Kolbenschlag column: Many reasons to oppose Jordan Cove project
Judging from the recent media reports, Garfield County’s glowing letter about Jordan Cove and the Pacific Connector pipeline in Oregon, and its “Stated Benefits of Jordan Cove,” a reader might think this project being pushed by a Canadian company has few downsides.
A reader might get the impression that new pipelines are only good things that do not cause problems, bring impacts or push fossil fuel expansion that increases, not reduces, climate change pollution.
But, concurrent reports also provided a lesson in reality, stripped of such boosterism. Other recent articles have raised concerns, long ongoing, of those having their neighborhood drilled in Battlement Mesa. Increased upstream impacts to Coloradans are one potential effect from pushing a project that would primarily benefit a foreign corporation in shipping North American resources to foreign markets.
If successful, this would likely also lead to higher consumer prices here. Which is, of course, the goal: to boost gas prices and fatten corporate profits.
Lately, media reports have also covered some of the very real impacts from pipelines: leaks and toxic contamination. We learned of another one polluting waters along Parachute Creek, a tributary to the Colorado River — which waters tens of millions of Americans downstream, and billions of dollars in agriculture. Moreover, in recent days we learned about a large fracked gas pipeline exploding in Ohio and another major pipeline being shut down in Pennsylvania due to safety concerns.
Meanwhile in Oregon, where this new pipeline that Colorado politicians like to tout would be built, and where its impacts would be most acutely felt, a court has rescinded a key permit for the pipeline. And GarCo commissioners’ duly elected counterparts in Jackson County, Oregon, which the pipeline would actually cross, have unanimously voted against it.
In Oregon, native nations, likewise missing from the Garfield letter, including the Klamath Tribes among others in the region, oppose this project. They not only see it as a desecration of ancestral lands, and of the resources that exist today that they feel obligated to protect, but also a betrayal to future generations.
This brings us around to the issue that should be front and center whenever considering fossil fuels development and infrastructure expansion. And that is human-driven climate change — an issue we must address right now, according to the world’s climate scientists, our own federal agencies and Colorado’s new governor, if we are to limit worse consequences coming due.
Jordan Cove, if built, would be Oregon’s largest climate polluter, according to reports. The project overall — from the upstream fracking fields to the power stacks where it is combusted — would be a net contributor to climate pollution.
There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical of and oppose the Jordan Cove project. Climate change pollution and health, safety and environmental hazards posed by this pipeline and project are among them. As are the clear-cutting of old-growth forests on our public lands and the potential seizure of Americans’ private property for the pipeline right of way.
Even the primary reason that politicians cite to support this project is questionable — promises of local revenues. The project is being pushed by a Canadian company that has, first and foremost, a need to get its own gas to market. Furthermore, other liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects are further along, with a couple dozen or more proposed around the world, most with an eye to Asia. No guaranteed market exists for Piceance gas, even if Jordan Cove is completed.
Here is the bottom line: the Jordan Cove Energy Project is unlikely to bring much benefit to Colorado, but it could well lock up more of our public lands in speculative oil and gas leases. Jordan Cove is not good for the planet and our climate future, when the best available science concurs we need to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. That includes fracked LNG.
Building out fossil-fuel infrastructure in a carbon-constrained world is not only reckless from an environmental perspective, which it certainly is, but also from a fiscal one. We should not double-down on a resource that will mostly have to stay in the ground. It’s time for the Garfield County commissioners, and all of Colorado’s elected leaders, to stop pushing fossil fuels and to fully support our clean energy future.
Pete Kolbenschlag lives in western Colorado and is a strategic and communications consultant, focusing on energy, climate and environmental issues. He recently helped coordinate a multi-state educational and awareness campaign around the Jordan Cove Energy Project and its related fracked gas pipeline.