With wildfires raging across Oregon, it has become even more urgent for Gov. Kate Brown and U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to oppose the liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal and pipeline proposed for our state by a Canadian energy company.
The Stouts Creek fire, one of the largest current blazes, is impacting at least 17 miles of the route the Pacific Connector pipeline would take to bring LNG from Canada and the Rockies to Coos Bay for export to Asia.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), an agency that must approve the proposed project and that is closely tied to the oil and gas industry, failed in its draft environmental impact statement to adequately consider the added risks of piping a highly explosive substance through our increasingly fire-prone state.
For starters, the Williams Co., the key corporate driver of the project, has already had four explosions at other facilities or pipelines, injuring workers and endangering communities.
The pipeline would include 17 above-ground valves and piping, including a block-valve directly in the Stouts Creek fire area. FERC did not consider how fire near these valves might endanger firefighters, local residents, property, public lands, and air quality, or how the valves might increase the spread of fire.
Wild fires often burn underground through root systems. How would an underground fire impact the buried pipe?
In the effort to contain the Stouts Creek fire, a bulldozer dug a fire line on Wildcat Ridge in an area where the pipeline would have been buried. How would the dozer have impacted the pipe?
Even before the current fire season, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had asked FERC to review “the impacts of large trees, stumps or slash catching on fire during a forest fire event and landing over the buried pipeline and how that could affect the ground temperature and buried pipeline integrity/safety.”
Given the questions raised by the Stouts Creek fire, FERC ought to reopen its environmental impact process to consider public input on questions like these.
We know, however, that Oregonians cannot rely on FERC to protect our interests instead of the special interests of oil and gas executives. That’s why we need Gov. Brown and other elected officials to oppose this project, which cannot proceed without approval from the state government as well as from FERC.
Even before this fire season, our elected leaders had more than enough reason to be against the LNG export terminal and pipeline. It would create the largest source of climate-changing carbon pollution in the state; drive up energy prices; cross more than 400 waterways; threaten existing jobs in fisheries, farming, tourism, and other industries; and trample the property rights of more than 700 landowners.
Now, Oregon’s increasing pattern of summer wild fires makes it even more important that our new governor and others oppose the proposed LNG project and promote a faster transition to renewable energy and energy efficiency instead. — Francis Eatherington