Jordan Cove LNG protest at Oregon's state capitol in Salem (photo credit: Emma Jones)
A new year and a new decade are upon us, and already 2020 has brought a huge set of changes and challenges for our communities. A global pandemic has starkly revealed the many ways in which we are failing to care for the health and well-being of our poor and working class, unhoused neighbors, immigrant communities, and other vulnerable people. Oregon’s already short legislative session was cut even shorter by Republican walkouts, making it impossible to pass critical new laws. Yet despite these challenges, we see people coming together to take care of each other, bringing supplies and mutual aid to one another, and all the while still tackling climate change as the broad-scale public health crisis that it remains.
Oregon’s Decisive Rebuke of Jordan Cove LNG
The past year will likely be remembered as the year Oregon used its regulatory authority to protect public health from Pembina, the Canadian corporation seeking to build the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and 229-mile fracked gas pipeline from Klamath County to Coos Bay. If built, this project would quickly become the largest single source of greenhouse gases in Oregon, comparable to 15 coal power plants, with no close second.
In May 2019, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality denied Pembina’s application for a Clean Water Act permit necessary to build the project. In January 2020, fearing a permit denial, Pembina ended its two-year-long attempt to receive a Removal-Fill permit from the Oregon Department of State Lands. Less than a month later, the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development denied the Coastal Zone Management Act’s federal consistency review of the Jordan Cove LNG proposal. Jordan Cove LNG cannot go forward without all three of these necessary state permits. Despite these many rebukes, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted to conditionally approve Jordan Cove LNG ,which allows the company to pursue eminent domain proceedings to seize unyielded land for the project.
Protesters in Salem rally against Jordan Cove's energy projects (photo credit: Alex Milan Tracy)
Pembina is clearly vying for an unprecedented overreach of federal powers to push the project beyond Oregon’s authority to deny Jordan Cove LNG. It won’t work: Oregon PSR and the Power Past Fracked Gas coalition will continue to organize to stop Jordan Cove LNG from ever being built, and we will be pushing Oregon to defend its authority to halt the project. We would not be here without the tens of thousands of comments submitted by our members and partners, as well as nearly 1,000 people who came to Salem for a rally on November 21st. Thank you for all of your work to stop Jordan Cove LNG. Our movement is making a huge difference: Senator Ron Wyden has now joined Senator Merkley in openly opposing the project and Governor Kate Brown vowed to “use every available tool to prevent the company from taking early action on condemning private property or clearing land.”
More Evidence of the Health Harms of Oil & Fracked Gas
We continue to keep up pressure on Portland City Hall to stop the Zenith oil terminal in Northwest Portland, which drives up traffic of dangerous tar sands crude oil trains through communities living along rail lines in Portland and beyond. Over the last year, our community has come out to several rallies, Portland City Hall meetings, public forums, a 60-hour vigil at the facility, and other creative and inspiring events to bring awareness to the harms that Zenith poses. Our collective resistance to Zenith has inspired communities outside of Portland, and Oregon PSR and our many community partners have been coming together to strategize on how to continue and increase momentum relative to this effort.
We also learned that, beginning in 2016, over two million pounds of radioactive fracking waste has been dumped over time in a hazardous waste landfill five miles from the Columbia River in Arlington, OR. We are alarmed at the public health threat of this dumping, which is connected to the larger problem of huge concentrations of radioactivity in fracking waste nationwide. Our Healthy Climate Action Team member Dr. Patricia Kullberg penned an op-ed for the East Oregonian that helped to underscore our efforts to hold Chemical Waste Management accountable for accepting this waste.
Legislative Session Ends Early Amid Republican Walkouts
Multiple Republican walkouts halted progress in the short, 35-day legislative session, meaning that none of our favored bills passed, including a ban on aerial spraying of the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos and a bipartisan bill to increase energy affordability for low-income households. On a positive note, a revived effort to give renewable energy credits to the polluting Covanta Marion waste incinerator languished without a single floor vote. We will stay active and vigilant as leaders in the state legislature consider special sessions where these bills, as well as wildfire mitigation efforts that we have been monitoring closely, may be considered again soon. For more details on our legislative advocacy, please refer to our latest legislative wrap-up blog post.
Portland Clean Energy Fund Grant Committee members with City of Portland staffers.
Portland Clean Energy Fund Wins National Recognition
A few months after the first-ever nine-person Portland Clean Energy Fund (PCEF) grant committee was fully appointed by Portland City Council, the EcoAmerica Climate Leadership Awards selected PCEF as a top-ten finalist out of hundreds of applications nationwide. This recognition of frontline community-led efforts to advance environmental justice and rapidly accelerate and expand access to the green economy is heartening. We look forward to approximately $50 million every year in community-generated renewable energy projects, living-wage green job training, tree planting and urban green spaces, and more. Though the Portland Business Alliance is attempting to take advantage of the global health crisis to undermine PCEF, our coalition will continue to defend it since we know how especially important corporate accountability and living-wage jobs and job training will be to support the communities that need it most during an economic recession.
Keeping Coal in the Ground, and Looking Ahead
On March 17th, the Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed multiple permit denials for the Millennium Coal Export Terminal proposal in Longview, WA, stating that it is not possible to sufficiently mitigate the project’s significant and harmful impacts to water quality, air quality, and public health. Each time we hear a new legal court affirm the denial of Millennium Bulk Terminals, it demonstrates the huge progress we have made in stopping coal exports and keeping fossil fuels in the ground. It reminds me of our collective power to remain united with our many incredible partners in striving for an end to the public health threat of fossil fuel exports and a thriving, regenerative, renewable energy economy with living-wage jobs and clean air for all.
This article was written by Damon Motz-Storey, Healthy Climate Program Director.