Emotions run high at forum on LNG pipeline

SHADY COVE — If they thought they could make a peaceful presentation at a public meeting, representatives of the proposed Pacific Connector Natural Gas Pipeline got a big surprise Wednesday evening.

After about 40 protesters stood on Highway 62 for an hour, waving signs saying "No to LPG," more than 125 people crowded into the local grange hall to loudly voice their opposition to the project.

Standing on a small stepladder in the center of the room, surrounded by the raucous crowd, one person after another climbed up to make their statements and try to ask their questions.

It wasn't long before noise and shouts from conversations in the room grew so loud, they drowned out both questions and answers, prompting some to shout, "please be quiet!" and "shut up!"

The crowd would calm down, but when an answer didn't satisfy, which was often, there were jeers and once again, the growing noise made it nearly impossible to hear.

One of the more contentious issues was whether the gas in the pipeline would be odorized.

"All of your brochures say it's colorless and odorless," said one woman.

"It won't be odorized," said Rodney Gregory of Williams Pipeline, one of the partner companies in the project. "It has a natural petroleum byproduct smell anyway, so if it would leak, you'd be able to smell it."

"That's Orwellian," shouted a man. "It's colorless and odorless, but you say we can still smell it?"

The pipeline representatives were scattered throughout the crowd trying to answer questions, but finding little satisfaction in their increasingly dissatisfied audience.

"Since this gas is primarily, if not entirely meant for the state of California," said Roger King, "have you attempted to put it into any of their ports down there? Why are you doing it here?"

"To make economic sense, any pipeline serving either Northern California or the Pacific Northwest needs to serve both markets," said Bob Braddock, who is in charge of energy development at the proposed Jordan Terminal in Coos Bay.

"If you put a terminal on the California coast, gas would have to go through California to Malin, he said. "From Malin, to serve the markets in the Pacific Northwest, which are virtually all on the west side of the Cascades, you still need to build a pipeline across the Cascades."

"But we don't need this pipeline!" shouted another man.

Others joined in: "That's right we don't need it. We don't need it in Oregon."

Finally one of the representatives suggested that chairs be put out and a more formal meeting held.

"You thought this was going to be a dog and pony show," shouted another man. "There's nobody here who wants this thing."

Before the meeting began, Shady Cove City Councilman Gary Hughes had a chance to have Gregory answer some of his questions.

"I have been told you'll only be inspecting 10 percent of your welds," said Hughes.

"Not true," said Gregory. "We're not required to, but we inspect 100 percent of our welds. It will either pass or be cut out of the system."

Hughes asked how long it would take to shut down if there were an accident.

"If we had a failure on the system," said Gregory, "there are block valves strategically placed so we can quickly shut the pipeline in an emergency. It could be anywhere from two to eight miles between block valves."

He said the pipeline would be monitored 24 hours a day.

"If there is a drop in pressure, we would know instantly and there would be employees stationed near enough to respond within an hour."

Gregory said, late in May there will be a pipeline presentation made to the Shady Cove City Council.

The 230-mile Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline would run from Coos Bay, where ships carrying liquefied natural gas would unload at a proposed terminal at Jordan Cove. The liquid would be turned back into a gas and then pushed through the pipeline until it reached a major existing pipeline, near Malin, not far from the California state line.

At maximum capacity, the pipeline would push a billion cubic feet of natural gas each day through a 36-inch diameter pipeline.

Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com

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