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Local residents join hikers protesting LNG pipeline

Some 50 people hiked a section of the Pacific Crest Trail east of Ashland Sunday where a proposed natural gas pipeline would cross, meeting up with a group that's trekking the entire 232-mile route across southwestern Oregon to protest the project.

“Oregon has the opportunity to set a precedent for the rest of the country on how to stand up against corporations with lots of power because we love this back country,” said Ashland resident Dana Greenblatt, who was among the group that hiked north on the PCT from Dead Indian Memorial Road for just more than a mile. 

Canadian company Veresen Inc. wants to build a 36-inch pipeline from Malin (southeast of Klamath Falls) to a liquefied natural gas export terminal it would build north of Coos Bay on Oregon's south coast. The route would affect 304 private landowners, cross 157 miles of private land and 74.5 miles of federal land, and affect 400 bodies of water.

Known as the Pacific Connector project, the pipeline would allow Veresen to ship superchilled, condensed gas to Asia. The gas would come from Colorado and Canada.

“The Pacific Connector Pipeline will disrupt a beautiful ecosystem of outstanding old-growth and will definitely pollute the environment," said Carol Worthington of the Greensprings. "If it leaks, there will be fire, homes will burn. It’s a crime and offers no benefit to people in America.”

Greensprings property owner Deb Evans said she found out about the pipeline right after buying timberland and was “very surprised and against it.” She said she was offered a one-time payment of $2,000 for access to her land for pipeline use.

“The argument that we need energy and jobs became moot when they refiled to export instead of import LNG," Evans said. "To let a private corporation profit like this is absurd. We go to war over energy, so why let go of our energy? It will raise energy prices.”

Veresen representatives have said the pipeline would not only supply export markets, but provide natural gas to Southern Oregon. The 36-inch pipeline is so large that 10 percent of its capacity would more than meet all needs for Southern Oregon, they said.

Building the pipeline along with its compressor and metering stations would cost about $1.74 billion, according to a draft environmental impact statement released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is analyzing the pipeline and export facility proposal.

American-based Williams Companies Inc. would be tasked with building the pipeline, which has won the support of many workers in pipeline, construction, electrical, welding and related fields.

The total pipeline construction payroll would be $240 million, according to the draft EIS.

Construction of the pipeline would create 1,800 temporary jobs at its peak, while work on the LNG terminal in Coos Bay would create an average of about 1,000 jobs per month over a 3½-year construction period, according to Williams Companies. The project would create 150 permanent jobs, primarily in Coos Bay, the builder says.

Given persistent climate change, Evans said it “makes zero sense to put in the infrastructure that locks us into fossil fuel for 50 years into the future.”

The project is not yet permitted and must receive approval from the Oregon Department of State Lands, Department of Environmental Quality, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and, when that certificate is appealed by environmental forces, the U.S. District Court of Appeals, said Evans.

“It’s an uphill fight,” said hiker and movement leader Bob Barker, whose property on the Rogue River would be bisected by the subterranean pipeline.

“It would be the largest greenhouse gas polluter in Oregon,” he said.

A picnic for the Hike the Pipe hikers and the public starts at 1 p.m. Saturday at Upper Rogue Regional Park, 7660 Rogue River Drive, Shady Cove. People also can bring their own boat or rent a float boat to drift five miles of the Rogue River, where the pipeline would cross under the river. The float starts at 10 a.m. from Rogue Elk County Park. RSVPs are requested to Deb Evans (541-601-4748 or debron3@gmail.com).

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

Portland resident Emmalyn Garrett of Portland is hiking the route of the proposed LNG pipeline. Here she perches on a log where the pipeline would cross the Pacific Crest Trail. Photo by John Darling