Last month I took a trip to Washington, D.C., and boy, did it open my eyes.
I was invited to a conference by a group of people, including David Bookbinder of the Niskanen Center and Bob McNamara of the Institute of Justice, who are concerned about the ways private corporations are treading on the rights of private property owners.
They asked me to speak because a Canadian fossil fuel company wants to build a natural gas pipeline across my property as part of the Jordan Cove Energy Project. This pipeline would take gas to a new terminal in Coos Bay, where it would be super-cooled, loaded into tankers, and shipped to Asia.
That’s right — a Canadian company, shipping fracked gas, most likely from Canada, to Asian countries. They only need Oregon so they can get their gas from A to B.
While I was in Washington I learned that this issue is bigger than my property, bigger than Southern Oregon, and bigger than this one pipeline project. People all over the country are having their rights violated. And these companies are picking on people in poor, rural counties because they think they can ram their projects through with little to no resistance.
While I was back East, I spent some time in Virginia meeting with folks who are fighting the Atlantic Coast pipeline. One woman literally has a 42-inch pipe going right by her front door. This is a pipeline that’s already been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC. We have an advantage here in Oregon, because FERC has not yet approved Jordan Cove. In fact, they rejected the project in 2016, but Pembina, the company that owns the project, turned around and submitted a new application. And guess what? They can do that as many times as they want.
Fighting Jordan Cove is like David fighting Goliath. Pembina has more money than Douglas County, Klamath County, Jackson County, and Coos County put together. They’re handing out thousands of dollars in grants. They’re funding an entire sheriff’s department in Coos County. They’ve donated to state and local politicians. And now they’ve launched a huge “education” campaign, hoping to buy more influence with their slick brochures, television ads and social media blitz.
None of us who have been fighting Jordan Cove for 12-plus years had any idea what we were getting ourselves into. But once you see what’s going on in places like Virginia it makes you cringe about the possibilities of what could happen here in Oregon.
On the positive side, Pembina has had their lure in the water so long that public opinion has changed. A poll from earlier this year shows that 70 percent of people in Oregon are against this project. They don’t like that a Canadian company can use eminent domain to take property from Oregon landowners, and they don’t like how their pipeline and LNG terminal would impact the land and the water, all for a project that has absolutely no public benefit in the state of Oregon beyond providing a few jobs and some tax revenue. And on that note, do we really want to depend on a foreign company to fund our counties?
Here’s another nail in the coffin. A new LNG terminal in Kitimat, British Columbia, called LNG Canada, just got the go-ahead. If Canada wants to get their gas to Asia, they can use that terminal. There’s no need to come through Oregon at all.
While I was in Washington, I met with legislators from Congress and from our state; I also met with a representative of the FERC. These people are starting to realize that I’m not just a single ignorant landowner; I’m part of a growing coalition that is absolutely determined to stop this thing. It’s about time our county commissioners and other local government officials started taking us seriously too, along with their promise to do what’s best for their constituencies — which is not taking a handout from a company that will buy influence for as long as it suits them, then pulls out as soon as they’ve gotten what they want, leaving us to clean up their mess.
Bill Gow is a rancher and affected landowner from Douglas County.