Joseph Patrick Quinn

Joseph Patrick Quinn

Joseph Patrick Quinn

On the evening of Oct. 3 of this year, yet another act of the never-ending Jordan Cove LNG melodrama appeared center stage at the county courthouse. As if this were some long-running, western-themed farce at a sawdust theater, Douglas County government brought in a hired gun attorney from Lake Oswego, Mr. Andrew Stamp, to examine the issues and decide if a 36” high pressure gas pipeline ought to be run through properties, public and private, within the 7.5 miles of the Coastal Zone Management Area in Camas Valley.

In a News-Review article covering this affair published on Dec. 11, Douglas County Planning Department Director Joshua Shaklee is reported to have said that Stamp misunderstood his role in the process and presented his findings as just a recommendation to the county commissioners, when it should have been offered as a hard decision. That’s not the only thing Stamp got wrong.

In my oral testimony on Oct. 3, and on page one of my followup submission to the planning department and Stamp, I clearly stated that I was speaking on behalf of myself and my family, not Umpqua Watersheds, as claimed by Stamp in that article. I also said that, while I had significant environmental, economic and property rights issues with this proposal, in this instance I was primarily concerned with the safety aspects of the pipeline, and with how it might well impact the welfare and the very lives of myself, my family and my good neighbors, as well as the integrity of our properties in Camas Valley. With that safety in mind, I included this excerpt from statewide planning goal #7:

“1. Local governments shall adopt comprehensive plans (inventories, policies and implementing measures) to reduce risk to people and property from natural hazards.

2. Natural hazards for purposes of this goal are: floods (coastal and riverine), landslides, earthquakes and related hazards, tsunamis, coastal erosion, and wildfires.”

When this reference to Statewide Planning Goal #7 was made by me at the Oct. 3 hearing, Stamp appeared to express doubt as to its relevance to the safety of the proposed pipeline. He said I would need to explain, in writing, why I thought it did apply. Thus, citing warnings from government and academics concerning the strong possibility of a very powerful, destructive earthquake at any time, I attempted as best as this concerned citizen-volunteer could to emphasize the high hazard such a pipeline would represent when, not if, “The Big One” hits. I expressed my astonishment that a hearings officer, in part holding the power of life and death over this proposal and we citizens, would question this obvious relevance.

In his decision document, Stamp’s explanation why such an important goal had no bearing seemed very much like smoke and mirrors to me. It reminded me of the old vaudeville act, “Who’s On First,” made famous by comedians Abbot and Costello. (Google it, it’s a hoot) Here’s what I had written: “As, I believe, any concerned citizen possessed with decent eye sight, blest with reasonable intelligence and thus able to read and comprehend the plain and concise language of that planning goal, I find this question of the goal’s applicability to this permitting process to be nothing short of astounding.”

As reported in The News-Review, Stamp maintained that good eyesight and reasonable intelligence had little to do with it. (He also said that a large campaign contribution to one of our county commissioners by the Canadian LNG outfit had nothing to do with it either.) In his decision document, Stamp replied: “As a member of a small cabal of Oregon attorneys that specialize in land use/zoning law, the hearings officer finds it equally astounding that a person would argue the the Statewide Planning Goals do apply in this case.”

In The News-Review, Stamp called my submission unprofessional and claimed that I presented myself in a poor light. Well yes, I am not a well-paid, out-of-town attorney with a track record of favoring this project. I am not a member, unlike Stamp, of “a small cabal of attorneys.” I am just one more lowly citizen worried about the safety of myself, my family and my good neighbors, their homes and lands; a citizen who has had the nerve to speak up to the big money boys and their enablers in local, state and national government. “How dare he!” one seems to hear lawyer Stamp exclaim, between the lines. “What makes this fellow think he has the right to question my ‘professional’ opinions?”

Haven’t got clear, understandable arguments to refute mine and others? Then just make personal attacks on the reputations and credibility of the concerned citizens offering objections to this big money scheme, instead. Which of us then is unprofessional? Who’s on first?

Joseph Patrick Quinn currently volunteers as Conservation Chair and Vice President of the Board of Directors of Umpqua Watersheds, Inc.

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