Amidst discouraging news that the Obama administration is expanding coal mining and investing in dangerous nuclear policies, I’m glad to report on an important victory against dirty energy in the Pacific Northwest. Yesterday NW Natural Gas and other companies withdrew their permit application for the Palomar liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline project. One of three proposed LNG pipelines in Oregon, Palomar would have transformed the Northwest into a gateway for a high-carbon fossil fuel not currently imported anywhere on the US west coast. The defeat of Palomar marks the end of a years-long grassroots battle.
LNG is a fossil fuel with a carbon footprint much greater than ordinary natural gas, imported from regions of the world like the Middle East, Russia, and Peru. LNG companies are trying to make inroads in Oregon, but grassroots activists have held them back so far. Almost a year ago the Palomar pipeline application was indefinitely suspended – this happened shortly after the Bradwood LNG import terminal (which Palomar was supposed to connect to) was cancelled. Now energy companies have officially given up on Palomar. Should they try to resurrect the pipeline later, they would have to start from scratch and it would be treated as a completely new project.
There are still two proposals to build LNG infrastructure in Oregon: the Oregon LNG pipeline and terminal on the Columbia River, and the Jordan Cove project in southern Oregon. But I believe the elimination of Palomar and the Bradwood terminal marks the beginning of the end for LNG. Activists who have been fighting the Palomar pipeline for years can now channel their energy into defeating the remaining two LNG proposals and other fossil fuel projects. Already both Oregon LNG and Jordan Cove LNG are years behind schedule and struggling to obtain permits they need to begin construction.
The defeat of Palomar is a testament to the power of grassroots activism and a reminder that big victories do not happen overnight. Activists in Oregon began fighting this pipeline proposal years ago; when they started they were laughed at, and told it was impossible to stop powerful companies like Northwest Natural Gas from doing whatever they wanted. Yet this week Oregon communities have triumphed over some of the most important energy players in our region. We’ll do this again and again, as many times as is necessary, until the remaining fossil fuel companies pack up and leave.
Our national elected leaders have failed us when it comes to generating the kind of change needed to avert catastrophic global warming. But meanwhile communities are getting to work and taking matters into their own hands. Coal mines, nuclear power plants, LNG pipelines and other destructive projects will have to break through a wall of resistance before they can think about breaking ground. Let’s make their job as hard as possible.