The fight over the proposed Jordan Cove Liquefied Natural Gas facility rages on, with the latest salvo being fired through a new television ad campaign from a grassroots group in favor of allowing the LNG facility on the north spit of Coos Bay.
Created last year, Boost Southwest Oregon currently has a 15-person steering committee and boasts a membership of at least 1,000 individuals.
The Articles of Incorporation indicates that the group came together for the larger purpose of “promoting economic growth and development in southwest Oregon.” But, one of its members admits that Jordan Cove was certainly on their minds.
Troy Woody, of Sterling Media Northwest, says the attention being focused on the project and the government’s decision-making timetable spurred the decision to organize and then advertise.
“The whole organization took shape because of the limited amount of time available, and we wanted to show (the decision-makers and congressional delegation) our community support for the project,” he said.
A radio ad hit the airwaves in September, followed by an Internet campaign, and, in the last few weeks, newspaper and television spots airing locally on CBS. The advertisements direct viewers to the group’s website.
Woody says it is intended to debunk some of the rumors that have been flying around about Jordan Cove.
“The website was developed to combat some misinformation about the project,” he said. “As soon as it was up, we started the campaign to direct people to that site.”
Woody says the radio ads were purchased by one of the business owners in Boost Southwest, while the television advertising is being paid for through funds raised by the organization. Because of the limited funds they have, he doesn’t believe the television campaign will be running very long.
On the other side of the battlefront is another grassroots group called Citizens Against LNG.
Jody McCaffree has been leading their charge for almost a decade. She says they are also strapped for cash. So, instead of advertising, they have decided to use the funds they do have to help them fight Jordan Cove through the permitting process.
“It’s not a popularity contest,” she says. “It’s whether the facts of the project fall in line with the criteria. We are focused on the process. We’d love to get information out, but we simply do not have the funding for that.”
For all of their differences, the two sides do have some common ground. For instance, both organizations see the other as the one as being responsible for spreading the false information, and both have larger organizations from outside of the area keeping an eye on their progress: Jordan Cove for the proponents and various environmental groups for the opponents.
Boost Southwest Oregon was created last year when former Bay Area Chamber of Commerce president Brooke Walton approached Ray Bucheger, lobbyist with the Washington, D.C. firm FBB Federal Relations. The lobbying firm has clients throughout Oregon: all the ports, including the International Port of Coos Bay; the Coos Historical and Maritime Museum; the Oregon Business Development Department; and the Jordan Cove Energy Project.
“Brooke came to me and asked for advice,” Bucheger said in a telephone interview last week. “She wanted to know how local people could get involved and help Jordan Cove get through the export licensing and application process.”
Bucheger suggested starting a local booster group, and recommended Portland attorney Robert Palmer to help the group file for non-profit status with the state. Palmer is with the firm Lindsy-Hart LLP, which is affiliated with Bucheger's lobbying firm.
Both Bucheger and Walton said while Boost Southwest is a local, “grassroots” organization, Jordan Cove has supported it with monetary donations and advice. Neither could say how much the energy company has contributed.
Walton says, though, that the majority of their assistance from Jordan Cove comes in the form of information only. That also includes help from Bucheger.
“Ray has been great in giving us answers to questions as they have come up,” Walton said.
McCaffree says Citizens Against LNG is currently on its own, but admits that there has been some assistance in the past from some of those bigger environmental groups.
“We don’t have a paid lobbyist helping us,” she said. Although she is confident that, when push comes to shove, there will be some lobbyists that represent manufacturing companies who will bring their power to bear. She stresses that her group is not getting any funding help from those bigger environmental groups.
“Not a penny. It’s all small people donations and we’re not tax deductible,” McCaffree said. “We may try to coordinate with them but they are not really helping our group directly.”
As the fight moves forward, neither Walton nor McCaffree see the issue becoming a battle fought over the airwaves between the two volunteer organizations.
Walton says Boost Southwest Oregon is moving ahead with plans for several town hall format information sessions. “It’s something we’ve really wanted to do since we did our first one last October.”
As for Citizens Against LNG, McCaffree says she has been busy commenting on, or appealing, 19 different land-use permits. “And that’s just the local ones.
“I would love to have the money to do some ads and get the facts out (but), right now the money we have coming in goes right to helping in the appeals process and for legal help in the process.”
While neither side appears to be able to fight a sustained war through paid advertisements, both do have websites. You can compare for yourself online at boostsouthwestoregon.org and citizensagainstlng.com.
World executive editor Larry Campbell contributed to this report.