Clatsop County, where numerous local political careers have risen or fallen based on varying degrees of opposition/support for liquefied natural gas terminals, need not feel conspicuously passionate about the issue: Coos Bay also is turning into something of a high-pressure chamber on the issue of LNG.
It has been widely assumed that relatively industrialized and economically challenged Coos Bay might prove to be a softer touch when it comes to approving the large new Jordan Cove LNG plant. However, The Oregonian reports that U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio could expect a lot of questions on LNG at his annual town hall meeting in Coos Bay this week.
DeFazio has challenged zealous advocacy of LNG as an economic development tool in Southwest Oregon. He has sought to block exports of natural gas produced from leased federal property and to block the use of the government’s power of eminent domain to secure private rights-of-way for LNG pipelines, a practice that essentially places corporate profits above the property interests of private citizens.
Boost Southwest Oregon, a Jordan Cove-affiliated group, planned to attend the DeFazio meeting to advocate for the terminal. Similar efforts have met with only limited success in Clatsop County, where there is both a more active environmental community, and more of a mismatch between Oregon LNG’s terminal plans along the Skipanon shoreline and the scenic character of the Columbia estuary.
The Oregonian also highlights how Sen. Ron Wyden’s LNG positions are beginning to skew toward supporting Jordan Cove, with Wyden saying the regulatory process is appropriately fair and thorough, and that “I am going to insist that the community be given answers to all legitimate questions.”
This is less than reassuring. Laws and administrative rules that frame decisions by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are predisposed to “yes” answers for industry. There is a subliminal message that “Yes, we’ll listen to you peasants, but we’ll end up doing exactly what we planned to all along.” It is, at best, a paternal attitude that places national geopolitical interest above local concerns. Just ask Gulf Coast fishermen about how well they feel federal energy regulators have cared for natural resources.
As Clatsop County recently learned when Oregon LNG won a court case due to a county commissioner’s past vocal opposition to LNG, it certainly behooves elected leaders on all levels to maintain an appropriate level of objectivity and neutrality when it comes to their quasi-judicial functions.
But Oregon does not need or desire elected yes-men for narrow economic interests and industries with deep pockets.