Update: it now looks like the vote on the anti-LNG amendment to HB 2700 will probably be put off at least another week. Hopefully that gives committee members even more time to think about the reasons why LNG is a bad deal for Oregon.
Ok, Democratic state senators: Oregon’s small landowners and green businesses need you. Next week the Senate Business, Transportation, and Economic Development Committee will vote on a bill amendment that would prevent fast-tracking of permits for destructive liquefied natural gas pipelines. When that happens, the three Democrats on the committee (Ginny Burdick, Chris Edwards, and Committee Chair Lee Beyer) will have a chance to show Oregonians they’re prepared to stand up to giant energy companies that want to make our state a throughway for LNG.
The amendment in question applies to House Bill 2700, a bill passed by the House which is now making its way through the Senate. HB 2700 would make it easier for infrastructure projects like sidewalks and waterlines to obtain permits they need to move forward—arguably a worthy goal that helps municipalities. However as currently written the bill also streamlines permitting for giant energy infrastructure like LNG pipelines. That’s a problem, and sometime next week the Business, Transportation, and Economic Development Committee will have a chance to fix it.
Why should LNG pipelines be treated differently from smaller local infrastructure? For one thing, a major gas pipeline has a much bigger negative impact on local economies than these smaller projects. I mean, when was the last time you heard about a small farmer being put out of business by a sidewalk? As I’ve written before, LNG pipelines will hurt Oregon agriculture and our natural resources while displacing clean energy. It just makes sense that a project this big should have to jump through more hoops than the sidewalk your local government wants to build.
Secondly, LNG companies aren’t public works projects like a municipal sidewalk. The Oregon LNG pipeline in northern Oregon, the Pacific Connector pipeline off of Coos Bay, and other pieces of proposed LNG infrastructure are pushed by giant energy corporations, in some cases come from out of state. These companies are seeking first and foremost to make a profit, and should have to work hard to prove their proposals are justified. That’s why an amendment to HB 2700 that excludes LNG-related pipelines makes good sense.
Fast-tracking LNG goes against Oregon progressive values—but conservative Republicans have also opposed the idea, on the grounds that landowner property rights are under threat. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jason Atkinson, the relevant committee’s Republican vice-chair, decided to support excluding LNG from HB 2700. Though I don’t know Atkinson’s specific position on this bill, his prior stances on energy and the fact that his district is impacted by an LNG pipeline make me suspect he can’t be a big fan of LNG. If all three committee Democrats vote in favor of an amendment, and are joined by at least one Republican, they could stop a well-meaning piece of legislation from being used to fast-track LNG.
If this happens it will be a victory for Oregon landowners, the clean energy economy, and progressive values. This is a clear case where lawmakers can side with the little people over large fossil fuel corporations, sending a signal to their constituents that they really do care. Here’s hoping Lee Beyer, Chris Edwards, and Ginny Burdick are ready to do the right thing.