Less than a week after a Medford meeting against the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas Pipeline, property owners on the pipeline route received documents from Pacific Connector asking for consent to inspect and conduct removal-fill activities on the said properties. Bob Barker, affected land owner and informational specialist for the Southern Oregon Pipeline Information Project, who is opposed to the project, is concerned that impacted property owners will automatically sign the consent forms.
Barker said the documents will not be used for inspecting the right-of-way at this time but as a means for the pipeline company to obtain permits on private land. By signing, landowners are making it easier for Pacific Connector to get the pipeline through. Barker stressed that those opposed to the project should not help the pipeline company by signing. It is also suggested that affected landowners seek legal advice.
Barker and his wife, Gail, live on a beautiful piece of land in Shady Cove where the Rogue River will be crossed using a Horizontal Directional Drill. Although the Barkers bought the property in 2004, they did not move permanently to the Upper Rogue until 2009. Before they relocated, however, the Barkers learned their piece of paradise would be traversed by the controversial pipeline, denuding their land of many beautiful trees and natural beauty. The Barkers then joined the anti-pipeline activist group SOPIP.
In December 2009, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the pipeline using a 3,425 page, four-inch thick, Environmental Impact Statement. Many of the water and environmental issues are not addressed in the report, however, said Barker. The pipeline will cross 379 rivers and streams, watersheds and public drinking water source areas including those local.
As well as water issues, Barker and other landowners are concerned about the threat of eminent domain and the safety of the 36-inch pipeline that will transport non-odorized gas. The pipe will be buried three-feet underground and as time goes by, natural plant growth will make the path less obvious. Land parcels may be divided paving the way to new construction, said Barker.
Most accidents are caused when construction workers hit underground pipelines causing leaks and the potential of terrific explosions. In Jackson County, pipeline routes are not marked on parcel or other maps. “I do not like to play the fear card with people but safety is an issue,” said a clearly concerned Barker.
The State of Oregon has a stake in this and a big role to play. Government officials are taking a hard look at the permitting process, said Barker. After FERC approved the pipeline last December, the state requested a rehearing as did SOPID. The petition was filed in January but so far FERC has not rendered a decision. If FERC denies the rehearing, opponents of the Pacific Connector pipeline plan to file a lawsuit.
The pipeline has already been delayed two or three years with the right-of-way acquisition to have been in the summer of 2009. If the opposition is not successful in getting the pipeline stopped, the targeted date for gas to flow is now January 2015. A determined Barker and others are working hard to make sure this does not happen although he admits it is hard to speculate whether the project will go through. “I tend to take one step at a time. You do the best you can,” Barker said.
Barker is not the only opponent concerned about the consent forms. Property owner, Toni Woolsey, is holding off on signing the documents until Barker has more information. And Trail Postmaster, Barbara Falcy, received an email from Coos Bay activist, Jody McCaffree, about the consent forms. Although not an affected property owner, Falcy, who is concerned about the impact to the Upper Rogue, said she made twenty copies of the email and using personal funds mailed the copies to those affected landowners that do not have Internet access.
The United States has over 100-years of natural gas supplies. “The pipeline is about investors looking to make money,” said Barker. There is capacity in our country to store the imported gas for a long time. When the time is ripe, the gas could be sold for huge profit, he feels. Barker’s wife added her consternation that although California will get the immediate benefit of the gas— it is Oregon that will get all of the environmental consequences.
By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent