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Could a gas pipeline explosion happen here, too?

A natural gas pipeline exploded in British Columbia last month. Could it happen in Southern Oregon, too, if the Jordan Cove export terminal and pipeline project are approved by our state agencies?

In Canada, flames spread when a 36-inch gas pipeline ruptured. The pipeline explosion triggered a massive fire and forced the evacuation of families belonging to the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation.

This explosion is affecting gas supply across the Pacific Northwest, and gasoline prices saw a 30-cent per gallon increase in some places (gasoline refineries use natural gas in their operations, so supply problems affect gasoline production). Even here in Southern Oregon, our gas utility, Avista, sent a warning to customers about low gas supply the day after the explosion. With cold weather on its way, the gas industry is worried this incident may cause a regional shortage.

There’s a lot our communities here in Southern Oregon can learn from the explosion in Canada.

First, Southern Oregon is threatened by a nearly identical 229-mile gas pipeline proposed by a Canadian fossil fuel corporation called Pembina. If built, the Pacific Connector pipeline would cross some of Oregon’s most fire-prone forests and ranches, and the proposed export terminal would be in the tsunami zone on the coast.

A gas pipeline explosion in Southern Oregon could lead to devastating consequences for our homes, businesses, forests, and the emergency responders first on scene.

The Canadian fossil fuel corporation backing Jordan Cove is spending $10 million a month on mailers, radio and TV ads, community grants, campaign contributions and more, trying to overcome community opposition from all across the political spectrum. But gas pipeline explosions this year alone in West Virginia, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and now British Columbia show us the real dangers of fossil fuel infrastructure.

This event also shows us the fragility of our energy system if we continue to be dependent on fossil fuels like gas. When a pipeline explodes more than 1,000 miles away, our energy supply and prices are affected. Why not boost our local economy and reduce climate pollution by investing in clean energy and creating jobs for our communities right here in Southern Oregon?

Just a few days before the gas pipeline explosion in Canada, hundreds of the world’s most knowledgeable scientists, with the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released a report detailing more evidence that shows communities must rapidly transition to clean energy and keep fossil fuels in the ground to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Two cities in the Rogue Valley, Talent and Ashland, passed Clean Energy Action Plans to do just that and are working with community members to implement those plans. But while communities in Southern Oregon begin to transition to clean energy and prepare for the impacts of a changing climate, building the proposed Jordan Cove fracked gas export project would counter any momentum to address climate change in Oregon. The full emissions from Jordan Cove would be equal to more than 15 times Oregon’s last remaining coal plant, which is set to close down in 2020 because of pollution impacts.

Luckily, our state agencies have the ability to stop this project by denying permits. In 2019, we’ll see many public comment periods and hearings for these permits in Southern Oregon. If you want to get involved, check out www.rogueclimate.org for updates and events to help stop the pipeline.

Allie Rosenbluth works at Rogue Climate, a Medford-based community organization that brings Southern Oregonians together for practical solutions to climate change.

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