In early December, Sen. Jeff Merkley announced that he opposes construction of the Jordan Cove Liquid Natural Gas plant and the pipeline that would cut across 230 miles of Oregon to serve the export of fossil fuel.
Our Senator has shown the kind of level-headed analysis, commitment to truth, and statesmanlike leadership that's essential if our nation is to address the most critical problem we face. That problem is global warming, destined to raise sea level at our coastal communities, to intensify today's catastrophic fires, to breed storms and floods like never before seen, to acidify our oceans and cripple commercial fisheries, and to warm waters and render our iconic salmon to shadowy memories. These problems are all inevitable unless we do something corrective now, and the Coos Bay region is on the front line of damage from every one of these unwelcome phenomena.
For five years the senator saw value in the LNG project and was willing to let the federal process for permitting it — through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) — to "play out." But now he recognizes that "the project has changed and the world has changed....The question isn’t whether we need to build infrastructure ... but whether this large-scale fossil fuel project still makes sense."
Critics of the LNG scheme have long held that landowners in the pipeline's right-of-way are threatened by condemnation of their property to serve a dangerous facility being built solely for private profit of a foreign corporation and for export of American resources going entirely to Asia. With global warming in mind, some people, including the Senator, thought that burning gas would be better than burning coal. But new data show that gas is likely worse owing to the ubiquitous atmospheric escape of methane. This is now even more problematic, as the Trump administration is axing methane regulations.
Furthermore, the LNG's promise of a modest 140 continuing jobs in Coos Bay will be far surpassed by new employment in renewable energy industries that will solve — rather than exacerbate — global warming. Not to mention that LNG plants rank among the most volatile and dangerous facilities built by man, and that this one sits squarely in the country's most seismic magnitude-9 earthquake zone, and at sea level where tsunamis of Fukushima scale are assured.
But back to the senator, who concluded, "Like other large-scale fossil fuel projects, Jordan Cove will contribute massively to pollution that is profoundly damaging to our state and our world. Generations from now, our grandchildren will wonder why we continued to burn fossil fuels when the catastrophic consequences were so evident."
Other elected officials near and far should have the foresight and courage of Sen. Merkley with his statesmanlike view. And officials responsible at the state level need to consider how the problems, the justifications, and the legacies of a Jordan Cove LNG debacle will haunt the future of all Oregonians, for generations to come, if that project is allowed to proceed.
Tim Palmer lives in Port Orford and is the author of Rivers of Oregon, Field Guide to Oregon Rivers, and other books.