Header Photo Credit: L. Tinfow
Two weeks ago, I published a story about the Jordan Cove LNG (liquefied natural gas) export project and its attendant Pacific Connector Pipeline. The day after the story was published, FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) denied a necessary approval for the project. In their report, they stated that Jordan Cove Energy and its parent company, Veresen, had not demonstrated a market for their product, and that negative impacts to landowners along the pipeline route thus outweighed their commercial interest.
Veresen has vowed to appeal the ruling. In the week after the Commission’s denial, the company announced that it had completed an agreement with a Japanese company, JERA, covering up to 25% of the pipeline’s capacity. Importantly, JERA and Jordan Cove have not established a pricing scheme for their agreement. With a current oversupply in Asia and volatile prices likely to continue in the future, some experts are skeptical of the deal’s long-term strength.
Researching the Jordan Cove story, I spent two weeks conducting interviews with experts, spokespeople, activists and stakeholders. Out of all of the stories I heard, Stacey McLaughlin’s was the one that most struck me. She and her husband, Craig McLaughlin, own land along the proposed pipeline route and oppose its construction. In light of FERC’s ruling and the pipeline company’s renewed struggle for approval, I thought I would share some excerpts from our phone conversation.
From our original phone conversation: Please excuse the phone-quality audio. A transcript is below, and at the end, an excerpt from a recent email conversation.
“For me, I guess that this whole ordeal started a couple of years ago, when they changed the path of the Pacific Connector gas pipeline, and our property was a part of it. I really hadn’t been very engaged in the issues up until then, not because I didn’t care, but…how could I argue about importing something that was supposed to be better for our country and help us maintain..the value that we wanted to have energy independence.
That all changed when it became an export pipeline. It was rerouted [and now] came through our place. It is a mile-long swath that will virtually clear cut our property.
When we bought our land about 15 years ago we bought 357 acres, and it was an unbelievable mess. It had been logged over—that’s how we got it…It was a mess, so we could afford it.
It was 357 acres, with 4 huge dump sites. I have no idea what the people before us did [for a living], but we cleaned up hundreds of appliances in various locations in the woods.
The house wasn’t really habitable, but we lived in it for a couple of years before we could get the money together to kinda fix it up enough to where it was livable. The outside still looks like it did when we moved in, with a few exceptions, like a new roof.
The property took us almost two years to clean up, and that was literally every day bending over and picking up trash. We took hundreds of appliances to the landfill. And we didn’t bury anything, we burned the things we could within the scope of burnable materials [and] we recycled everything [else].
And we decided that we wanted to start restoring the habitat. So most of our money has gone into the land [and] not into our living conditions. We planted close to 10,000 new trees, and we have restored wildlife habitat that had been neglected and not really taken care of and abused.
For the first few years we lived here, we never really saw anything but a few deer. Now we have a herd of elk that’s sort of like a resident herd of elk—they come through upwards of 8-10 times a year.
So this place is very sacred to us. And it is a loving effort for what we believe we’re supposed to do as stewards of the earth.
My husband was born and raised here, and he has the longstanding cultural perspective of environmentalists—“enviros” –but yet he doesn’t recognize that he is exactly like them. And I’ve raised the question to him periodically about the fact that sometimes we’re just afraid to use a new term to describe ourselves because it has such an ugly connotation.
But it has been quite an experience to learn what I’ve learned about natural gas and about energy. When we started this whole thing, it was about keeping someone out of our land and off of our property who didn’t belong here, it was about preserving and protecting the hard work that we have invested in. And it has grown way beyond that. It’s now not about us. It’s about protecting this planet. It’s about the responsibility that we have as our small part of this thing we call humanity, that we have a responsibility the future. And so I’ve been very actively involved and organized our community.
And I guess the one other thing I could add that’s really becoming a really prevalent aspect of this whole ordeal for me is that is that I have a lot of anguish over the fact that I’m having to spend my time doing this. That any of us are. That we should not be fighting our government to take responsibility for what’s happening. How can we not understand that we are doing ourselves in, and not be taking dramatic action to…stop?
Now there will be some jobs generated. I get that. I get they want to take care of their families. My dad was an electrician, and I grew up in a feast or famine kind of world. Sometimes we had benefits and sometimes we didn’t. My mom worked for the phone company and my dad was an electrician, and my dad actually worked on a nuclear power plant in California. Because our family was hungry. And it violated everything I stood for, or he stood for. So it’s about how you do that. How you balance the need to care for your family and be responsible and still have your ideals.
When I heard the news of the denial I couldn’t believe it at first, I stood at my kitchen sink, looked out the window at our mountain and just started crying, weeping with relief that it was over, finally over. My first thought was I would get my life back, get my seeds planted for garden starts, and remember my kid’s birthdays again instead of comment filing deadlines. About 20 of my neighbors got together the night of the FERC denial for an impromptu celebration and hugged and laughed and talked about planning a huge party at one of our ranches and inviting the hundreds of people from all over the state who have stood with us and been a part of trying to save Southern Oregon for the past decade.Our joy and relief did not last long with the Veresen announcement that they intended to appeal the FERC decision because they had a “maybe,” sales agreement. Then yesterday landowners received a postcard in the mail from Williams announcing a Landowner Workshop in a week stating their intention to acquire land rights from landowners in 2016 as they move forward with their appeal. People were angry and sad and emotions were running high with the people I spoke with. The calls started within minutes of people going to their mailboxes. A positive is that we really didn’t have time to drop our guard so we are still very organized and unified and are working to decide how we will jointly and collectively approach the workshop.