By Dylan Plummer For The Register-Guard
A coalition of students and faculty at the University of Oregon demand that the UO withdraw its membership from the Portland Business Alliance immediately, due to the PBA’s support of the Jordan Cove Energy Project and the Pacific Connector Pipeline, which would export liquefied natural gas from a terminal in Coos Bay.
When the UO put its climate action plan in place in 2010, it committed to working toward a sustainable future by limiting carbon emissions. Considering this commitment, the university’s continued membership in the PBA after its endorsement of the Jordan Cove Energy Project and Pacific Connector Pipeline is hypocritical and morally reprehensible.
This UO advertises itself as an environmental leader, and as such, it is imperative that it reject the construction of more fossil fuel infrastructure in our state. If approved, the project is set to become the largest carbon emitter in our state by 2020. Through its affiliation with the PPA, the UO is effectively endorsing the Jordan Cove project and its pipeline, and in turn endorsing the effects that the resulting climate change will wreak upon the livelihoods of vulnerable people in Oregon and around the world.
The ecological impacts of the proposed pipeline and liquefied natural gas export facility here in Oregon are significant. The 232-mile-long pipeline would require the clear cutting of thousands of acres of forest, jeopardizing the habitats of the endangered northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet, and causing untold damage to ecosystems across the state. The proposed pipeline would also cross six major sub-basins of rivers in southern Oregon, many of which provide critical habitat to endangered salmon. A leak would imperil the health of these salmon species, along with innumerable other fish and wildlife.
Rivers in Southern Oregon are responsible for huge portions of our economy, due to rafting, fishing and other forms of outdoor recreation. These rivers also provide invaluable sources of freshwater for irrigation throughout a largely agricultural region. A spill would be disastrous for the thousands of Oregonians that rely on the rivers for their food, drinking water and economic stability.
This isn’t to mention the potential social impacts of the project. The Confederated Klamath Tribes have come out against the proposal, citing concerns about the disturbance of culturally important burial grounds, and the threat to the salmon on which they rely for both cultural and physical sustenance.
The project also places Oregon landowners in the path of the pipeline, exposing them to health and safety risks and potential property damage. According to the Environmental Impact Statement released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2015, 16,922 people live along the hazard zone of the proposed pipeline. The hazard zone could reach up to 1.5 square miles from the site of a single spill, and have negative effects on drinking water, agriculture, and fishing for years.
Finally, while the project may seem like a boon to our economy, it will have no lasting benefits for Oregonians. Only 180 permanent jobs would be created, and the facility would export exclusively out-of-state liquid natural gas. This would raise the cost of natural gas domestically, further impacting low-income Oregonians.
As a proclaimed environmental leader and advocate for justice, the UO should immediately withdraw its partnership with the PBA and publicly denounce the proposed Jordan Cove Energy Project and Pacific Connector Pipeline. This project would be harmful to not only to our local economies and ecosystems, but would also threaten the livelihoods of thousands of Oregonians. It is the moral responsibility of the University of Oregon to condemn this irresponsible proposal and others like it.
Dylan Plummer, a student of environmental studies at the University of Oregon, prepared this statement on behalf of the No LNG Coalition and the Climate Justice League.