Is LNG the New Foreign Oil?

LNG Sources, Part 1: Russia’s Sakhalin Island

In the Pacific Northwest, NW Natural Gas claims that the Palomar pipeline and Bradwood Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal will bring “clean” fuel to the United States. But the truth is the real impacts of LNG importation are enormous, and extend far beyond the Pacific Northwest. LNG threatens to harm Oregon’s economy and environment and the impacts of LNG are huge even before the fuel reaches Oregon’s shores. Far from being “clean”, the environmental and social impacts of the full LNG supply chain show LNG is a dirty, costly fuel. This is the first post of a series highlighting the global impacts of LNG, which strongly resemble the global impacts of oil production. Is LNG going to be “the new Foreign Fossil Fuel”?

Take action: Click here to tell NW Natural “Global injustice is not a fair trade for their profit!”

Tell your friends in Oregon what’s up: Click here to make this movement the most effective, share this article with a friend on the West coast.




In January of 2005, representatives of local indigenous groups on Sakhalin Island, Russia, were so outraged by the damage to their community and their fishery caused by pipelines for LNG exports, they blockaded construction sites. Their outrage was directed at the Sakhalin II LNG export project, a potential source of LNG for proposed LNG import terminals in Oregon.

Photo by Pacific Environment

Since 2004, the construction of over 1000 miles of pipelines across Sakhalin Island has severely damaged streams and rivers in some of the most remote, intact salmon habitats in Sakhalin and elsewhere in the world. Communities in the region actively protested, and continue to be impacted by the massive infrastructure development for resource exportation. The Sakhalin II project is the largest combined oil and gas project in the world, having cost over $20 billion to construct. The project is now operated by Gazprom, Shell, and Mitsubishi, and has been heavily criticized by Russian and U.S. environmental advocates as destructive to one of the world’s most productive salmon fisheries.

Sakhalin Environment Watch and Pacific Environment have extensively documented the damage caused by the Sakhalin II project. Their research provides detailed on-the-ground photographic evidence of the damage caused by LNG export operations.

Survival depends on healthy salmon

Damage to Salmon runs, Sakhalin II.

Sakhalin’s fisheries are absolutely critical for the local economy of Sakhalin Island. Many indigenous people on the Island are dependent on healthy fisheries for their subsistence. Sedimentation and erosion during construction of the Sakhalin II project and its pipelines resulted in massive harm to salmon runs. Additionally, dredging and disposal of dredged material has decimated highly productive salmon habitat in Aniva Bay on Sakhalin Island.

The ongoing disruption of villages near the Sakhalin project has deeply harmed the local community. Loss of fishing resources, disruption of reindeer herds, and severe air pollution near the LNG export facility have undermined the ability of local community members and indigenous people to survive. Most of the jobs promised to come from the construction and operation of the facility largely went to workers from outside the island, leaving the local community to deal with the extra burden on medical facilities and other public services with little to show in return.
Problems persist with little compensation
Problems still persist along the pipeline route, although construction was completed in 2008. Landslides, erosion, and sedimentation continue to harm Sakhalin’s salmon streams. Meanwhile, the partners in the Sakhalin project – including Gazprom, Shell, Mitsui, and Mitsubishi – have offered little or no compensation to the people of Sakhalin Island, despite having made promises to rectify the damage caused by construction. According to Pacific Environment,

“It is clear that Sakhalin II operates solely to the benefit of the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company (SEIC)/Shell stakeholders, none of whom live on Sakhalin and do not suffer the ill effects of project construction and operation. To the detriment of the surrounding communities and wildlife, SEIC/Shell has repeatedly refused to reform its environmental practices in accordance with international standards.”

Oregon can choose not to support dirty energy with global impacts

LNG terminals in the Pacific Rim, CA Energy Commission

The environmental impacts of the Sakhalin II LNG export project are enormous and eerily similar to potential impacts of LNG import projects in Oregon. In Oregon and Washington, the proposed Bradwood LNG terminal and Palomar pipeline have been criticized for proposing to harm critical salmon habitat. Yet, the impacts of LNG terminals and pipelines in Oregon pale in comparison to the damage caused by their potential LNG source, Sakhalin II.

In 2007, just as the LNG fight in Oregon was heating up, a representative of Sakhalin Environment Watch visited Portland and spoke about the impacts of the LNG export project in his community. Dmitry Lisitsyn’s lecture at Portland’s First Unitarian Church provided a clear warning to Oregonians fighting LNG: once construction begins, Oregonians will have little or no ability to stop massive environmental harm.

In Oregon and Washington the proposed importation of LNG would directly harm salmon fisheries, farms, and forests throughout the region. Yet, this is clearly only a microcosm of the larger damage that would be caused by buying into the global LNG trade. We have the ability—and responsibility—to avoid buying into dirty energy sources like the Sakhalin II project.

Wherever you are, you can take action.

  • Click here to tell NW Natural “Global injustice is not a fair trade for their profit!”
  • Tell your friends in Oregon what’s up: Click here to make this movement the most effective, share this article with a friend on the West coast.

    3 Responses to “Is LNG the New Foreign Oil?”

    1. 1 rmarg Apr 1st, 2010 at 7:06 am

      With all of the press on the Marcellus shale gas, the LNG supporters must either be taking a very long term view or perhaps there is less shale gas than the media implies. Currently, LNG projects around the world are under tight economic pressures.

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