HB 3058 Fast Track for LNG an Irresponsible Choice

Jonathan Poisner

As OLCV works in the state capitol every day, we’re not surprised to see a Texas energy company lobbying the Legislature to pass House Bill 3058, a bill to fast-track the siting of liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipelines. What is surprising is that the Oregon Legislature is taking the bill seriously.

A little context: Since Washingtonians and Californians have rejected efforts to site LNG terminals and pipelines in their states, dealers of fossil fuels have focused on Oregon, hoping to take advantage of us as a weak link.

Hopefully, our Legislators will see the effort for what it is: a power play to run roughshod over Oregon's coastline, farms, and forests to ship dirty gas to California.

Over the past several years, pro-LNG folks have argued that Oregon needs more gas and that LNG is the solution. Of course the LNG companies claim we need more of the foreign fossil fuels they sell. But the facts prove otherwise.

More polluting, more volatile, and more expensive -- LNG is an irresponsible choice for Oregonians.

Opposition to LNG has brought together diverse groups from all over the state, from Oregon's farm bureaus and conservationists, to our wood lot owners and property rights advocates. We all understand that LNG terminals and pipelines would significantly damage our agricultural economy, our forests, our timberland, our rivers, and our climate.

And to make matters worse, LNG proponents even admit that it produces at least 26% more greenhouse gas emissions than domestic gas over its lifetime. In a time where we need to dramatically reduce our global warming pollution, LNG is a giant steps backwards.

Furthermore, depending on LNG threatens our energy independence, as 60% of the world’s gas reserves are in Russia, Iran, and Qatar – not exactly the countries we should build our energy future on. Much of the world’s LNG comes from Russia. Just this January, Russia cut off its gas supplies to Ukraine over a dispute, threatening the energy security of eighteen European countries. There are other sources, but these three countries will dominate the market.

The Legislature needs to stop House Bill 3058 in its tracks. The bill would allow out-of-state LNG corporations like NorthernStar to get dredge and fill permits on Oregonians’ land without their permission, and waste state agency time processing permits that may never be used.

There simply is no need to streamline the siting of damaging, dirty, expensive LNG facilities to serve California's energy demands. The slick claims of Texas energy companies like Enron fooled us once. If they fool us again, we will only have ourselves to blame.

Comments

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)
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    This post is a great example of the narrow selfish thinking that is going to keep us in an energy crisis.

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    I agree with Jonathan.

    The point of this bill is to allow third parties to develop permitting plans that include land that they do not own or for which they have not gotten the consent of the landowner. These pre-approvals may then be used as supporting evidence to justify the condemnation of private property.

    Oregon's current process, which requires the consent of landowners before such plans can be made involving their property serves the state well by protecting the rights and interests of local landowners, and indeed all parties.

    This bill tips the balance away from local landowners and in favor of a handful of powerful private corporations. I don't see that as a good direction for Oregon, and I hope that this bill dies in committee.

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    I should mention that opposition to this bill is not just from the environmental community. The farmers in my community are also strongly opposed.

    One look at what has happened in the current legislative session, where Idaho Power made plans to site high voltage power lines through some of the most productive agricultural land in Eastern Oregon, and on view sheds for the Oregon trail without (at least initially) taking into account the concerns of affected local communities provides a good case study for the kinds of conflicts that are likely to arise if this bill passes that could otherwise be averted.

  • Rob (unverified)
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    Natural gas pricing is constrained by the pipelines connecting fixed wells (in Canada, for the NW) with fixed location customers. The gas has no where else to go. The intent of moving LNG by ship is to create an Enron-style commodities market in which money can be made by trading on volatility, as is done today with oil. Once a terminal is sited, connected to gas pipelines and equipped with a liquification plant it can import and export gas which is traded on the open market.

    Just about every US LNG "import terminal" is being converted today to export.

    Money can be made exporting cheap Canadian gas from Oregon pipelines and importing expensive gas from Indonesia, Qatar, Russia, Algeria and others. To import LNG, Oregon will be competing on the open market with Japan and South Korea, major LNG importers prepared to pay a much higher price.

    Literally Enron-II.

  • Gayle Kiser (unverified)
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    It is surprising that the Legislature is even considering a bill that would help LNG companies. LNG is incredibly unpopular in Oregon – the simple fact that the LNG-related pipelines would clearcut a 40-mile swath across the Mt Hood National Forest is reason enough to oppose LNG. Add to that all the other impacts discussed and this seems like a real stinker for the public. I’d be very surprised if this even gets a hearing.

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    It goes beyond them, too, Sal! Engineers, businesses, etc., etc., are all against LNG in Oregon. A bad proposal all around.

  • amy harwood (unverified)
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    Thanks for this post, Jonathan. One thing to add is the impacts that the proposed pipelines have on our national forests. Forty-seven miles of the Palomar Pipeline would leave a highway-width clearcut through Mt. Hood National Forest. It is proposed to cross wild rivers, through old-growth forests and over several popular hiking trails. A lot of people keep asking us at Bark, how is that legal? Well, its not. The pipeline companies are also putting the hard press on the Forest Service to CHANGE bedrock environmental rules for the pipelines to be built. Such as clearcutting old-growth. And logging on steep slopes. As one of our volunteers said recently, "If this was a logging project, it would be illegal. Why do the gas companies get special treatment?"

  • Destiny (unverified)
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    Thanks for the post, Jonathan. The evidence seems clear.

    I am amazed that our legislators would consider something that is so widely unpopular across the state. If there is so much evidence against LNG and no voter support, what is their motivation?

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    Gayle - the bill had one hearing already and moved out of its first committee. It is having another this Friday in the House Rules Committee.

    If you'd like to write/call your Representative and Senator, please do!

  • Jägermeister (unverified)
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    Not to mention that the stuff is EXTREMELY dangerous to transport by tanker as well.

  • OnemuleTeam (unverified)
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    I agree to a point.

    I'd point out however, that the domestic supply is not relevant if it is not developed. Concerns over the salinization of important watersheds in the intermountain west prevent extraction of natural gas. I don't want to see many domestic sources tappedbasedon environmental concerns.

    Secondly, natural gas is dirty compared to some sources of power but is far superior to coal fired generation. Coal accounts for 13 percent of our regional power supply but 87 percent of the grids greenhouse gas emmissions. By contrast, Natural gas accounts for 9 percent of power and 13% of emmissions. It makes sense in my mind to replace our coal firm energy resource with natural gas fired plants as the region transitions to other more integrated base load sources such geothermal, solar, hydrogen, etc.

    As far as fast tracking the citing of the pipeline, well I agree with you there. that is where I have no issue

  • Gayle Kiser (unverified)
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    Onemuletrain, we seem to agree to a point. However, using natural gas for electrical generation is the least effective manner of utilizing gas. What we need to be talking about is decentralization of power, let each homeowner take advantage of solar or wind power and feed the excess back into the grid. But the power companies will never support that, after all they can't control the wind and sun as they now control the fossil fuels that threaten our planet. As for this cockamamie bill, why should we make a special allowance for "linear projects" (pipelines) to abrogate the rights of citizens to control their property?

  • Dan (unverified)
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    I agree that domestic gas brings with it many concerns. However, these concerns are simply outsourced if we turn to LNG. There is no need for LNG, even for those who perceive a need for more natural gas. If we turn to LNG, we further our dependence on foreign fuels and allow our gas to come from areas where environmental, labor, and human rights standards are weaker.

    HB 3058 is for and by the LNG industry. They've requested it, and it would place a huge and unnecessary burden on Oregonians facing LNG-related pipelines. There are over 600 miles of pipelines in Oregon that directly depend on LNG development. These are redundant, unnecessary projects that are putting Oregonians' lives on hold while they wait to see the process play out. HB 3058 would increase the pressure on landowners by allowing companies seeking LNG terminals and pipelines to pull permits on their farms and forestlands without their permission. It's a bad idea, pure and simple, unless you are an LNG company.

    Here are a few stories that detail more about the shift away from the perception that LNG is needed to meet natural gas demand. Now is not the time to invest in hundreds of millions - or billions - of dollars in foreign fossil fuel infrastructure. The real debate should be about these domestic supplies, and whether we can move away from fossil fuels to avoid expanding these drilling operations.

    From Natural Gas Intelligence:

    California Officials Say Demand, LNG Sinking in Gas Outlook

    Economic declines, renewable energy and efficiency growth and ultimately greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions controls all are pushing down natural gas demand in the near term in California and further pushing back the need for liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports, according to a California Energy Commission (CEC) gas staff analyst reporting Monday to a joint meeting of the CEC and California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

    One indicator of the dramatic increase in domestic U.S. gas supplies and dampening of demand is the fact Sempra Energy now has told the CEC it does not expect any meaningful shipments of LNG to its new Costa Azul receiving terminal along the Pacific Coast of North Baja California, Mexico, until late next year.

    "A lot of this is attributable to the slowing economic conditions as it continues to dampen the demand for natural gas, even in the electric generation sector," said CEC gas analyst Randy Roesser. "We're looking at a 0.2% decline in industrial demand for natural gas in 2009 due to the weakening U.S. economy."

    A complementary presentation from CPUC gas expert Richard Myers painted an optimistic picture of capacity coming into the state now and in the future greatly exceeding expected demand, which for the long term into 2030 is expected to be basically flat, according to the latest projections from the state's major gas utilities.

    "Expected new interstate pipelines in 2011 [will] provide major access for California to low-priced Rockies supplies, diversify supply access and improve reliability," Myers told the commissioners. In response to the utilities' forecast for flat long-term demand, Myers said energy efficiency and renewable programs have a "significant impact in moderating demand," along with impact from GHG emission reduction efforts.

    Both Myers and Roesser attribute lower current gas prices to several factors: increased domestic production, lower oil prices and the economic downturn; also, dampened demand due to energy efficiency and renewables; excess interstate and intrastate transmission pipeline capacity; and expected significant additional interstate pipeline capacity in the next few years. There also are new storage fields and expanded existing ones in California, along with the potential for biogas providing a promising new source of supply and help in GHG emissions control; and a new LNG receiving terminal on Mexico's west coast.

    With expectations for continued increases in the amounts of nontraditional gas being produced throughout the Lower 48 in the United States, overall U.S. supplies are expected to rise in 2009 despite continued decreases in Canadian and LNG imports, Roesser said. "Lower 48 non-Gulf-of-Mexico supplies are expected to increase 10% this year." Low prices and negative credit markets are expected to cut this growth substantially in 2009 to about 2%, he said.

    Roesser called it the "best and worst of times" for natural gas -- continued technological advances have increased exploration and production domestically, but negative financial and economic elements are sapping demand.

    LNG imports are expected to stay well below the record levels of 2007, Roesser said, attributing this to a combination of increasing global demand, declining gas production in Europe, slowing of new LNG liquefaction capacity coming on-line and lower domestic prices. The Sempra LNG terminal is now on-line, but the company recently said "they don't expect active shipments coming to the West Coast until late 2009."

    "The U.S. natural gas industry has a history of boom-and-bust cycles, but this current supply growth is different -- it represents a new resource that could impact the natural gas market for decades," Roesser said. "It is not likely to be a boom-and-bust cycle. All the estimates are pointing northward; everything is growing."

    Other interesting articles:

    Wall Street Journal. LNG was “Bad Call.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123378467642449289.html

    Gas Glut Hampers Canadian LNG Development - http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2009/05/20/nb-lng-tankers-canaport-559.html

    LNG Projects Fade as Need Diminishes – Thomas Elias - http://www.presstelegram.com/opinions/ci_11546666

  • Anonymous (unverified)
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    What's funnier -- the idea that LNG businesses are going to invest millions (and create Oregon jobs) for energy for which "there is no need" -- or that OLCV would care if they did?

    Every time OLCV moutpieces try to talk economics, and how we need to save these companies from themselves, it just gets funnier.

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    If a need for LNG lines through private property and national forest can be proven conclusively, then we should git 'er dun.

    Regarding the horrendously "dangerous" terminal, I'd have to see examples of these things immolating citizens in locations where they already exist.

    Bottom line though, goes to Sal. Imminent domain should not be used to provide private corporations (humans under the law) from trampling the rights of other humans or groups of humans (the commons) without our collective informed consent.

    If we must condemn land for common use, it is the government that should be the builder and maintainer of such infrastructure.

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    Anonymous:

    On the demand/need in Oregon we cited outside professionals, including the Department of Energy.

    It may indeed be profitable to bring dirty gas through Oregon to places like California, where energy is significantly more expensive.

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    If anyone wants to dig very deeply into this issue, I suggest my post The Green Argument For LNG. The debate on the issue was rich and convincing. In fact, I was ultimately persuaded that a rush to LNG is unwarranted and I now oppose it.

    (If that link doesn't work, you could use our search feature and search "LNG.")

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    Evan Manvel said:

    Gayle - the bill had one hearing already and moved out of its first committee. It is having another this Friday in the House Rules Committee.

    Fascinating how this bill can get rushed right through Rules but the Metolius bill (HB3100) languishes. Interesting priorities from leadership.

  • OnemuleTeam (unverified)
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    Kinda makes it hard to tell the blue from the red.

  • Colandrio (unverified)
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    Some of the above comments need to be repeated.. Pat Ryan: "If we must condemn land for common use, it is the government that should be the builder and maintainer of such infrastructure." The question of priorities in a Demo controlled legislature; and the above comment about telling Red from Blue.

    If it isn't obvious to all by now, there is little difference between the Dems and Repubs but there is little mention of the Green Party and the possibilities that lie there untapped by the majority of the left. Repubs becoming Dems, but where do the left go? We were sold Obama as being a Socialist, but, of course, bait and switch is the name of the game.

  • Greg D. (unverified)
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    Right or wrong, my perception of the typical anti-LNG activist is that today they will oppose LNG, next week they will oppose wind turbines in the Gorge, the week after that they will oppose construction of a gas pipeline to bring natural gas to Oregon from Canada, the week after that they will oppose construction of new power tranmission lines across Eastern Oregon, and the week after that, who knows.

    I respect the proponents of LNG as offering what appears to be one reasonable alternative to coal. I am sure there are others. Perhaps LNG is not the perfect solution, but I find it hard to believe it is the Great Satan that many of you claim.

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    Greg D: Your perception of activists is exactly what pro-LNG folks want you to think. They've spent a lot of money trying to smear those who are opposed to LNG.

    Read the Northwest Energy Coalition report about how we can meet our energy needs, and let us know what you think.

  • Greg D. (unverified)
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    Evan

    I am familiar with the NW Energy coalition, and strongly support conservation and renewable energy. I respectfully disagree with the conclusion that the NW energy demand can be met solely through these measures, and I have some significant reservations about the potential negative environmental consequences of large scale biomass or geothermal projects.

    Is the green / anti-LNG community willing to have a discussion regarding which form of base load generation (coal, natural gas, LNG, nuke, other) that they would find to be the least harmful alternative? If yes, then I again ask whether LNG is being unfairly demonized as compared with the alternatives. I can see why the people living in Warrenton or Bradford or on the Washington side of the river do not want these facilities in their back yard, in the same manner that I don't want garbage transfer stations or slaughter houses or crematoria in my back yard. But for the rest of us who are interested in energy policy, why is LNG the worst possible alternative? It does not make sense to me.

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    I don't think anyone's said LNG is the worst possible. But it's bad, and unnecessary.

    LNG has a much higher carbon footprint than domestic natural gas. If we have 119 years of supply of domestic gas, why would we increase our global warming pollution by at least 26% (and a carbon footprint equal to coal if the LNG is shipped from the Atlantic Basin)?

    Climate change is real, and incredibly serious. And a new comprehensive MIT study found it's likely to be significantly worse than we thought.

    So you don't find the choices NW Energy Coalition made about our comprehensive energy future compelling. But they were willing to make those choices.

    In the case of this bill, it's a pretty simple question: is LNG worse than other feasible alternatives? And all the evidence I've seen is yes.

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    I don't think we even need to have the pro/con argument about LNG. You can be for it or against it and still be against this bill.

    Why should we allow them to go in, do all the pre-construction work for how/why a LNG pipeline should go through someone's property (without asking that landowner's permission) and then use the fact that they did all that work as a reason why the land should be condemned so the pipeline can go through.

    Also, I didn't realize that the ability to create new jobs must mean that any project coming through must be ok. Then I guess we need to legalize prostitution and brothels; legalize the making, selling, and possession of drugs; make it legal for anyone to come on your property and take/leave fill, cut down your trees, etc. without your permission, etc.

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    Jenni has it right.

    I happen to believe that the gain of these projects do not outweigh the cost, but do not agree with those who would demonize some of these legislators for supporting the projects given that they will yield hundreds of family wage jobs.

    That said, I do not agree that the folks pushing for this bill deserve special consideration from the legislature on the grounds that they don't want to work with Oregon's existing permitting framework.

    These changes will tip the balance away from Oregon landowners and in favor of these companies, and I just don't believe that it's warranted, particularly for a project that lacks public support.

  • Greg D. (unverified)
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    Jenni, I agree with concerns regarding the process, although I do find it somewhat ironic that suddenly BlueOregon contributors are concerned about private property rights.

    My bottom line is that private and local and state considerations may need to be sacrificed in order to achieve a NATIONWIDE energy policy going forward. That probably means having FERC make these decisions rather than allowing local or state groups stand in the way of a NATIONAL policy. Many of us - including me - spent a lot of time, money and energy to elect Obama. I would now like to turn control of these matter to him and his administration, knowing that if he fails (or pisses too many people off), we can throw him out in 2012 and elect somebody else.

    Happy Memorial Day Everyone! Go Camping!

  • billy (unverified)
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    CO2 is not pollution. It is nectar. That is no different than saying that money is the mother's milk of politics. Decide, which is it? BO really wants it both ways. Well, you can't have it both ways! Do you want folks to keep writing checks, or the leg. to make responsible choices about the environment? Yup. The check.

    Happy Memorial Day Everyone! Go Camping!

    Another good example of liberal hypocrisy. Please do explain to me how one does that without a motor vehicle? You've actually designed Tri-Met routes so that it isn't possible, out of fear of street people using the facitilites!

    Admit it. You talk up bike travel and alternatives, but when the rhetoric is over and life gets real, you hop in the car and do just what I will be doing this week-end. You think the dirty, sweaty, bike commuting hippies on here will be? OK. Maybe they will. Most are hypocrites.

    Thanks, JK

  • lcmartin (unverified)
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    Well said! Thank you. I don't think that Oregon legislators realize the profound implications of this bill or the profound implications of these massive terminals, ships, pipelines. Everything about this project is massive including the hedge fund venture capitalist, MatlinPatterson, that is bankrolling Bradwood Landing. For some very interesting recent financial news, Google "MatlinPatterson Global and TARP."

    Other notable information: According to the LA Times, Joe Desmond, NorthernStar's (Bradwood) Senior VP for External Affairs and chief lobbying agent in Oregon, was rejected by the California Senate: "Desmond is the former chairman of the California Energy Commission — which recently released a report calling for more LNG supply — but Desmond's job there ended when the state Senate refused to confirm him. Lawmakers thought he was too sympathetic to building coal-fired power plants and favored deregulation of the energy industry. Schwarzenegger then appointed him as undersecretary of energy affairs in the Resources Agency." http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/politicalmuscle/2006/11/new_job_for_gov.html

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    As a note, the House Rules Committee passed this bill out on a 6-2 vote on Friday.

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