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LNG and the character of the Rogue Valley

The series of letters opposed to the liquefied natural gas project reveals much about the Rogue Valley.

One author frightens us with the Cascadia earthquake, a possible magnitude 9 event, 100 times bigger than the 1987 Bay Area Loma Prieta quake, producing catastrophic destruction on the coast and enormous damage to the Rogue Valley. Unfortunately, the LNG would be just one of thousands of utilities, roads, buildings, homes, etc. demolished, a mere blip on the radar screen of our terrible concerns. Additionally, this alarmist rhetoric assumes the people willing to invest over a billion dollars in the LNG project have not evaluated the risk. It is also worth comparing us with the 7 million-plus residents of the Bay Area (over twice the population of Oregon) who invest trillions while living on or near the San Andreas and Hayward faults.

Another letter frightens us with some mysterious dangers of the pipeline. Of course it does not mention that Oregon already has hundreds of miles of natural gas lines that are working perfectly. For example, the line connecting Portland, Salem, Eugene, Roseburg and Grants Pass was installed in 1962 and has operated safely for 53 years.

Some assertions border on the ridiculous. For example, one threatens that “hunters” might shoot the pipeline. This veiled suggestion of sabotage is as despicable as it is ignorant. The pipeline would be covered by a minimum three feet of earth. Another writer even reveals their misandrist mindset with a comment about a “man-town in North Bend.”

Others decry supplying natural gas to Asia because of increased carbon emissions. They seem oblivious to the fact that America has actually reduced its carbon emissions over the last few years not because of wind and solar energy sources or even electric cars, but mainly because of increased use of vastly cleaner natural gas! China, the number one polluter in the world, would welcome (as should we) their transition from coal to a 60 percent cleaner fuel (if you cannot understand why, just try to take a deep breath in downtown Beijing).

Finally, a number of writers discuss eminent domain. While few would welcome installation of a pipeline across their property (including me), projects like this have been successfully negotiated for decades. Certainly rational planning and accommodation are in order, as was the case recently in a similar project in Washington State. But the basic argument of moving forward to produce greater good for the many in exchange for inconvenience of the few makes sense.

Given the illogic of these arguments, why is there such an outcry against the LNG?

There are folks in the valley who are very happy with the status quo, who want to remain splendidly and selfishly isolated, their property and lives untouched. However, young, working class folks, the type who used to find work in the forest products industry, remain shut out. The unemployment rates of the counties in Southern Oregon are around 25 percent higher than Multnomah and Clackamas counties while the labor participation rates are roughly 25 percent lower. Jackson and surrounding counties average around a 20 percent poverty rate as compared to around 9 percent for Clackamas County. In short, the Rogue Valley and the rest of Southern Oregon continue to spawn poverty. Our most talented folks leave and many of the rest face hopelessness.

The Rogue Valley is devolving into “Rogue Retirement Valley,” where the largest growth industries are assisted living and geriatric medicine. Projects such as the LNG, which provide even a few years of opportunity, should be supported. The growth of small service industries cannot absorb the hundreds of potential workers who each year graduate from our schools. We should understand that an economically diverse Rogue Valley that provides opportunity to a vigorous young population is to be desired. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, certainly thoughtful and environmentally responsible people, understand this and support the project.

We need to understand our motives. Do we cite “environmental concerns” while at heart we have our own interests in mind? By law we require environmental impact studies, but do not require human impact studies. The LNG project would have a net positive environmental impact for the globe and very positive human impact for Southern Oregon. All of us need to look beyond our personal situations and evaluate this project and others like it from a human standpoint. The very character of the Rogue Valley is at stake.

Jim Horner, a 32-year Oregon resident, lives in the Applegate Valley.