COOS BAY — The League of Women Voters of Coos County hosted an informational forum Thursday at the Egyptian Theatre in Coos Bay to discuss the ecological impacts of the Jordan Cove Energy Project.
The forum featured a panel of local environmental scientists and LWVCC board members who presented their concerns with Jordan Cove’s proposed 229-mile natural gas pipeline and terminal site, which will be located on the North Spit at the Port of Coos Bay.
LWVCC member Christine Moffitt, a biologist with a background on the effects of altered ecosystems, began the presentation by outlining the League’s official stance on the Jordan Cove Project.
The nonpartisan political group joined the Rogue Valley, Umpqua Valley and Klamath County League of Women Voters in opposing the project and asking federal agencies to deny any permit applications sought by Jordan Cove.
According to Moffitt, the group has already submitted their public comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Environmental Quality. It also has plans to submit their comments to the Department of State Lands (DSL) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
The League found, based on its review of Jordan Cove’s permit applications, that Jordan Cove failed to sufficiently address the environmental, cultural and economic impacts to the area, said Moffitt. In her presentation, Moffitt also added the League’s interest in supporting measures that transition away from fossil fuels usage to other, alternative forms of energy.
Prior to Thursday’s forum, LWVCC president Susan Thornton said its group conducted an in-depth study of the project and discussed the pros and cons of it at length with fellow members. A consensus statement was collected from its board and the League voted to take on the issue.
“I know we surprised a few people by taking a position,” said Thornton. “But we’ve been totally transparent and (the forum) was all informational and letting people know why we choose our position.”
Co-president of Boost Southern Oregon Todd Goergen, a local advocacy group for Jordan Cove, expressed his own concerns with the LWVCC board taking on their position.
“The LWVCC failed their mandate to have a fair, impartial forum for both sides,” Goergen said. “What they did was akin to having a debate between two candidates, but not inviting, not allowing the candidate that they don’t really like to show up. It’s unfair.”
While the forum was open to all community members and a question and answer portion was featured during its second half, which was also open to the public, no Jordan Cove representatives were showcased during the LWVCC’s presentation.
“We don’t see it as an ‘us’ and ‘them,’ said Thornton. “We were solely focused on educating the community.”
Other concerns raised were ship size, dredging impacts on marine wildlife, sediment and material buildup and disposal as well as maintenance and seismic risks. A date to announce DSL’s decision on whether it will approve or deny Jordan Cove’s removal-fill permit has not yet been announced.
COOS BAY — Curiosity, patience and a passion for birding was all that was needed from community members on Saturday, Feb. 2 as the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve hosted its monthly birding field trip.
“We saw a northern harrier, which is a type of hawk, soaring on top of the marsh looking for food. It was amazing,” said South Slough educational specialist Eric Dean. “We were also lucky enough to see both a juvenile and adult bald eagle.”
The trip, which took place at the Millicoma Marsh Trail in the Eastside District, featured avid birder, Dean, who lead a group of about 10 birders on a hike through the Millicoma Marsh.
“This is an amazing birding location,” said Dean. “It’s such a great diversity of habitats and birds. You have an open field, forested areas, salt and fresh water marshes and the bay area. It’s all within a one mile walk.”
According to Dean, the free trip allows for those interested in birding to learn about the vast variety of birds located throughout the South Coast. As part of a number of South Slough’s educational community classes, the trip also sheds insight into the workings of the area’s estuaries and watersheds.
“In the class we all work together as a team,” said Dean. “We each bring our own experience and specialties. It’s a great opportunity for people to come out and learn from one another and just enjoy birding.”
The monthly trips began about three years ago and alternate between the Millicoma Marsh Trail and the Charleston Marina. Dean said he is hoping to expand the locations to include areas such as the North Spit in Coos Bay and Bullards Beach State Park.
All equipment is provided and community members are encouraged to register online to secure their spot as capacity is limited to 15 people. Dean also recommended for anyone looking into becoming a birder or interested in the topic to visit the South Slough or the Cape Arago Audubon Society for more information.
For a schedule of future birding trips and other educational programs and classes offered by the South Slough, you can visit its website at https://www.oregon.gov/dsl/SS/Pages/About.aspx.
SEOUL, South Korea — Senior U.S. and South Korean officials met Sunday to discuss an expected second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump's special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in South Korea earlier amid reports that he'll meet North Korean officials soon to work out details for the summit.
Trump told CBS' "Face the Nation" that "the meeting is set" with Kim, but he provided no further details about the meeting expected around the end of February. The president said there was "a very good chance that we will make a deal."
With the North under economic penalties and the U.S. unwilling to ease them under the North denuclearizes, Trump said Kim "has a chance to have North Korea be a tremendous economic behemoth. It has a chance to be one of the great economic countries in the world. He can't do that with nuclear weapons and he can't do that on the path they're on now."
Seoul's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Biegun and his South Korean counterpart, Lee Do-hoon, held consultations about working-level U.S.-North Korea talks ahead of the summit.
South Korean media reported Biegun and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Hyok Chol, will likely meet at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom or in the North's capital of Pyongyang early this week.
Little progress has been made toward ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons since Trump and Kim held their first summit in Singapore last June. During that summit, Kim pledged to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, though he did not provide a timetable or roadmap for his disarmament steps.
Last year, North Korea suspended nuclear and missile tests, dismantled its nuclear test site and parts of its rocket launch facility and released American detainees. The North demanded the United States to take corresponding measures such as sanctions relief.
U.S. officials want North Korea to take more significant steps, saying sanctions will stay in place until North Korea denuclearizes.
Satellite footage taken since the June summit has indicated North Korea has been continuing to produce nuclear materials at its weapons factories. Last Tuesday, U.S. intelligence chiefs told Congress they believe there is little likelihood Kim will voluntarily give up his nuclear weapons or missiles capable of carrying them.
Biegun said last week that Kim committed to "the dismantlement and destruction of North Korea's plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities" during his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in September and at a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October.
During the second summit, some experts say North Korea will likely seek to trade the destruction of its main Yongbyon nuclear complex for a U.S. promise to formally declare the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, open a liaison office in Pyongyang and allow the North to resume some lucrative economic projects with South Korea.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — In the first week of 2019, an investigation by Oregon's labor agency deemed the state Capitol to be a hostile workplace because of an unchecked pattern of sexual harassment among lawmakers.
A few days later, two Washington state lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct resigned. Then came new allegations of sexual wrongdoing in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, where a veteran male lawmaker was accused of groping a newly elected female colleague during a pre-session reception.
"We've heard for a long time that this is the culture in the building, and then of course we get there and it immediately surfaces," said Massachusetts state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, a first-time lawmaker.
Barely a month into the 2019 legislative sessions, it already is clear that the #MeToo movement was not a one-year phenomenon in many state capitols including Oregon. New claims of sexual misconduct are continuing to be made public concerning actions ranging from a few weeks ago to many years ago.
The latest came Friday, when Montana legislative leaders revealed that a previously unpublicized allegation of sexual harassment helped drive their current push to update policies on harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
Although half of all state legislative chambers updated their sexual harassment policies last year, an Associated Press review found that many are still looking to make changes this year.
In Oregon, House and Senate leaders facing a civil rights complaint over the alleged culture of harassment have pledged a variety of improved policies. One bill would establish an "equity office" to conduct outreach programs and investigate complaints. Another would allow courts to temporarily exclude an elected official from the Capitol, if a judge determines that the person's presence creates a hostile environment.
Some states are taking their first steps since the October 2017 media reports alleging sexual misconduct against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein sparked a national movement of people coming forward with accounts of sexual assault or harassment. In other states, lawmakers and women's advocates are looking to take the second or third steps in what they say is a long trek toward changing attitudes and behaviors.
Sabadosa is sponsoring legislation that would create an independent commission to investigate complaints of workplace harassment by Massachusetts lawmakers. She said a House rule change adopted last year didn't go far enough when it created a new staff position for an equal employment opportunity officer to investigate complaints.
"It feels important for the first-year class to come in and say, 'We are done, this is enough, that culture needs to end and we're going to be the people to make sure that it happens,'" she said.
Across the country, at least 90 state lawmakers have resigned or been removed from office, faced discipline or other repercussions, or been publicly accused of sexual misconduct since the beginning of 2017, according to an ongoing tally by The Associated Press. Sexual misconduct allegations also have toppled high-ranking executive branch officials, including Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler.
More than a half-dozen members of the U.S. Congress accused of sexual misconduct also resigned. A new federal law that took effect in January extended sexual harassment protections to congressional interns, gave victims access to confidential advisers and made lawmakers personally liable for financial settlements stemming from harassment or retaliation.
An AP review last August found that about half of the 99 state legislative chambers had updated their own sexual harassment policies since the #MeToo movement began (Nebraska has just a single legislative chamber). The most common response was to boost their own training about sexual harassment, typically by making it mandatory or providing it more frequently. Only a few legislatures passed measures that apply to private-sector workers.
Indiana legislators passed a law last year requiring them to take at least one hour of sexual harassment training annually and creating a committee to develop new sexual harassment policies.
In January, the House and Senate followed through by adopting policies expressly forbidding unwanted sexual advances and retaliation against those who make complaints. The policies also ban any sexual contact between lawmakers and interns.
The new Indiana policies come after a year in which the state attorney general and House speaker both were named in sexual misconduct allegations, which they denied.
"We want to make sure people understand we realize the importance of these issues," said Republican Sen. Liz Brown, an attorney who helped draft the new rules.
Brown, who is chairwoman of the Senate's ethics committee, said the rules were "thoroughly vetted and very thoroughly researched," protect confidentiality and provide flexibility for legislative investigators to get outside help if needed.
But Jennifer Drobac, an Indiana University law professor who has written a textbook on sexual harassment law, described the new policies as disappointing.
Other states also have received both praise and criticism for their responses to sexual harassment.
As one of his first acts in office, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, issued an executive order that strengthened the sexual harassment reporting processes and mandated training for executive branch employees.
But that same day, the Republican-led Georgia Senate changed its rules to make it harder to bring some sexual harassment complaints. The new rules require misconduct complaints against senators and staff to be made within two years of the incident, raise the burden of proof for investigations to go forward from "reasonable grounds" to "substantial credible evidence," require accusers to keep complaints confidential and allow penalties against those who publicize complaints or make frivolous claims.
The changes came as Republican state Sen. Renee Unterman, who was removed from a committee leadership post, publicly declared that "in the last couple of weeks, I have had sexual harassment against me." Unterman has not provided any specific details about her allegations.
Other states have moved in the opposite direction on transparency.
The Massachusetts Senate this past week amended its rules to prohibit nondisclosure agreements, which have been used in some states to keep sexual harassment settlements secret.
Legislative chambers in Idaho, Louisiana and North Dakota already have enacted updated sexual harassment policies for 2019. The New Hampshire House voted overwhelmingly in January to make sexual harassment training mandatory, although some male lawmakers said that carried an insulting implication that all lawmakers were harassers.
The nonprofit National Women's Law Center in Washington, D.C., is spearheading a coalition seeking to strengthen protections against sexual harassment in workplaces, schools and communities in at least 20 states by 2020. About 300 state lawmakers from 40 states, including men and women of both major parties, have signed on to the pledge.
"The outpouring of #MeToo stories shows how profoundly inadequate our laws have been for so long," said Andrea Johnson, senior counsel for state policy at the National Women's Law Center. She added: "It's not something that gets fixed in one session."