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Protesters overflow pipeline hearing

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With his crisp beige Stetson and new white-patterned ranch shirt, Shawn Jones stood out as an atypical — yet relevant — voice in the debate surrounding a proposed gas pipeline through Southern Oregon.

Jones, representing C2 Cattle Company, testified Tuesday evening to the Oregon Department of State Lands that the proposed Jordan Cove pipeline would be installed beneath four miles of the company’s property in the Upper Rogue — including meadows, pastures and under drains.

“The soil is highly erodible,” Jones said, adding that the cattle business works with the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy and tries to be “good stewards.”

“We oppose the pipeline,” Jones said.

Jones was among a crowd estimated at more than 1,000 who attended the state hearing surrounding concerns about the large quantities of soil that would need to be removed and replaced to install the proposed three-foot wide pipeline, spanning 229 miles across the state through Jackson, Douglas, Klamath and Coos Counties.

Opponents who overflowed the Jackson County Expo Padgham Pavillion included state senator-elect Jeff Golden of Ashland, who also spoke at the rally in the nearby Olsrud Room prior to the hearing.

Golden suggested to the crowd of LNG opponents that they schedule meetings with elected officials with “clarity and tenacity,” telling them their activism has the power to stop the project funded by Canadian energy corporation Pembina.

“When the people lead, the leaders will follow,” Golden said.

Allie Rosenbluth, a community organizer with Rogue Climate, estimated turnout to exceed 1,000 at a rally prior to the state hearing. The organization ordered 70 pizzas among other refreshments at the rally.

Of the 485 Oregon waterways that the proposed pipeline would be installed beneath, 88 of them are in the Rogue Basin, according to Rosenbluth.

Talent mayor Darby Ayers-Flood and council president Emily Berlant, said that although the pipeline won’t run through their town, it will run beneath the source of its water in the Upper Rogue.

“We can’t push this farther along,” Berlant said.

Other elected officials, who voiced concern as individuals and on behalf of their constituents, included Julian Bell with the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission, Phoenix City Councilor Stuart Warren and Medford City Councilor Kay Brooks.

Brooks noted that the Rogue Valley has a “significantly water-dependent economy.” She touched on her experience growing up in rural Alabama, and how the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacted tourism in the South.

“Our economy turned into the BP payout economy,” Brooks said.

The Department of State Lands’ Ali Ryan Hansen said this latest (third) application to install a pipeline across Oregon to a proposed liquefied natural-gas facility near Coos Bay, has rerouted sections of the pipeline away from private landowners into public lands and combined its potential soil disruption in the pipeline’s channel and terminal phases into one phase.

“They basically combined applications,” Hansen said.

Dozens of proponents, many in neon sweatshirts and hardhats printed with union affiliation, also attended the hearing but typically took a more subdued approach.

Daniel Del Reao described himself as a “voice for working families,” saying he worked today and drove his own vehicle before asking rhetorically how many of the people opposed were members of the “active workforce?”

The comment drew audible guffaws from an audience consisting of people from college to retirement age.

Lou Christian with UA Local 290, said the pipeline means more than 1,400 jobs for men and women in his craft of plumbers and steamfitters. He also said that similar to cars, natural gas pipelines are far safer than they were a generation ago.

In a morning meeting before the hearing, Jackson County officials expressed concerns about the pipeline that were similar to many of the concerns expressed by residents.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners reiterated its objection to the project on the grounds that eminent domain could be used against unwilling property owners.

County officials plan to research the project further and submit detailed comments to the state in a few weeks.

But for now, County Administrator Danny Jordan said the pipeline would cross the property of 26 private landowners in Jackson County, three county-owned properties and federal land.

Since trees have to be cut along the pipeline route and couldn’t be allowed to regrow, the county could lose shared revenue from timber sales off federal land.

On the other hand, Pembina says the pipeline route would generate a total of $20 million annually in tax revenue for Jackson, Douglas and Klamath counties.

Jordan said drilling beneath the Rogue River north of Shady Cove would be disruptive and loud for the neighbors living nearby. Drilling fluid could spill, jeopardizing the river.

With the pipeline crossing approximately 78 wetlands and waterways in Jackson County, Jordan said construction could cause more sediment in water.

“If there’s erosion, we’re going to have more sedimentation and turbidity,” he said.

Sediment in water is harmful to fish. The state has put pressure on the county and cities to reduce erosion into the Rogue River and its tributaries.

Reporter Vickie Aldous contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Protesters gather outside the Jackson County Expo before a public hearing concerning the Jordan Cove Pipeline Tuesday. Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune