Jordan Cove ...‘The rest of the story’
One highlight of my early time in the media was my acquaintance with the late Paul Harvey. The conservative commentator escaped Chicago to spend part of the winter in suburban Phoenix, doing his daily shows on the ABC radio network from a home studio. As an affiliated station, we provided engineering assistance and Harvey would visit to express his thanks.
Harvey’s second daily show, “The Rest of the Story,” went beyond the usual news and sources. Having only been treated to the positive news about the proposed Jordan Cove export facility seen as an enhancement to western Colorado’s natural gas industry, I’ve wondered about another side. Turns out the “rest of the story” is easily found.
“There’s a pretty substantial organized opposition to this down here,” reporter Ted Sickinger with the Portland Oregonian, told me last week. “The business(es) and politicos in Coos Bay are supporters. Some folks want the jobs and tax revenue as it’s a very depressed community. Others are heavily opposed, think it’s a deal with the devil, etc. My impression is that opposition is pretty staunch along the 200-mile pipeline route.”
Sickinger has written that Jordan Cove is actually three projects, a gas liquification/storage facility, a power plant and a pipeline. Together they would amount to the largest construction project ($7.5 billion) in Oregon’s history. Some 2,200 high-wage jobs during the initial 42-month construction phase would later scale down to150 permanent operating jobs. A $400 million injection for community services is forecast over the first 20 years after construction starts — potentially positive impacts obviously welcome in an economically depressed area.
“The pieces fit nicely together on paper,” Sickinger wrote as the proposal took root. “But some residents say they’ve heard it all before, the Powerball reverie of a down-on-its-luck community that has had more than its share of economic pipe dreams.”
Some of that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Factors most often cited by opponents include 200-plus miles of new pipeline necessary to connect, via public and private lands, to the nearest gas hub on the other side of the coastal mountains. Others are environmental and social concerns.
Ranchers and other landowners aren’t happy about Veresen, a Canadian company, potentially forcing its way through private property via eminent domain. (How would that sit in Piceance Basin areas around Meeker if the worm was turned and a foreign company wanted to implant its pipeline over landowner objections?)
Others worry that the gas terminal will hamper efforts to build a more sustainable economy. Those include fishermen whose livelihoods depend on waters to be disrupted by heavy tanker traffic and construction sediment.
Realtors worry about tourism and the retiree market. There’s concern about short-term impacts of dealing with thousands of temporary workers and about building a 14-story facility on a geologically uncertain sand spit jutting into the bay.
“I am NOT a fanatical environmentalist,” Coos Bay resident Wim De Vriend wrote me, “... as a small businessman you can’t be against economic growth. In fact, I’m all for it, but thanks to schemes like Jordan Cove, we haven’t had any.”
According to De Vriend, Veresen has been “wasting our time” for more than a decade, first with an import facility and then, when that market flipped, with the export plan. “The worst part,” he said, “is that we’ve been in suspense now for 13 or 14 years, and just when we thought it was all over they started messing with us again. “
Another opponent, Jody McAffree, wonders if Colorado producers will really benefit when it’s all said and done.
“They (Veresen) have done a good snow job on small gas producers in Colorado and Wyoming while at the same time they have filed applications for exporting more gas from Canada than what their proposed Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline would even be able to transport,” she said.
“This is all about Jordan Cove’s attempting to obtain AMERICAN permits at the expense and risk of our local jobs in oyster farming, clamming, fishing, tourism, recreation, timber, ranching, etc, and Colorado jobs in the gas industry too.”
In the news business, there are sins of commission (“alternative facts”) and there are sins of omission (additional facts sometimes left unreported.) Just as Harvey once addressed the latter in his second daily commentary, perhaps exposure to “The Rest of the Story” is overdue here in western Colorado.