Author Archives: John Talberth

Citizen Groups Vow to Keep Pushing For Fossil Fuel Policy in Portland Despite LUBA Decision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Dan Serres, Columbia Riverkeeper, 503.890.2441, dan@columbiariverkeeper.org
Micah Meskel, Audubon Society of Portland, 503.481.5715, mmeskel@audubonportland.org
Nicholas Caleb, Center for Sustainable Economy, 541.891.6761, nick.caleb@sustainable-economy.org
Regna Merritt, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, 971.235.7643, regna@oregonpsr.org
Mia Reback, 350PDX, 310.717.7966, mia@350pdx.org

July 19, 2017 (Salem, OR) – Today, the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) ruled that Portland’s Fossil Fuel Terminal Zoning Amendments, passed unanimously in December of 2016, is inconsistent with the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Portland’s fossil fuel policy intended to prevent new major fossil fuel infrastructure projects in the City. LUBA dismissed many of the other arguments brought by the oil industry and the Portland Business Alliance against the City’s policy. LUBA’s ruling is likely to be appealed to the State Court of Appeals.

“While we are disappointed in the decision, we will work to secure a policy that protects Portland and our climate from reckless fossil fuel projects like coal and oil train terminals,” said Dan Serres, Conservation Director for Columbia Riverkeeper. “The people of Portland overwhelmingly supported this policy and strong climate action. We will not be dissuaded by the fossil fuel industry’s attempt to put our communities and climate at risk.”

“The Portland Business Alliance should be ashamed at their attempt to undercut Portland’s role as a leader in moving towards green energy and a safe community,” said Micah Meskel, Conservation Field Coordinator with the Audubon Society of Portland. “Although some of their members claim they to want to see the Paris Climate Accord upheld, the PBA chose to align itself with extreme fossil fuel interests. The people of Portland will continue to push against them to enact strong policy to protect our community.”

“It’s an absurd and incorrect conclusion that Portland is powerless to protect its residents from dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Nicholas Caleb, Staff Attorney at Center for Sustainable Economy. “We will continue to fight to make sure Portland’s residents and environment are protected from the risk of spills, explosions, derailments, and pollution that are inherent in the dirty practices of the fossil fuel industry.”

“While this decision is a temporary setback for the the health and safety of the most vulnerable among us – low-income communities, communities of color, children, and the elderly – we’ll continue work to implement bold actions and protect the climate that sustains us,” said Regna Merritt, Healthy Climate Director at Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.

“The grassroots will continue to fight to protect our communities and our climate. Preventing new fossil fuel infrastructure projects is the only known way to stop catastrophic climate change while protecting the health and safety of our local communities from dirty fossil fuels,” said Mia Reback, organizer with 350PDX. “We are committed to defending this policy and upholding municipalities’ ability to act.”

Resources:
Read the opinion here: 2017-001 Columbia Pacific BTC v. City of Portland
Portland Business Alliance members

Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Portland Audubon Society, Columbia Riverkeeper, and Center for Sustainable Economy are represented in this case by the Crag Law Center, a nonprofit public interest environmental law center.

 

John Talberth in front of US Capitol Building

GPI 2.0: States and Cities Can Lead the Way Beyond GDP

John Talberth in front of US Capitol BuildingIn a new study authored by Dr. John Talberth and Michael Weisdorf of Portland State University, CSE has demonstrated a new methodology for the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) that promises to accelerate its adoption by states and cities as a way to measure and promote economic wellbeing that takes into account income inequality, environmental degradation, and the benefits of public investments in human, social, built and natural capital. For over three decades, the GPI has been one of the most ubiquitously used alternatives to GDP, but persistent issues with its theoretical foundations, methods, and sources of data have kept its use in check.

At the 2017 US Society for Ecological Economics annual conference in St. Paul MN, Dr. Talberth and Mr. Weisdorf presented their new paper entitled GPI 2.0: Pilot Accounts for the United States, Maryland, and Baltimore. The paper was published in the journal Ecological Economics just prior to the conference. While many of the GPI 2.0 upgrades are difficult to understand without formal training in welfare economics, the end result is a new method that greatly enhances its usefulness to states and cities committed to sustainable development and growing their economies in ways that matter most to the wellbeing of their citizens.

Minnesota could very well be the next state to enroll the GPI towards this end. During the 2017 Legislative Assembly, Senator John Marty (DFL) and Representative Jennifer Schultz (DFL) teamed up to introduce legislation establishing the GPI as a metric maintained by University of Minnesota’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER). The bill would finance BBER’s calculation of the GPI and also require that the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget include the GPI along side other measures of state economic growth and wellbeing in its annual forecasts.

Momentum is growing to pass a revised version of this bill next year and have Minnesota join the ranks of Maryland, Vermont, Washington and Hawai’i as states exploring the GPI’s use as a litmus test for economic policy and performance. One of the GPI’s advantages over GDP is that it provides a way to accurately report the true benefits and costs of public investments in health care, education and the environment and other policies to advance the goals of sustainable development. GDP cannot do this because it is simply a gross measure of economic activity that says nothing about how that activity translates into household wellbeing. To operationalize this use of the GPI, a “GPI impact note” can be used in place of more conventional fiscal and economic impact notes prepared for proposed legislation. In 2014, CSE demonstrated the usefulness of the GPI note concept by applying it the proposal to lift Maryland’s minimum wages. The analysis documented that raising Maryland’s minimum wage to over $10/hour would generate net benefits in the range of $1.7 billion per year, chiefly as a result of increased spending by low to middle income households and reduced costs of inequality.

State and cities that adopt the GPI as a key economic metric will discover that it is a powerful tool for depoliticizing economic policy interventions and shifting the debate over such policies onto rational grounds in terms of metrics that matter rather than partisan rhetoric that serves no purpose other than to generate attention grabbing headlines. Now that a GPI 2.0 methodology is in place, CSE is eager to help Minnesota and other states move forward with this agenda.

Read:

Following Portland’s Lead, Seattle Calls for No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

CSE Staff Attorney Nick Caleb in front of Portland City Hall Photo credit: Mia Reback

On June 12, 2017, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution for no new fossil fuel infrastructure, in both the city of Seattle and urged the state of Washington, home to the nation’s largest proposed oil train terminal in Vancouver, WA, to do the same. Less than six months earlier, grassroots activists including many members of the Climate Action Coalition, in Portland, OR pushed the City of Portland to pass the strongest ordinance in the country calling for no new fossil fuel infrastructure.

The Sustainable Energy & Economy Network (SEEN), a project of the Oregon-based Center for Sustainable Economy, launched a campaign shortly after Portland passed its first resolution opposing new fossil fuel infrastructure in 2015 urging elected officials to support Portland’s resolution for no new fossil fuel infrastructure and a just transition for workers, and pledge to do the same in their jurisdictions. SEEN succeeded in getting 39 elected officials to sign and pledge to put in place similar restrictions in their jurisdictions.  Among the signatories in December 2015 was Seattle City Council Kshama Sawant.

The resolution that passed in Seattle was passed with the strong support from local activists with 350Seattle, among others, and specifically cited Portland’s fossil fuel terminal zoning amendments and commits Seattle to enforcing the Paris Climate Accords as an additional justification for their call for no new fossil fuel infrastructure. The resolution reads, in part: The City of Portland, OR, has passed an ordinance prohibiting the construction of all new fossil fuel projects in the City, and when passing the ordinance, Portland Mayor Hailes stated: ‘we can build part of a green wall on the West Coast by saying we aren’t going to have these facilities in our city.'”

“We worked very hard in Portland over several years to push our City Council to say no to new fossil fuel infrastructure. We hoped that others in our region and around the nation would follow suit,” said SEEN founder and CSE Climate Justice Program Director Daphne Wysham. “This is the kind of no nonsense, bottom-up, grassroots action and bold local leadership we need everywhere if we are to meet and exceed the terms of the Paris Accords. With record temperatures, violent storms and weather-related crop failure and drought around the world, we urgently need every city in the world to follow Portland’s example.”

“Seattle’s decision to call for Washington State to reject fossil fuel infrastructure proposals as well as investigating local code changes to prevent new projects locally is an extremely welcome development,” said CSE Staff Attorney Nick Caleb. “We will help Seattle however we can and we encourage other jurisdictions to join in and say no to new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

To support our work, join the SEEN activist network and help us take local action everywhere to uphold the Paris Accords, and push for an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure, throughout North America, visit www.seen.org For more information, write: info@sustainable-economy.org or visit www.nonewffi.org

CSE Hires Nicholas Caleb as Staff Attorney


For immediate release

May 22, 2017

For more information, contact Nick Caleb: 541-891-6761; Daphne Wysham: 202-510-3541


The Center for Sustainable Economy (“CSE”) announced today that Nicholas Caleb has joined the organization as CSE’s Staff Attorney. Caleb will provide legal and strategic support to CSE’s Climate Justice program in a full-time capacity.

Caleb comes to CSE after a stint as the Environmental Policy Analyst for Portland, OR City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. Caleb’s previous positions include: Staff Attorney at Neighbors for Clean Air, Local Climate Law Fellow at Our Children’s Trust, and adjunct professor of government at Concordia University.  Caleb also worked as a legal and policy fellow for CSE in the past.

Caleb also helped Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler develop an environmental strategy for the City of Portland during the 2016 election. Caleb received his law degree from the University of Oregon and his LL.M. from Tilburg University’s Law and Technology Program.

“Portland has put in place the strongest ordinance in the country banning all new fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Daphne Wysham, director of CSE’s Climate Justice Program.  “Nick was a key player in the grassroots coalition that worked hard to achieve this victory. We are thrilled to have his skillset in the mix as we develop a strategy for advancing climate justice campaigns at the state and local level, nationally.”


“I am excited to join CSE,” said Caleb. “The climate movement in the Pacific Northwest is on fire and I feel so lucky that I get to work on the campaigns and projects that will ensure a livable future on this planet.” 

CSE’s Climate Justice Program takes bold action around the urgent moral imperative of rapidly reducing our collective carbon footprint while ensuring our land use is sustainable for present and future generations. Specifically, we are working to ensure high value carbon sinks, such as old growth forests, are bolstered and expanded as rapidly as possible while ensuring that cities curtail all new fossil fuel export infrastructure as they advance a just transition agenda toward 100 percent clean, renewable energy. Please click here for examples of recent victories and achievements.

###

Ocean Acidification and Warming: The Economic Toll

In a new study authored by Dr. John Talberth and Ernie Niemi of Natural Resource Economics, CSE reviewed the economic consequences of ocean acidification and warming – the two most prominent effects of climate change on our oceans – and estimated what increment to the existing social cost of carbon (SCC) needs to be made to account for these damages. Preliminary results suggest that proper accounting of an economic risk that could approach $20 trillion per year by 2100 would raise SCC 1.5 to 4.7 times higher than the current federal rate, to $60–$200 per metric ton CO2-e. The study has been published online by Elsevier as part of their Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences.

Climate change has the potential to disrupt ocean and coastal ecosystems on a scale that is difficult to grasp. There are two interrelated processes at work: ocean acidification and ocean warming (OAW). Oceans have absorbed roughly half of all anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide. Acidification occurs as the absorption of CO2 triggers a series of chemical reactions that increase the acidity and decrease the concentration of carbonate ions in the water. So far, absorption of CO2 has increased acidity of surface waters by about 30% and, if current trends in atmospheric CO2 continue, by 2100 these waters could be nearly 150 percent more acidic, resulting in a pH that the oceans haven’t experienced for more than 20 million years. Among the dire predictions associated with acidification include dramatic reductions in populations of some calcifying species, including oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton – the latter effect putting the entire marine food chain at risk. Some models suggest that ocean carbonate saturation levels could drop below those required to sustain coral reef accretion by 2050.

The second process is ocean warming. The mechanisms of ocean warming are complex, and include heat transfer from the atmosphere, downwelling infrared radiation, stratification, reductions in mixing, changes in ocean currents, and changes in cloud cover patterns. Already, the global average sea surface temperature (SST) has risen by over 2.0 °F since the post-industrial revolution low point in 1909. Sea level rise is one of the most conspicuous effects with potentially catastrophic consequences. Models that account for collapse of Antarctic ice sheets from processes driven by both atmospheric and ocean warming indicate sea level rise may top one meter by 2100 and put vast areas of coastal infrastructure at risk.

Obviously, all these physical effects have enormous economic consequences, yet relatively little research has been completed to date on their expected magnitude, timing, and distribution. Indeed, as late as 2012, several prominent climate researchers concluded that economic assessments of the effects of ocean acidification “are currently almost absent.” To help fill in this information gap, we combed through all published research on OAW economic consequences, updated figures where needed, and made some original calculations of our own to estimate some plausible worst-case scenarios. These scenarios appear in Table 4, below. Alarmingly, they suggest that OAW costs could near $20 trillion per year by 2100 in association with a variety of dramatic impacts, such as loss of all charismatic marine species.

Table 4: Plausible worst-case scenarios and values at risk from OAW

Resource or service at risk Scenario Values at risk

($2016 billions/yr)

Net primary productivity Ocean net primary productivity reduced by 16% $9,232.00
Coral reefs Loss of at least 50% of current coral reef area $5,661.70
Coastal infrastructure Additional SLR of 3 meters via WAIS collapse $3,561.69
Charismatic species 25% of charismatic marine species go extinct $1,104.08
Carbon sequestration 50% loss of ocean CO2 uptake $641.16
Mangroves Loss of at least 15% of current mangrove area $287.42
Fisheries 400 million at significantly increased risk of hunger $245.74
Coastal ecosystems Marine dead zones expand in area by 50% $126.82

The relative lack of understanding about economic consequences has, in turn, translated into a lack of policy mechanisms and research focused on OAW. One of the policy mechanisms where OAW costs are notably absent is the social cost of carbon (SCC) – an increasingly popular regulatory tool for assessing both the costs of greenhouse gas emissions and the benefits of actions to limit emissions. Ostensibly, the SCC includes all known market and non-market costs, yet there are many categories missing or incomplete. One of the bigger holes is OAW and one of the justifications for its absence is the relative dearth of methods or data to quantify economic consequences and the assumption that such impacts are minor enough that society will be able to adapt. In the paper, we argue that such barriers need not restrain the government agencies participating in the SCC’s development and application from incorporating estimates for OAW based on the best available information and inclusive of high-impact but low probability scenarios – two factors that are baked into the regulatory framework for the SCC.

We do so by demonstrating three basic approaches rooted in standard microeconomic models of externalities, capital investment, and risk aversion. The first is based on federal agencies’ current approach for quantifying externalities from GHG emissions using the Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy (DICE) integrated assessment model and economic damage functions suggested by existing literature. The second is a replacement or adaptation cost approach, which views SCC as a current capital investment liability that can be amortized over the adaptation time horizon. The third is an averted-risk approach based on willingness to pay to eliminate the risk of catastrophic changes, an approach that seems most compatible with worst-case scenario requirements under existing law.

In the next phase of this work, the study will be presented to the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon and the National Academy of Sciences, who is conducting a review of SCC methods and accepting recommendations for changes in approaches and sources of information. If the SCC is to be an effective regulatory tool and send the right market signal to polluters it must be as complete as possible. By engaging with the IWG on how to best incorporate the enormous toll associated with ocean acidification and warming, we hope to help fill one of SCC’s most serious omissions.

Further reading:

 

Forest Carbon Tax and Reward: Creating more jobs and carbon in the woods.

Deforestation, forest degradation, and unsustainable forest practices are major drivers of climate change. Deforestation and other land-use changes have released approximately 150 gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere since 1850, roughly one-fifth of the current atmospheric total. The contributions from forest degradation (i.e. converting real forests into tree plantations) and unsustainable practices (i.e. those that cause irreversible damage to soils) are on the rise. Globally, emissions from forest degradation have increased from 0.4 to 1.0 gigatons CO2 per year between 1990 and 2015. In Oregon, emissions from deforestation and industrial forest practices are not monitored by any state or federal agency but are likely the scond largest source of greenhouse gas pollution each year.

A swift transformation to sustainable forest practices that halt and reverse deforestation and forest degradation has the potential to capture and store much of the excess carbon that is now fueling climate change. For example, climate scientist James E. Hansen has calculated that we can pull 100 billion tons of carbon from the air through large scale restoration of areas denuded by logging and agricultural expansion. This has the potential to reduce CO2 concentrations by 30 parts per million by 2100, which can make all the difference as to whether humanity achieves the 2° C warming cap established by international agreements or blows past that critical threshold.

As it has done in the past on so many other issues, Oregon can lead the way. It can do so by passing globally replicable legislation implementing a forest carbon tax and reward program to penalize clearcutting, chemical sprays, short rotations and construction of logging roads and dramatically scale up climate smart forest practices that enhance carbon sequestration and storage capacity of its state and privately managed forestlands.

Here’s how it would work: Forestland owners who release more carbon through logging than is sequestered by natural forests on their properties would be levied a tax equivalent to the social cost of carbon – roughly $42 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted – on these net emissions. However, forestland owners would receive credits against the levy for a wide range of beneficial practices that bolster carbon storage including long rotations, selective harvesting and set-asides for streams, wildlife, non-timber forest products, recreation, and other beneficial uses. In addition, forestland owners that embrace these practices would be eligible for generous payments from a Forest Carbon Incentive Fund (FCIF) capitalized by the tax and managed by the Department of Forestry in consultation with the Oregon Global Warming Commission. Many forestland owners would make money on this deal – in particular, good actors who know how to produce timber while leaving a real forest behind.

The revenue impacts of the proposed legislation have yet to be calculated. But a reasonable estimate is that the net (after credits and deductions) tax would generate $50 per thousand board foot harvested – equivalent to $120 million per year at current rates of harvest on industrial forestlands. Oregon’s Department of Forestry and the Oregon Global Warming Commission would keep what they need to fill in their budget holes and administer the tax and reward program. The rest (about $100 million) gets dispersed to forestland owners who agree to implement climate smart, labor intensive practices needed to boost carbon storage and transform Oregon’s private forest landscape from a veritable wasteland of clearcuts and logging roads into a green carpet of healthy, functioning, and naturally evolving forests. If managed well, Pacific Northwest forests have the potential to capture and store more carbon per acre than any other forest type on the planet. A forest carbon tax and reward program would help fulfill this potential and by doing so, create thousands of new jobs.

A typical multiplier for money spent in the woods paying workers to restore timber plantations back to real forests and implement other climate smart practices is about 60 direct and induced jobs per million dollars invested. That’s 6,000 jobs per year associated with FCIF payments of about $100 million per year. Not a bad deal for skilled forest workers. And a welcome shot in the arm for distressed rural communities searching for ways to decouple from the booms and busts of industrial, high emissions logging cycles.

Time is running out on the climate time bomb. One of the great contributions Oregon can make on the global stage is to recruit its state and privately held forestlands into its climate agenda, help restore the world’s most effective carbon sink, and create thousands of jobs in doing so. The Oregon Legislature and Governor Brown would do well to provide such leadership by enacting forest carbon tax and reward legislation this year.

Further reading:

Feds Deny LNG Export Through Oregon – Developer Turns to Trump

nolng-salem_dsl-rally-11-14_12-copy-2

Students rally in opposition to the LNG pipeline at the Oregon state capitol. Photo: Rick Rappaport.

by Ted Gleichman

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has conclusively rejected the only remaining US West Coast plan to ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Canada and the Rockies to Asia. On December 9, 2016, FERC commissioners announced that they had again voted unanimously, 3-0, to refuse federal approval for the $7.6 billion Jordan Cove Energy Project export terminal and the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline (PCGP).

Jordan Cove and PCGP are owned by Veresen, Inc., a mid-sized Canadian fossil fuel company trying to use LNG export to catapult into the ranks of the energy big-leagues. On December 15, Jordan Cove announced that they expect that Trump appointees to FERC will reverse the decision, so they intend to restructure the project and reapply for federal approval.

Here’s why Veresen thinks that could work:

FERC is chartered for five members serving five-year terms, and they must be divided between the two major parties (or unaffiliated). Two Republican appointees have completed their terms and those seats are vacant. The three remaining commissioners are all Democrats appointed by President Obama. Because of Senate GOP refusals to consider Administration appointees, the White House did not propose anyone to fill the two GOP vacancies. (Obviously, the expectation was that the Hillary Clinton administration would find two moderate Republicans, to be considered by a Senate that seemed likely to be controlled by Democrats.)

The Trump team will nominate for these two vacancies, and select one of those two to become FERC chair. Presumably, that will happen sometime in the first half of 2017. Then, one of the current Democratic commissioners completes her term June 30. When that vacancy is filled by Trump, his people will constitute a majority. By mid-2019, all five members will be Trump appointees.

FERC’s original ruling against this fracked-gas export project came March 11, 2016, in a 4-0 vote – even the last GOP commissioner opposed Jordan Cove and PCGP. The December 9 decision denied Veresen requests to reopen the federal approval process.

This is FERC’s first-ever LNG export rejection. The agency is funded through back-charging its costs as fees to the energy industry, so it is considered a zero-budget entity for the overstressed federal budget process. FERC is notorious for its easy approvals of dirty fossil fuel projects, making this two-part verdict all the more striking.

FERC’s unprecedented double denial needs to be seen through the frame of an 11-year coordinated grassroots campaign. Dozens of organizations, supporting hundreds of outraged landowners along the pipeline route, have brought together thousands of people all over Oregon to fight this LNG terminal and pipeline.

The pipeline would run 232 miles across four counties in southwest Oregon, slashing a clearcut the width of an interstate highway across two mountain ranges, five rivers, and 400-plus wetlands and waterways. It would terminate at the Pacific Ocean in Coos Bay, in a fragile estuary inlet. There, the largest dredging project in Oregon coastal history would reconstruct a sand spit for a massive industrial plant – destroying oyster beds and fisheries.

The plan FERC rejected required a massive new 420-megawatt gas-fired power plant, solely dedicated to Jordan Cove, to cool the fracked gas to minus-261 degrees Fahrenheit, liquefying it for tanker shipping across the Pacific. That plant would have been the largest single carbon emitter in Oregon.

But along with announcing that they would reapply to FERC, Veresen pulled their request to Oregon to approve the new power plant. They said that they would build gas turbines within the liquefaction plant to cool the gas. This may be cheaper for them to construct, but may emit even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  We’ll be watching as they put out new detailed plans.

All this is planned for the most dangerous earthquake and tsunami zone in North America, the Cascadia subduction zone. The region is overdue for a earthquake that is guaranteed to be the largest in U.S. history. The Cascadia fault lines crack at a minimum of Magnitude 8, and can exceed Magnitude 9. The earthquake zone ruptures on an average of every 250 years; the last time was 317 years ago, in 1700. The tsunami wiped out every Indigenous coastal village from Northern California to Vancouver Island.

Veresen has presented itself to Oregon stakeholders and elected officials as an inevitable success. Financially, though, Jordan Cove and PCGP are arguably the weakest of some three dozen multi-billion dollar North American LNG export facilities, proposedapproved, or already operating.

FERC rejected Veresen’s plans because the company has no guaranteed contracts to sell the fracked gas overseas. Developers must show a so-called “public benefit” for the people of the United States, and FERC defines that to be determined by approval by the market: If a developer can sell a planned fossil fuel product, they’re good to go. FERC had warned the Calgary-based company for years that guaranteed contracts would be critical for permission to move ahead, with specific requests for progress reports – but got back only vague promises that Veresen was unable to fulfill.

That bottom line requirement was compounded by Veresen’s dismal record in negotiating construction easements from hundreds of landowners along the pipeline route. By the March 11 denial, PCGP could show FERC easements from only 10% of ranchers, farmers, and other private-sector landowners.

img_5551

Most land owners along the proposed pipeline route rare challenging the notion that eminent domain should be given to a foreign corporation that intends to export the gas. Photo: Ted Gleichman

FERC has the power to authorize eminent domain against landowners. This controversial and destructive tool in fracked-gas pipeline development has led to bitter struggles all over the country. Developers typically have to negotiate about 80 percent consent by affected landowners before FERC is comfortable authorizing eminent domain against hold-out landowners and local communities. Forced deprivation of property rights is no small matter.

Along the PCGP route, landowners and their environmentalist supporters have fought back hard, pledging resistance. According to FERC, the refusal of this enormous majority of landowners along a pipeline route to sign on was unprecedented. In the March 11 and December 9 announcements, FERC detailed deep concern about using unheard-of levels of eminent domain against 90 percent of private landowners for a project that could not demonstrate a “public benefit.”

The most difficult public issue for project opponents has of course been jobs. The developer can claim accurately that billions of dollars of equipment manufacturing and project construction will generate thousands of temporary living-wage jobs. But jobs that ravage communities and public lands and contribute massively to climate change are not “good” jobs. So simultaneously, we consistently advocate for genuine good jobs, sustainable jobs, converting our state to clean energy and rebuilding our infrastructure for earthquake preparedness and other urgent needs.

As Veresen showed with the announcement that they will now rely on Trump, the battle is not over. It will take the company several months to assemble a new application for FERC and other agencies; that will launch a renewed environmental impact statement (EIS) process. Veresen contends that their September 2015 Final EIS from FERC is still valid, but that is public spin.  It still exists, for a project that has been denied, like an obsolete law.  They can recycle much of it for their new application, but big pieces of it are obsolete – or were environmentally-flawed when written. Oregon continues to process state permit requests, but our coalition is fighting those effectively too.

For now, some 12 years since this Canadian company came to Oregon, Veresen has no clear path to construction: FERC has taken them off the federal map. Even a Trump-controlled FERC has to follow the law – although we can expect them to push against their legal obligations. We will push back at each step in a federal process that would likely take two years to get to another FERC decision. In the meantime, we will triumph over them in local and state decision-making.

In a country filled with critically-important fights to “Keep It In the Ground,” this battle is one of the most consequential. One way or another, grassroots Oregonians are going to continue to defeat dirty, dangerous fossil fuels and build the just transition.

Activists and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales standing with a "Break Free from Fossil Fuels" banner.

This City Just Banned Virtually All New Dirty-Energy Infrastructure

nnffi_12-14-16-vote_-10_finalcrop_flat-copy

Portland activists celebrate with Mayor Hales (in tie) the passage of the City ordinance opposing all new fossil fuel infrastructure. Photo: Rick Rappaport.

Feds Deny LNG Export Project Permit, Again, in Oregon


For Immediate Release

December 12, 2016

For more information, contact Ted Gleichman, political advisor, Center for Sustainable Economy: 503-781-2498tedgleichman@mac.com

(Portland, OR) A massive natural gas export project aimed at the Oregon coast is on life support after the federal government ruled against it late Friday afternoon, December 9, 2016.  The Jordan Cove Energy Project, a $7.6 billion terminal and pipeline plan to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asia from Canada and the Rockies, was refused by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  The first-ever rejection of federal permits for an LNG export project came in the wake of an 11-year coordinated grassroots campaign against this LNG terminal and pipeline in southern Oregon.

“We’ve been fighting this project for more than a decade,” said Ted Gleichman, a political advisor to the Center for Sustainable Economy. “Thousands of people working together are defeating billions of dirty, dangerous fossil fuel dollars. This is the first victory where FERC ruled in our favor.”

nolng-salem_dsl-rally-11-14_12-copy

Photo credit: Rick Rappaport

FERC rejected the Canadian developer, Veresen Inc., because of its inability to get guaranteed contracts to sell the fracked gas overseas, though FERC had warned the company for years that this would be critical for their permission to move ahead. That market failure was compounded by Veresen’s dismal record in negotiating easements from hundreds of landowners along the 234-mile pipeline route to Coos Bay, Oregon.  FERC objected to unprecedented levels of eminent domain requirements that would hit landowners and local communities if the pipeline and terminal were approved. Ranchers, farmers, and other landholders had pledged to resist the claims of eminent domain on the 234-mile route of Oregon land the pipeline would need to cross. The company can still go to court against FERC, or reapply, but for now the only LNG export plan for the U.S. West Coast has no clear path to completion. “We are going to defeat their Oregon state permits too, then we will work for genuine good jobs in clean energy and rebuilding the clean infrastructure we all need,” said Gleichman.

 

 

###

New Policy Innovation Would Force Fossil Fuel Companies to Pay for Their Risky Behavior

For Immediate Release

June 3, 2016

 

Press calls: Dr. John Talberth, president and senior economist, CSE: 510-384-5724

(Portland, OR) Hours after an oil train car derailment near the Columbia River in Mosier, OR, with at least one oil tank car on fire, it was too soon to tell how much this accident would cost: In first responders’ time and resources, in time missed from school for elementary students and their teachers in nearby Mosier Elementary School, in hours of delays as I-84 was shut down, in public health costs from the thick plume of smoke that could be seen from miles away, in evacuations for nearby residents.

A recent study produced by the Washington Attorney General’s Office found that a worst case scenario oil train tanker spill on the Columbia River could cost more than $170 million in damages.  These costs too often have the taxpayer picking up the tab, not the polluter because insurance coverage is only available for minor accidents.  A recent study produced by the Center for Sustainable Economy (CSE), “Fossil Fuel Risk Bonds: Making Polluters Pay for the Climate Crisis,” has found that fossil fuel companies are passing on huge financial risks to taxpayers, and politicians are simply turning their backs on the problem instead of holding those companies accountable.

At each stage of the fossil fuel product life cycle, taxpayers are increasingly burdened with a litany of costs associated with oil train derailments such as the one in Mosier, fracking-induced earthquake swarms, pipeline explosions, abandoned infrastructure, water pollution and, of course, the costs of climate change. Fossil fuel risk bond programs – a policy innovation proposed by CSE  – can help reverse this glaring inequity by shifting the economic risk back where it belongs: on the polluters.

As set forth in CSE’s new report, fossil fuel risk bond programs are systematic efforts that state and local governments can take to evaluate and respond to the financial risks they face at each stage of the fossil fuel lifecycle in their jurisdictions. The benefits could be huge for states, counties, and cities struggling with rising fossil fuel disaster-related and climate-related costs with no clear way to pay for them.

While helping to place the burden of payment where it belongs, on the risky industry, fossil fuel risk bond programs provide a way to ramp up the funding necessary to put scores of people to work – including displaced oil, gas, and coal workers – while ramping down fossil fuel consumption, decommissioning obsolete fossil fuel infrastructure, restoring mines, oil platform sites, and gas well pads back into a natural condition and implementing climate adaptation projects to help make communities safe in the face climate disasters.

For more, please visit our website here: http://sustainable-economy.org/fossil-fuel-risk-bonds-making-polluters-pay-for-the-climate-crisis/