit in in the governor's office in the Oregon State Capitol on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, to demand Democratic Gov. Kate Brown stand against the proposal. They staged a sit-in at her office in the Capitol, but she was not present. The Jordan Cove pipeline is undergoing a permitting process. The pipeline would end at a proposed marine export terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon. Opponents say the pipeline would encourage further use of fossil fuels that leads to global warming and the use of fracking, with the risk of spills along the pipeline and at the terminal. Advocates for the project say it would produce jobs. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky)