Coloring Outside the Lines Save Oregon from Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) — and the Gasbags Who Push It by Steven Amick
I’m a pacifist and usually easygoing, but this spring I stopped being polite.
The change was prompted by a spectacularly stupid scheme—a plot to ship Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to Oregon in gigantic sea-going tankers, and to bulldoze hundreds of miles of right-of-way, from the coast to the interior of the state, through private and public lands—including a freeway-wide swath through the Mt. Hood National Forest. Gas pipelines three-feet in diameter would snake through these corridors to distribute the stuff. Most would go to California.
I’ve been fighting this obscenity since two winters ago, when I attended my first Anti-LNG rally, on the steps of the Capitol Building in Salem. More than 300 men and women from all over Oregon—country people and city folks, farmers and business owners, property-rights promoters and environmental activists, some demonstrating as individuals and others as members of organizations—were there, too.
The across-the-board nature of the opposition to this spectacularly stupid scheme is striking. But look at what unites us in opposition: A cabal of greedy local, out-of-state, and foreign moneygrubbers and their supporters in and outside government who propose to use, if necessary, condemnation and seizure of private property under the doctrine of eminent domain to build this massive complex of LNG tanker unloading terminals and pipelines in Oregon. This complex would enable them to receive and distribute LNG from far-flung places like Russia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia that’s super-cooled to condense it for transport on huge oceangoing ships.
Throwing in with a diverse assortment of groups, including Columbia RiverKeeper, Bark, The Pacific Green Party, Columbia Pacific Common Sense, Oregon Citizens Against Pipelines, Northwest Property Rights Coalition, and a host of others, I learned that processing and handling LNG adds 30 to 40 percent to the “carbon footprint” of ordinary natural gas. I learned that LNG isn’t even needed here; natural gas is in abundant supply from gas fields in Colorado and Canada, and there are alternative sources of energy far better for the environment than LNG, anyway. I learned that the tankers that would bring LNG to any of three proposed receiving terminals—one on the Pacific coast near Coos Bay and two on the Columbia River, at Astoria and about 35 miles upriver, at a place called Bradwood Landing—would interfere with other river traffic, endanger fish and wildlife, create health and safety hazards, and damage tourism, agriculture and other valuable industries. LNG-related pipelines—mostly, but not always, underground—would snake through hundreds of miles of farm lands and timber stands, including old-growth forests and habitat for threatened and endangered species.
There are, in fact, so many reasons that LNG IS A SPECTACULARLY STUPID SCHEME, I couldn’t believe any of Oregon’s legislators would back the routing and construction of LNG-related pipelines, but some do. Their brown-nosing to the LNG skuzzes and their disdain for citizens who testified against the bill made that excruciatingly and insultingly clear.
So I took of the gloves. No more Mr. Nice Guy.
First I wrote a scathing letter in April to the House Committee on Sustainability and Economic Development. In it, I called some of its members and other LNG scammers as many rude names as I could find in my Thesaurus. I used no profanity, but found and flogged them with dozens of epithets, including “...skunks, devils, scalawags, rogues, weasels, thugs, ogres, and knaves...” and I meant every word. For a touch of humor, I added, “Also of questionable character and not very nice.”
Then Susan Hansen and I did something apparently unheard of before in Oregon: we picketed the home of the Committee on Sustainability and Economic Development’s chairman, Tobias Read. We came with signs (‘Bias Must Go!” “No LNG!” “Impeach Read!”, etc.) and handed out leaflets in front of his house in southwest Portland.
Our action made a lot of legislators very angry. Dave Hunt, the Speaker of the House was so mad, he threatened to block every single piece of environmental legislation introduced during the current legislative session.
This in turn touched off an inferno of news stories, editorials, letters to editors, blog postings and widely circulated e-mails. The newspaper I used to work for said the residential picketing was “harassment, plain and simple.” Oregon’s environmental activists were split, some saying “Right On!” Most, however, apparently agreed with a contributor to the Blue Oregon Website, who wrote, “It does you no good to picket a legislator’s house. It’s not going to change their mind and it hurts your cause.”
Several of my fellow activists, worried the Speaker of the House might make good on his threat, actually did apologize to Hunt! They seemed to think what Susan and I had done was impolite.
In slightly abbreviated form, here’s what I replied to that: I have not—and never will—apologize to anyone for exercising my right to free speech, peaceful assembly and petitioning government officials for redress of grievances. It is they (Read and the members of his Committee) who owe me—and all Oregon citizens—an apology.
As to the charge; “It does you no good to picket a legislator’s house,” I say: That’s false. Demonstrating in front of Read’s house did me a LOT of good. It felt really great—nice sunny day, trees and shrubs in bloom, kids playing basketball, young mothers out with their little ones in strollers; passing out my flier, having interesting conversations with several neighbors about Read’s disgraceful conduct during the April 9 and 16 “hearings,” his taking money from Bradwood Landing LLC and other LNG/pipeline interests—it was a good day.
And as to the claim; “It’s not going to change their (sic) mind;” I say: Attempting to change Read’s mind is not why I wrote my e-mail, dubbed him ‘Bias or picketed his house. I took all those actions precisely because he had demonstrated by his arrogance, disdain and rudeness toward the LNG/pipelines opponents, and his favoritism toward the LNG/pipeline shills, that he is prejudiced. Fat chance he’s going to change his mind—or his vote. That was exactly the point of my actions: to show how solidly the fat cats and good ol’ boys have rigged the legislative process against the concerned land owners and environmentalists in this engaged struggle.
‘Bias and these other gasbags are not going to change their minds. There are billions of dollars and literally boatloads of power at stake. They are extremely well funded, organized and connected. The only chance we have of successfully countering their spectacularly stupid scheme is to shine a bright light on their scurrilous backroom dealing and expose their dog-and-pony shows for exactly what they are.
Much of what they’re trying to do has been under the radar—which is just how they want it to be—need it to be—for them to pull it off. That has to change.
Until recently, there’s been very little public awareness of how dangerous what they’re trying to foist on Oregon and its citizens is, and how devastating—to rivers, streams, fish, wildlife, farms, the Mt. Hood National Forest, private property rights, old-growth timber, threatened and endangered species, sacred and archeologically important tribal sites, and so much more we value—it would be.
For those who say, “It hurts your cause,” I challenge you to back that up with any evidence other than some legislator’s fit of pique. Let them pout and whine and stamp their little feet. Means nothing. What does mean something—a lot, in fact—are the many people who are fighting Bradwood Landing, Palomar and other LNG/pipeline threats who have not only applauded what I wrote and did, but have told me they want more—not less—of the same. Good for them! I hope they, too, stop being “nice” and start coloring outside the lines—or rather, drawing new lines. This is, after all, still a democracy. But we have to work hard to keep it.
I woke up one night, shortly after the “hearings” on two LNG-related bills in the Committee that ‘Bias leads, with a thought ringing in my mind, a kind of epiphany: THEIR INSISTENCE ON OUR POLITENESS IS A WEAPON THEY WIELD TO HELP THEM WIN. But it is they who are truly impolite! Let me count the ways: • It is not polite to poach public and privately owned property (or aid and abet the poachers) for corporate gain. • It is not polite to push off on Oregonians a scam that Californians have rejected, in order to sell gas to California. • It is not polite to further entangle America in dependence on foreign sources of petrofuel. • It is not polite to increase the already significant carbon footprint of natural gas by 30 to 40 percent by adding high expenditures of energy for condensing, shipping, regasifying and otherwise wastefully processing and transporting this fuel. • It is not polite to falsely promote LNG as a “bridge” to renewable energy, when it is not a bridge, but a barrier. • It is not polite to take thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the pirates who stand to benefit from this pillage, nor to do their bidding for their money and/or because of an ideological alliance with them.
We, the citizens of Oregon, can thwart the petro-profiteers and their stooges, and expose them for what they are, upfront and in their faces. I will not apologize for my e-mail letter/flier castigating ‘Bias & Co., nor for picketing in front of his house. If anyone wants to do it again, just let me know. I’ll bring the chips and dip.
Steven Amick retired from The Oregonian in 2005, after a reporting career that began in the 1960s. A writer and activist, he is a member of Oregon Citizens Against Pipelines, a director of Friends of the Clackamas River and a founder and coordinator of the Estacada-based Progressive Action Community Team. To contact Steven: [email protected]