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Protesters gather Monday, May 7, 2018, outside an Ashland bank. (Photo by John Darling)

Pipeline protesters target Ashland bank

Some two dozen protesters on Monday chanted, did street theater and gave speeches in front of Ashland’s Chase Bank, charging that JPMorgan Chase is a major financial backer of Calgary-based Pembina Pipeline, which is making a third try at getting permission from FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) to run a natural gas pipeline across southwest Oregon.

The lively, bullhorn-wielding group drew honks and thumbs-up from passing motorists on Main Street as they used orange cone markers to track the path of a new pipeline, barking for everyone to get out of their way.

“It’s important for people to be aware of where their money is and what it’s doing,” says Margaret Frazee, who wore a hardhat and directed the mock project. “Chase is a funder of tar sands, coal mines and a major backer of Pembina, which wants the LNG pipeline here.

“It’s important for folks to know Pembina is aggressively pursuing Jordan Cove (proposed shipping point for liquified natural gas) and they want to make as much money as they can before they can’t.”

During the protest, the bank locked its doors, opening them for customers to come and go. Chase referred questions to its Seattle office, but they did not return voicemails.

Frazee led the crowd in chants, such as “For the salmon we will fight; how does Chase sleep at night?”

Alan Journet, co-facilitator of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now, said, “The Jordan Cove project would emit 60 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted from Oregon annually. It is absolutely berserk. There is no defensible reason for exporting fracked natural gas out of the country. If we care about climate change, we should do something now.”

Kathy Conway, the other co-facilitator of SOCAN, said, “It’s crazy to do a pipeline that’s emitting so much greenhouse gas. Everything we’re trying to do is going to be offset by this.”

Protester and former Southern Oregon University psychology teacher Alison McLaughlin said, “It makes no sense. What the hell are we doing exporting natural gas and destroying all our river crossings, then the destruction of the port. It’s just outrageous. It doesn’t belong here.”

Karen Young-Lenk said, “We don’t want pipelines or to cut more trees and disrupt waterways and tribal sacred lands … They (banks) are paying attention to us now, we protest.”

Darcy O’Brien said, “Yes, this protest matters because I want air to breathe and clean watr. It doesn’t make sense not to mobilize. They will have to listen if we combine our powers and keep acting.”

Ashland’s protest was part of a “national day of action” according to a press release issued by organizers. Other Oregon protests were planned for Chase Bank branches in Corvallis and Portland.

Police arrested about a dozen demonstrators who were protesting tar sands development and the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline in Canada on Monday in Seattle, according to an Associated Press report, after they occupied the lobby of the Russell Financial Center and shut down traffic at Second Avenue and Pine Street with four teepees erected in the middle of the road. Chase Bank in particular was targeted for its investment in the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Andrew Gray from JP Morgan Chase said they take these types of issues very seriously, according to a report from KING-TV in Seattle.

“JPMorgan Chase has a long history of advancing environmental sustainable solutions for clients and its own operations,” Gray said. “We firmly believe that balancing environmental and social issues with financial considerations is fundamental to sound risk management. We take these issues seriously across our business, including with the Canadian oil sands.”

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

(June 13: Story updated to correct the name of the hardhat-wearing protest organizer.)

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