Some 50 people hiked a section of the Pacific Crest Trail east of Ashland Sunday, making their way to where a proposed natural gas pipeline would cut across the iconic trail, mowing a 90-foot wide path through old growth forest and using eminent domain to cross private and public land along the way.
Canadian company Veresen Inc. wants to build the pipeline from Malin (southeast of Klamath Falls) to a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal it would build north of Coos Bay on Oregon's south coast. The route would affect about 700 landowners and cross 400 bodies of water, many containing threatened or endangered species. Known as the the Jordan Cove project, it is designed to allow Veresen to ship superchilled, condensed gas to Asia. The gas would come from Colorado and Canada.
Hiking north on the PCT from Dead Indian Memorial Road for just more than a mile, area residents met up with a group that’s trekking the entire 235-mile route during coming weeks because, says Dana Greenblatt of Ashland, “Oregon has the opportunity to set a precedent for the rest of the country on how to stand up against corporations with lots of power because we love this back country.”
“I’m here to support the ban on the pipeline,” says Carol Worthington of the Greensprings. “The Pacific Connector Pipeline will disrupt a beautiful ecosystem of outstanding old growth and will definitely pollute the environment. If it leaks, there will be fire, homes will burn. It’s a crime and offers no benefit to people in America.”
Greensprings property owner Deb Evans said she found out about the pipeline right after buying timberland and was “very surprised and against it.” She said she was offered a one-time payment of $2,000 for access to her land for pipeline use.
“The argument that we need energy and jobs became moot when they refiled to export instead of import LNG," Evans said. "To let a private corporation profit like this is absurd. We go to war over energy, so why let go of our energy? It will raise energy prices.”
Given persistent climate change, Evans said it “makes zero sense to put in the infrastructure that locks us into fossil fuel for 50 years into the future. This exports 2.5 times the gas that Oregon uses annually. Ninety percent of the gas is methane and that’s 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. If more than 2 percent of it leaks, which it will, it’s more global warming than coal.”
Hiker and Ashlander Hannah Sohl of Rogue Climate said, “It’s clear many Oregonians don’t want this project. It threatens existing jobs and puts the community at risk.”
The project is not yet permitted and must receive approval from the Oregon Department of State Lands, Department of Environmental Quality, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and, when that certificate is appealed by environmental forces, the U.S. District Court of Appeals, says Evans. The governor can also oppose it.
“It’s an uphill fight,” says hiker and movement leader Bob Barker, whose property on the Rogue River would be bisected by the subterranean pipeline.
“It would be the largest greenhouse gas polluter in Oregon,” he says.
Native Ashlander Alex Harris, now of Portland, began organizing the “Hike the Pipe” trek a half a year ago to bolster awareness, as “the main problem was no one knew about it. The second goal was to build relationships with people along the route. They had one letter from the corporation and their second letter was from us.”
The proposed route was noted only by vague dots on snippets of map and Harris connected the dots, he says, showing where it had to go, getting tax lot information and presenting it all to landowners.
Hiking the entire route from Malin to North Bend (just north of Coos Bay), Emmalyn Garrett of Portland says, “The people of Oregon bear all the risk in this, while the corporation reaps all the profit. It crosses several affected watersheds. Other proposed pipelines have been stopped and this one can be also be stopped.
“It’s a dumb idea, ecomically, environmentally, politically, you name it,” said Dave Cornell of Talent. “It’s being done by eminent domain but it’s not in anyone’s interest, except the corporation’s. Oregon takes all the risk with no reward."
A picnic for the Hike the Pipe hikers and the public starts at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5, at Upper Rogue Regional Park, 7660 Rogue River Drive, Shady Cove. It’s free and open to the public. Food will be available. Music is by Dan Dosier. People can bring their own boat or rent a float boat to drift five miles of the Rogue River, where the pipeline would cross under the river, in a salmon spawning area. The float starts at 10 a.m. from Rogue Elk County Park. RSVPs are requested to Deb Evans (541-601-4748 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.