TRI CITY — Environmental activists, local landowners and pipeline builders lined up at South Umpqua High School to comment on the Jordan Cove Energy Project’s federal draft environmental impact statement Tuesday.
The public comment session was the second of four being held by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Southern Oregon this week. About 200 people came to Monday’s session in Coos Bay. Sessions will take place in Medford and Klamath Falls on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
The pipeline would transport natural gas 229 miles from existing pipelines in Malin to a proposed export terminal in Coos Bay. If multiple outstanding state and local permits are approved, FERC would have the final say on the project. When FERC released the impact statement in March, it included more than 130 conditions the project would have to meet to minimize environmental impacts.
“We’ll be addressing everything in our response,” said Jordan Cove spokesman Paul Vogel. “It’s a good (environmental impact statement). It’s an example of how we can have the environment and jobs. We look forward to getting approval from FERC.”
Before the all-day comment session began, about 30 people showed up to a rally opposing the project led by Rogue Climate. The group had a table to help people prepare comments and set up posters featuring stories of landowners whose properties would be crossed by the pipeline.
Three Douglas County landowners spoke against the project at the rally.
“I did not serve my country so a foreign company could take my land under eminent domain,” U.S. Air Force veteran Jim Dahlman said.
Dahlman and other landowners have refused to accept compensation from Jordan Cove to build the pipeline underground on their properties.
On Monday, Jordan Cove released a statement saying the company has signed voluntary agreements with 82% of private landowners in the pipeline’s path. Eighty-seven miles of the pipeline would cross private land.
Vogel said Monday the company has secured 10 more miles of pipeline right of way in the past two weeks.
Landowners have disputed the company’s statements about the percentage of people who have signed agreements.
“Their 82% number is likely the percentage of total parcels needed that now have easements,” said Douglas County landowner Stacey McLaughlin via email.
Vogel said company will submit details about landowner right of way to FERC by the public comment period ends on July 5.
At the rally, McLaughlin said Jordan Cove released the number before the FERC sessions “to try to convince you that eminent domain is not a probability for this project.
“They will have to take us to court to take our land,” she said.
The draft impact statement, which included more than 1,100 pages and 34 appendices, said the project would cause temporary, long-term, and permanent environmental impacts. But it concluded many of the impacts would not be significant or would be reduced to less than significant levels due to mitigation measures.
“Damages on private land are not mitigated,” said Douglas County landowner Francis Eatherington at the rally. “There’s no one mitigating the impacts on our well only a couple hundred feet from the pipeline.”
John Clarke, another landowner, said the comment session was particularly important for him because he lives in a remote area of Douglas County, where he doesn’t have access to the internet to submit comments electronically.
He commented at the session in Coos Bay on Monday, but he said he was cut off by FERC’s three-minute time limit. He came to the session at South Umpqua to finish his comment regarding a discrepancy he sees between a Jordan Cove filing with the Oregon Department of Energy and the FERC impact statement.
While people at the session primarily submitted comments opposing the pipeline, several pipeline builders from the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 290 commented in support of it.
“It represents a huge amount of work for us,” said union business manager Lou Christian.
He said if the pipeline was approved, it could create one to two years of work for people in the union’s apprentice programs.
“People talk about these being temporary jobs, well, they are if you look at one job, but our careers are made out of temporary jobs,” Christian said. “I’ve worked this over 40 years now and it has been one job after another.”
FERC’s final environmental impact statement and final decision are scheduled on Oct. 11 and Jan. 9, 2020, respectively.
The saying, “You can’t get there from here” has never been more accurate as the next phase of a road improvement project begins on Highway 99N in Winchester.
Contractors from R & G Excavating of Roseburg and utility crews for the Douglas County Public Works Department have begun work on replacing the first of two bridges in the Winchester area. The bridges will have to be closed during construction, and that means many drivers will have to alter their regular routes.
Monday morning, the South Bridge located just north of Taft Drive and south of Virgia Lane was closed to through traffic. The bridge will be closed until approximately Aug. 22.
Once that bridge is opened, work will begin on the North Bridge located between Pioneer Road and Page Road. The North Bridge is scheduled to be closed until about Oct. 30.
Meanwhile, residents and those who have business north of the closure, will have to access the area from exit 129 on Interstate 5. For those who live or work south of the closure, access will be from exit 127 at Northwest Edenbower Boulevard.
During both closures, county officials are asking motorists to use the I-5 detour route for both closures. Local and through traffic to the south will be detoured onto I-5 at Northeast Edenbower. Traffic to the north of the closure will be detoured onto I-5 at exit 129.
“We want people to utilize the designated I-5 detour and to not use local residential streets as a detour,” said Josh Heacock, public works division manager for Douglas County.
Heacock said the local streets will be designated for residential traffic only, with the hope that others will be respectful and use the designated detour.
“We want people to realize that all the businesses along this stretch are open for business and readily accessible throughout the project,” said Heacock.
Officials say safety is a priority for the motoring public as well as the construction crews in the work zone. They are asking motorists to use extra caution, especially in the residential areas and obey the posted signs, warnings and flagging instructions.
Delineators will warn motorists of the bridge closures, and residents can expect delays and congestion at times.
Construction on the Winchester Area Improvement Project Safety Corridor began on May 8 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
The overall cost of the project is estimated at $8,566,690. Roseburg Urban Sanitary Authority has provided $2,126,298 in funding and the remaining funding comes from the County’s allocation of the Federal Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (formerly the Surface Transportation Program).
Supporters of House Bill 2020, including members of the Douglas County Global Warming Coalition, canceled a planned rally in Salem on Tuesday citing safety concerns. But opponents of the bill planned to drive their trucks to the Capitol on Thursday for a rally of their own.
Meanwhile, State Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Winston, said Tuesday that he and other Republican senators would remain out of state, even though Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney signaled Tuesday that the Democrats don’t have the votes to pass the bill. The Republicans don’t trust Courtney’s motives and fear that if they return, they’ll find the bill still very much alive.
All 11 Republican senators walked out last week in order to block the Senate from having the quorum necessary for a vote to be taken. They all left the state because the governor dispatched Oregon State Police to bring them back to the Capitol.
The issue at stake is a bill designed to reduce the state’s greenhouse gases to 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. HB 2020 would have accomplished that through a cap and trade plan that would cap greenhouse emissions for the state’s biggest polluters. That would allow them to buy credits that would pay for transportation projects, renewable energy investments and payments to low-income drivers impacted by the anticipated increased fuel costs. It passed the House on a 36-24 vote June 17, but stalled out in the Senate after the walkout.
Speaking for himself, Douglas County Global Warming Coalition Facilitator Stuart Liebowitz said threatening statements led to the cancellation of the pro-HB 2020 rally. He said none of those threats were received locally. Threats from militia groups against Democratic leaders also led to a shutdown at the legislature last week.
Liebowitz said the bill is what the majority wants, and it was derailed by what he called antidemocratic actions. He particularly decried the statement of Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, who commented from exile last week that state police should send bachelors and come heavily armed if they came after him, and also statements made by Heard, who had accused the Democrats of tyranny. Comments like those Liebowitz said, fanned the flames of hatred.
“We have sent the message to everybody around the country that if lying and bullying tactics and threats of violence can work here, it can actually work anywhere,” Liebowitz said.
Heard said Tuesday he spoke of tyranny because it’s what he’s experienced with the majority leadership at the Capitol. He said the majority has too much power and it’s dismissive of the minority. Rural Oregonians, he said, would be hurt by HB 2020.
He wouldn’t directly comment about Boquist’s statement, saying he doesn’t feel qualified because Boquist is a veteran and he is not. He said he took them to be words about self-defense. However, he said he abhors language that’s vulgar, aggressive or threatening.
“That is not how we as free people in America should ever seek to change the political winds that we are standing against,” he said. “Our mission as Americans and Oregonians, no matter which side of the aisle you find yourself on, should always be to seek to extend the hand of friendship as good neighbors and brothers and sisters to persuade our brother and sister to think the way that we think.
“But to be hateful or aggressive in a physical manner, it’s not the way to do things if you want to make this state and this country a better place.”
Heard said he plans to stay put, for now, in an undisclosed location in another state, until he’s sure the bill is dead. He said the statement that there aren’t enough votes to pass the bill has been made before.
“We unfortunately are in a place in our state where we don’t feel we can trust the majority party to actually be honest in what they say they are going to do and not going to do,” he said.
Heard’s younger brother, Kalvin Heard, is organizing the anti-HB 2020 rally planned for Thursday. Kalvin Heard lives in Roseburg and owns Heard Excavation Inc. He said he doesn’t usually get involved politically, but was motivated by concerns for his own small business and for his brother.
“What motivated me the most was hearing that my brother was going to have to run out of the state to try to fend for our right to be able to do business in this state,” he said.
Kalvin Heard said he’s very concerned about the impact of potential increased fuel prices and job losses due to overall increases in transportation costs. He said a lot of people who work in agriculture and the timber industry, along with other industries, are expected to join the rally.
Liebowitz said HB 2020 was carefully drafted with input from Republicans, contrary to Republican assertions that it was rushed or that they were left out of the process.
He said the bill incorporated Republican concerns, including a provision from Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, that would have allocated $100 million in rebates for low- and middle-income drivers to offset possible increases in fuel costs.
He said the concern over fuel costs is overblown since a study showed that HB 2020 would only increase fuel costs about 20 cents a gallon. Ironically, he said, over the course of the discussion around the bill, the cost of gas increased by 50 cents a gallon. With gasoline prices, he said, wild fluctuations are common.
He also disagreed with opponents who’ve suggested that Oregon, which would have become the second state after California to enact similar legislation, should avoid action because its contribution to overall global warming is minimal. He said if everyone does that, the world will wind up with a climate catastrophe.
“Ultimately all of our shares matter because the planet’s future is at stake,” Liebowitz said.