About 100 people participate in a rally held before a Department of State Lands open house. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch

Protesting the pipeline

Locals concerned about the environmental impacts of a natural gas pipeline through Oregon and an export facility on the Oregon Coast rallied outside Rogue Regency Inn this afternoon.{br class="hardreturn" /}
The rally was held prior to a public open house at the hotel organized by the Oregon Department of State Lands to take comments on permit applications for removal and fill-in of natural waterways for the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline and Jordan Cove Energy Project.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"We're hoping the Department of State Lands will deny the permits outright," said Sarah Westover, one of the rally's organizers. Westover organizes anti-LNG events for the Rogue Climate and Rogue Riverkeeper organizations.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Westover argued that because hundreds of landowners refused permission to pipeline surveyors, the project applications are incomplete.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"Since the department doesn't have that information, they should deny the permits," Westover said.{br class="hardreturn" /}
The Department of State Lands is responsible for regulating natural waterways, including wetlands, tidal bays, lakes and streams. It extended public comment on two removal-fill permit applications by 30 days, to Jan. 8. Deadline Corrected{br class="hardreturn" /}
DSL Planning and Policy Manager Eric Metz said the decision to extend public comment was because of the size of the project and the application documents, which totaled about 2,000 pages. The deadline for the Department of State Lands' decision is Feb. 8, 2016.{br class="hardreturn" /}
The pipeline would require digging trenches across 400 waterways and hundreds of acres of wetlands and would remove millions of cubic yards of material from a Coos Bay estuary.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"Thirty days isn't enough time to pore through 2,000 pages of documents," Westover said.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"It's unusually large and it affects a lot of people," Metz said. {br class="hardreturn" /}
Metz said today's meeting was designed to listen to comments and concerns that may not have yet been addressed, and to share information about the proposed permits, Metz said.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"We're not making decisions today," Metz said. "It's an exchange of information."{br class="hardreturn" /}
Westover tallied more than 100 protesters at the rally at 3:30 p.m., just prior to the forum's opening at 4 p.m.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"They have to protect the people. They have to protect the waterways," Ashland resident Vicki Simpson said while holding a hand-painted sign in front of the hotel that read, "Stop Boosting Greenhouse Gasses." Vehicles from Subarus to semi-trucks honked in support of the demonstrators.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Standing next to her at the rally, Lynn Kellogg of Gold Hill held a sign that said, "Safe Waters for Our Salmon."{br class="hardreturn" /}
"I'm going to focus on the environment," Kellogg said about her planned topic at the forum.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"That just seems crazy to put it (the planned LNG facility) near our ocean when we're in a tsunami zone," Kellogg said.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Simpson said she planned to speak about climate change at the hearing.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"They're really boosting our crash quicker into climate change," Simpson said.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Seismic and climate arguments were outside the scope of what the Department of State Lands could consider in its permitting, according to Metz.  {br class="hardreturn" /}
Metz said the turnout makes an impact in the agency's considerations.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"Large numbers show a lot of engagement," Metz said.{br class="hardreturn" /}
The relevance of the arguments the agency receives also impacts its decisions.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"It gets down to the right issues," Metz said.{br class="hardreturn" /}
To see an interactive map of the pipeline's route through Oregon, including Jackson County, click here.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.{br class="hardreturn" /}
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Correction: The print version of the story included the wrong comment deadline. Friday, Jan. 8 is the last day the Oregon Department of State Lands will accept written comments.{br class="hardreturn" /}

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