Oregon Pipeline Blues – Idle No More
Recently, I was made aware of a gas pipeline that was in the works from Wyoming through Utah, Nevada, and Oregon, to Coos Bay. It was an accidental discovery when researching a Klamath Tribes water agreement vote. It was a surprise because it has been planned since at least 2010 with very little to no information provided to the mainstream public until recently, when I began to notice articles from the local news outlets boasting economic development. One of the major concerns is that the installation of pipelines, no matter the type have major and varying environmental and health impacts.
Part of the region suggested goes through sensitive wetland areas in the Lower Klamath Basin that are part of a larger, interconnected hydrological and biological cycle. Mitigating any possible damages that will occur in the future is difficult, maybe impossible, as each section is installed by different subcontracted companies with limited liability coverage. Imagine the scale of this project whose environmental impact statement discloses the installation practices of 675.5 miles of pipeline, with 160,500 horse power of compression providing 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas per day. I could not begin to cover all the impacts along the way, in the amount of time allotted but I can touch the surface of the practices to areas that clearly have hydrological and biological systems that will be affected.
A seventy five foot construction right of way is allowed through wetland areas and on active crop land a hundred fifteen feet right of way, which means these areas which will have de-watering pumps to remove the water and clear all the vegetation, including trees and shrubs. Stump removal, grading and topsoil segregation will also occur. If the streams, rivers, or tributaries are fish bearing, while they are pumping the water out, screens will be used to catch the fish and transport them somewhere else. Equipment refueling and lubricating will be necessary near and around bodies of water and will produce runoff and toxic water will be left on site. They have several methods of dredging the earth for pipe installation which are described in more detail in the EIS, such as the open cut method which involves trenching through flowing waters with equipment in the water, and the “spoil” excavated will be placed over 10 feet from the water body. They will then plug the trenched work area with earthen trenches, and once it is fully trenched the concrete covered pipe will be placed and then back filled with native stream-bed spoil. Then, there is the dry ditch method, diverting water out of the work area through flume pipes with high capacity pumps and then back-filled when the process is complete. Does this sound environmentally stable?
This region is just below an area that a water agreement has just been signed including the restoration of the Upper Klamath basin waterways that have been negatively impacted by ranching activities, dams and the needs for water during droughts has become a conflict separating communities. Some leaders have been stating that complete restoration of fish bearing waterways will occur, while omitting the impacts of the “off project” area, which is the lower basin. Leaders have told us that the agreements are necessary to ensure a more than ten year project to result in dam removal so that Salmon and other species that are part of the culture and tradition of Native people and fishermen in the region will be restored. How does one explain that the same rivers that are to be restored are the same ones this pipeline will cross? Do you honestly think that the hydrological and biological systems can be simultaneous disrupted in the lower basin and restored in the upper basin and result in fish bearing and actual restoration to healthy systems and within a time limit that will make it possible for those who are affected today to utilize the region for their sustenance and public rights? I have my doubts.
After reading over too many pages of documents, I have come to the conclusion that the agencies, organizations, and individuals in support of this process are inevitably giving up some very important natural resources for a short term payoff for a limited economic development that does not match the value of the resources and does not benefit all the species and systems that will be affected. It also will not be likely to end in Dam removal, as stated in a most recent letter from the Klamath County commission that they are in opposition to dam removal. Last week the bill including the water agreement were approved by the Senate and their next stop is Congress. If there have been any changes to the bill, we do not know. If the agreements do not result in dam removal, then the public and tribal members have been deceived. It is liken to old policies pitting neighbor against neighbor rather than addressing the true culprit of who is to gain. I certainly understand the need for economic stability, but it must be achieved in a sustainable manner.
As I look at the map, I see some obvious concerns. What do you see? What are in these areas?? I see National Forests, Public Lands, estuaries, volcanic regions, fault lines, wetlands, lakes, streams, tributaries, private properties, a myriad of species of plants, animals, birds, fish, and bugs , all with value. What I do not see is how I personally will ever benefit from this pipeline. Coos Bay and other communities might have a small boost to their economies but at this cost, and with the threats imposed, it really makes no sense. I see large corporations reaping profits while paying off key political leaders to convince their constituents that this is all a good thing, such as the 54 million dollar payoff to our Tribal leaders from Ruby Pipeline Corporation. The unfortunate thing is that our leaders are accepting these funds, on our behalf, but not informing the public about what agreement they are making in exchange.
The only thing I can think of is that they are saying they represent us and that we will not oppose. What are we affecting? Take a look at a few examples of the beauty we have been blessed with here in Oregon. Preservation is the key to our future and to sustainability of our economy into the future for years to come. This is a minute example. One of the most celebrated in the world is Crater Lake. This place has been considered Sacred to the Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin people for time immemorial. It has been loved and visited by millions. It is one of the most vast and clean water sources in the world. It is a National Park and owned by the public. It has even been considered one of the world’s seven wonders for it’s beauty and uniqueness. I do not comprehend why our leaders, Tribal, County, State or Federal would consider the threat of passing a gas pipeline through or near this region. We have heard of increased earthquakes in regions that fracking occurs and recently we have had earthquakes in the Klamath County region. I also do not understand the logic of putting a gas facility on a sandy beach coast. I encourage you to do some research. The risks and practices are astounding. The underestimation of impacts and coverage is frightening. Some are asking you, the public, to help with this pipeline and economic rebirth of Coos Bay. They want to add this to the State’s portfolio. I wonder how much in campaign funds have been accepted from LNG and their constituents. Why would we tout our stand on protecting our environment, while saying, if done right, this would be a game changer. Problem is, all of the explosions that have occurred were with safety standards that were done right. The possible economic disaster is not being considered. Disrupting biological and hydrological cycles will have impacts that are unforeseen nor accounted for. Pipelines leak and explode. No-one is arguing about that. Their lifetime usage is about 50 years, but some are in use no more than 20 years. Many of the impacts are truly unknown. We know that there are health impacts in areas where pipelines are. Gaslands 2 describes countless stories of harm not only to the land and water but to everyone and everything. Increased cancer rates in these regions, is as a direct result of chemicals used that seep out into water supplies without anyone even knowing it. Is it in the best interest of Oregon to engage in impacts to its’ environment, that are unknown?
It would take all the best scientists many many years to answer all the questions about possible impacts to all of the beauty and health I see, and whether we will be able to come to a resolution for our most valuable resources to be healthy is dim. I trust that the earth will do what it can to repair itself, but is it us, ourselves that are the cause of such pain to the earth to relinquish the damage to. We have been talking about renewable energy sources for a very long time, but the push for extracting every known dollar is the driving force. When can we actually take the good ideas and sustainable views and put them into action, in a world revolving around self centered convenience? Finding that the public has so little information about what goes on behind closed doors, and that much is done right beneath our noses is disheartening. They will have a public commentary this week in Klamath County for citizens to weigh in. Unfortunately there are so few citizens who are aware of the happenings, and while this may impact our State as whole, only limited areas will be informed as they move across the State. It was last reported on November 7, 2014 by Associated Press that environmental damage is being downplayed but that Federal regulators have concluded that damages can be mitigated by builders and regulators. How does a corporation mitigate unknown damages? They don’t. They just wait and see what happens and deal with it when they get there. They underestimate the damage and pay to shut people up. There have been from 1994 through 2013, 745 serious incidents with gas distribution, causing 278 fatalities and 1059 injuries, with $110,658,083 in property damage. From 1994 through 2013, there were an additional 110 serious incidents with gas transmission, resulting in 41 fatalities, 195 injuries, and $448,900,333 in property damage. This is in the United States alone, and the list is incomplete. Let’s take a moment to look a little deeper at the health risks. FracDallas.org reports, “ Health issues of people living near natural gas well sites include minor irritations like burning eyes, sore throats, nosebleeds, sinus congestion, chest pains and similar ailments that dissipate shortly after getting away from the offending fugative emissions that cause the irritations to much more serious problems like endocrine disruption in fetuses and young children, male reproductive problems, severe respiratory ailments, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), brain and nervous system disorders, gastrointestinal and liver ailments, immune system, kidney, blood and cardiovascular illnesss, cancer and other serious illnesses, some of which have resulted in death or permanent disability.” Additionally, they state, “Dr. Theo Colborn, PhD, who heads The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) in Paonia, Colorado, has written and spoken extensively on the ill health effects of exposure to hydraulic fracturing chemicals and vapors. Dr. Colborn and other have documented many cases of human health effects resulting from exposure to toxic, carcinogenic and neurotoxic compounds and vapors from hydraulic fracturing operations. More studies of a comprehensive nature are needed to determine the extent and severeity of human and animal exposure to the BTEX, VOC and NOx emissions associated with natural gas extraction, production and distribution.” Now I am returning to the point of mitigation. When they say that mitigating measures are in place, how is that so? How could a corporation mitigate your health and life, or that of your children?
I have not even begun to touch the surface of how many species of plants and animals also call Oregon home. The health risks to us are also shared by them. Land, Water and living species don’t stop at our borders of California or the ocean. That’s just not how biological systems work. Over the next season some of you will have the chance to enjoy much laughter and good times with family, this week you may be talking about what all you are grateful for. As you spend time visiting with your friends and family, conversations will come about what is in the news or in politics. I urge you to ask your family and friends if they have heard of fracking and the new gas pipeline we are getting here in Oregon, and find out how much they know about it. Find out if they know about the procedures of fracking, and the State of our waters in these regions. Find out if this is something they care about. Make it your responsibility to be a citizen that knows what is going on in our State and educates others on how it may impact them. You may find that many of your relatives and friends, as I have found, had no idea, and if they did, knew very little. We should ask ourselves why that is so. Why would such an important matter for the future of our State be so well disguised from the public? We shouldn’t have to wait until a disaster happens to be made aware of what our officials and corporations are doing in our State. Have the discussions of benefits and risks, and decide for yourselves what you feel is important for the sustainability of Oregon.
If I were to propose a solution it would be to mandate healthy ecosystems, to put our resources in the study of their values, to stop the convenience and return to ways that require more connection to the land and less connection to development. Development has run its’ course, and the climate facts are not looking good. Economic gain and jobs can be created in education and evaluation of our vast resource values. This is a matter for the entire State to be concerned with. In the event of an accident or explosion, it could affect many or few, but the cost will be a direct impact on the public. We should not allow these kinds of operations to continue unchecked. We should have these matters covered more thoroughly by all our main news sources. I can only hope that if more knew about the details of the installation of the pipeline, the water sources they affect and what the possible mitigating damage would be, that they would have something to say. No one seems to be covering the news in regard to worst case scenario costs to the public. For one, they just don’t know. They can not predict the next earthquake or if it would break these lines, where or when. All the USGS can say is that we are overdue. The way our citizens are informed last when it comes to major decisions like these may be hard to change, but sustenance is about gratefulness. If the public gets involved and asks the news outlets to get more information on these actions, then they will see that there are people out there that care about what goes on in our State. We have to show what we appreciate and are grateful for about this beautiful place we call home. What gratefulness are we showing to the source of the sustenance? What value are we giving to the natural resources? If we don’t care, or don’t start to care about those values such as the land and it’s systems, its whole systems, what will that mean for the future? People keep saying to live in the present. But have we fully grasped our past mistakes, or our future needs in our current actions? There is more to being present, such as acknowledging all that we affect in the present. Accountability is needed in all present actions. I urge you today to be aware of who your representatives are and who is benefiting from the destruction of our world, why, and for what purpose. It is our Governor, our Representatives and our leaders, as well as corporations who lobby for their elections that support these developments and extractions for monetary gain. We need to take a better look at what economic development means, it means extraction and use of resources that we do not know how or when they will be restored or renewed, and some may never be. We need to shift to an understanding of sustainability, both in environmental quality and in economic value. If it is in fact our resources that provide our current sustainability, then shouldn’t we protect them, understand them and be a part of their healthy existence? Most, truly want a sustainable future. We want the value of our natural world and our health to be taken into greater consideration and assert the protection of our health and that of our public lands, waters and air. These are more imminent, than gas pipeline domain. Works cited: “Description of Hydrologic Cycle.” Northwest River Forecast Center. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. . “FERC: Ruby Pipeline Project (FEIS).” FERC: Ruby Pipeline Project (FEIS). FERC, 28 June 2010. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. . “Health and Safety Issues of Natural Gas Production.” Health and Safety Issues of Natural Gas Production. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. . “Kitzhaber’s Help Is Needed Now on LNG: Editorial Agenda 2014.” OregonLive.com. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. . Web. 18 Nov. 2014. . “Report Downplays Environmental Damage from Coos Bay LNG Project | News | The Register-Guard | Eugene, Oregon.” The Register-Guard. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. . “UPDATE 4-Pipe Explodes at Williams LNG Facility in Washington State.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 31 Mar. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. . Web. 18 Nov. 2014. . “‘We can win this’: Activist pushes back on pipeline.” – Nashoba Publishing Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pipeline_accidents (the references for this is very long, much easier to pull it up from this site)