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Bait and switch: Gas export threatens Southern Oregon

By Lesley Adams
Mail Tribune

The Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas proposal could be the riskiest energy project Southern Oregon has ever seen.

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Originally billed as a necessary effort to import energy, the corporations backing the proposal recently have admitted that they plan to export U.S. gas overseas.

In 2005, energy companies — including California-based PG&E — proposed Jordan Cove as an import facility in Coos Bay and the 235-mile Pacific Connector pipeline that would cross Coos, Douglas, Jackson and Klamath counties to a hub at Malin.

Last month, the new 650-mile Ruby pipeline began delivering natural gas from Wyoming to Malin. The Pacific Connector pipeline, were it constructed, would then ship that gas from Malin out of Coos Bay and to our overseas economic competitors.

With this drastic change in the purpose of the Jordan Cove LNG terminal and pipeline, the costs of the project to Oregonians has dramatically increased from what was already a heavy cost to the public. Exporting domestic supplies of natural gas would increase our gas prices at home, all while harming private landowners and the environment in Southern Oregon.

The Asian energy market pays an average of more than three times as much as we do for natural gas. If American natural gas supplies were sent overseas our gas prices would increase while domestic energy is sent abroad to fuel economic growth around the world. And energy speculators certainly know this path to profit.

A vice president behind the Jordan Cove project is set to address the "World LNG Series: Asia Pacific Summit" next month in Singapore to discuss "delivering LNG from North America to the Pacific Basin." And on Sept. 1, the manager of the Jordan Cove LNG project was quoted in the Oregonian, saying, "There is currently no need for import into North America "… . If anything makes sense, it's export."

In response to indications that companies would switch import proposals in Oregon to export, Paul Cicio, president of the Industrial Energy Consumers of America, stated on July 16, "In the end, it's going to be every homeowner, every farmer buying fertilizer, and every manufacturer trying to create jobs who is going to be hurt by this."

In addition to increasing our gas rates, Southern Oregon's environment would pay a steep price for companies exporting our natural gas. The LNG project would dredge enough material out of the sensitive Coos Bay estuary to fill the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena 16 times. The pipeline would cross 379 waterbodies in the Coos, Umpqua, Rogue and Klamath watersheds, many of which contribute critical habitat to at-risk salmon and steelhead. Hundreds of acres of old-growth forests would be logged.

Property owners along the pipeline would have their land taken from them and live in fear of yet-another disastrous pipeline explosion. The 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion, a recent pipeline disaster in the Yellowstone River and the BP Gulf of Mexico tragedy are just a few examples of energy companies making enormous profits while the public shoulders what economists call "externalities." The profits are private, but the risks are externalized onto the public and the environment.

After years of trying to convince politicians and the public that we really need to import LNG to fulfill our gas needs, the company is admitting the terminal would not fulfill any domestic need, but would function to export our resources and raise the price of our gas. They admit that permitting as an import project and then flipping it to an export terminal would be easy.

Oregon continues to rightfully invest substantial resources to restore our salmon and steelhead and we pride ourselves in visionary land-use laws, private property rights and the forests that make Oregon — Oregon. All of these values are threatened by the Jordan Cove Pacific Connector LNG proposal. And in today's economy, none of us can afford higher gas rates while corporations get richer exporting our resources.

That is why ratepayers, private landowners and conservationists are standing shoulder to shoulder to tell Jordan Cove, PG&E and the other financiers of this proposal that we will not bear all the risks while they rake in all the profits. And we should all hope that while making decisions about granting permits for an "import facility," the State of Oregon does not allow these companies to pull a bait and switch.

Lesley Adams is the Program Director for Rogue Riverkeeper, whose mission is to protect water quality and fish in the Rogue Basin and adjacent coastal watersheds.

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