Oregon voters reject Jordan Cove protection
Pacific Greens unable to convince locals of environmental perils
By William Huggins, Nevada Green Party
For the last ten years the Pacific Green Party has been working to protect Jordan Cove, a rugged but ecologically sensitive area on Oregon’s southern coast, from fossil fuel development. The PGP gave its support to a protective ballot initiative, entitled Measure 6-162. In early May voters in Coos County soundly rejected the measure.
Measure 6-162, also known as the Coos County Right to Sustainable Energy Future Ordinance, would have banned “non-sustainable energy systems.” While it did not mention Jordan Cove specifically, the ordinance would have affected the Coos Bay terminal and the 231-mile pipeline which will feed it. The ordinance also would have banned the bulk transportation of fossil fuels in the specified area.
“The folks in Jordan Cove are keeping the terminal alive,” said G. H. Oliver, Chair of the East Portland Friends of the Pacific Green Party of Oregon. “They want the jobs, I guess.”
The coastline of Jordan Cove is home to threatened spotted owls and critically endangered gray whales, of which only 150 may be left in the world. The whales migrate very near Jordan Cove. A coalition of tribes from northern California and southern Oregon—including the Yurok, Hoopa, Karuk, Modoc, and Klamath—vocally opposed the pipeline and terminal, citing potential harm to salmon fisheries which are a vital part of their subsistence and which have already been negatively affected by dams built upstream.
“LNG pipelines don’t leak … they explode. The blast radius of an LNG pipeline is 600 feet. My house is 200 feet from the pipeline,” said Clarence Adams of Ten Mile, Oregon. In 2014 an explosion at Northwest Pipeline in Oregon caused the evacuation of people within a two-mile radius of the pipeline and shut down road and rail traffic along the Columbia River.
Jordan Cove’s parent company, Veresen, Inc., is based in Calgary. Attempts at motivating banks to rescind funding through divestment, similar to tactics used in the Dakota Access fight, seem unlikely to work as all of the funding for the pipeline comes from Canadian financial institutions. Local pro-development advocates seem unmoved that the fuel moving through the pipeline and terminal are destined for markets in Asia, not the United States. Versen Inc.’s application was originally rejected by the Obama administration but the company reapplied in January, perhaps rightly believing the Trump administration will see the project with friendlier eyes.
“Of course there will be resistance. But…very disappointing for the long, exhausting battle,” said Oliver. “Jordan Cove is literally a ticking time bomb to all of our communities in the region. It is not an ‘if’ there will be a dangerous situation, or fail to the operation, but ‘when’ and ‘where’ it happens.”