The New York Times on Thursday printed an interesting opinion piece by Don Gentry, chairman of the Klamath Tribes in Oregon, and environmental author Emma Harris on a proposed natural gas pipeline that could connect Colorado and the rest of the West to growing Asian demand for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG).
Japan in particular has been using more and more natgas — often importing it in the form of LNG — as it weans itself off nuclear power in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Colorado’s natural gas industry has been stuck in the mud of low prices as the country continues a production spree that’s led to a surplus driven by direction drilling and fracking. Overseas markets are seen as a way to increase demand and then prices.
The pipeline, or rather pipelines, in question would connect Colorado and Wyoming’s abundant natural gas fields to a production and shipping facility in Coos Bay, Oregon, called Jordan Cove. It’s being proposed by a Canadian company, and despite being rejected twice by the federal government in 2016, the Trump administration has expressed a desire to rekindle the project and fast-track its permitting.
But native tribes and other residents of Oregon are leery of a pipeline crossing their part of the state, fearful of leaks, accidents and generally opposed to the climate-change ramifications of expanded fossil fuel production. The headline on Gentry and Harris’s op/ed asks “The next Standing Rock?” — a reference to a pipeline battle on the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota.
In May of 2016, Rocky Mountain Post delved into this topic for RouteFifty.com, exploring the efforts by city officials in Grand Junction, Colorado, and the governor’s office in Denver to win approval for a Colorado connection to the proposed Pacific Connector Pipeline. Here’s an excerpt from that article:
Colorado City Pushes Hard for Liquefied Natural Gas Terminal in Oregon
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Why would business leaders in this far western Colorado city of 60,000, nearly 1,200 miles from the Pacific Ocean, travel to Calgary, Alberta, to push for a port facility in Oregon to improve shipping to Japan? Three words: Liquefied natural gas.
With prices stuck at 1990s levels and storage overflowing with cheap and domestically abundant natural gas (thanks to fracking and directional-drilling technology), energy companies and the communities that rely on them are increasingly eying overseas markets, where prices are higher and demand for American gas is growing.
Several years ago, prompted by a Colorado Mesa University and Grand Junction Economic Partnership study, a group of 18 community and business leaders from Grand Junction traveled to Calgary to meet with the Canadian company Veresen and offer full support for its proposed Jordan Cove LNG project in Coos Bay, Oregon.
Part of that proposal, which has approval from the U.S. Department of Energy, is the 232-mile Pacific Connector Pipeline, which would link Coos Bay to the existing 680-mile Ruby Pipeline that runs from southern Oregon to western Wyoming.
The Ruby, which was built in 2010 for import purposes, could then link to northwestern Colorado gas fields via the Rockies Express Pipeline, which runs north to south from Wyoming to New Mexico.
Largely dormant gas plays in Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico would suddenly be able to ship natural gas to Oregon, where it could then be cooled to -260 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce its volume and made into LNG for tanker shipment to Japan, which is increasingly relying on natural gas for electricity in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“All of a sudden there’s a pathway for the gas to flow west that’s not there now, and it kicks open that doorway and allows us to tell a different story about what our assets are and what value they have,” said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association. “It’s sort of like just hooking up the end of a straw to Asia.”
In coastal states such are Oregon and Washington, there are environmental concerns about the mounting pressure to build port facilities to accommodate coal, gas and oil shipments to Asia. One such proposed coal terminal in Bellingham, Washington was rejected earlier this week.
Objections range from the impacts of railcars loaded with coal and oil to the possibility of leaking pipelines or exploding production facilities.
“You certainly have concerns from landowners and communities and businesses that rely on healthy rivers and streams that are worried about a pipeline going through their property, going through sensitive environmental areas,” said Jan Hasselman, a staff attorney in the Seattle office of Earthjustice, which is is fighting Jordan Cove as it seeks state water permits from the Department of State Lands. “This area in Oregon is a very rugged, very dynamic landscape.”
But there are other reasons to object to the project and exporting LNG in general, he adds.
“The other set of concerns is around multi-billion-dollar investments in fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when we need to be rapidly moving in a different direction,” Hasselman said. “Exporting energy means more fracking in the West and all the attendant problems that that brings, and it sort of ensures decades more of burning fossil fuels instead of rapidly transitioning [to renewable sources such as wind and solar].”
To read the full 2016 RouteFifty.com article, click here.
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent, Colorado Politics formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, Atlantic Media's RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail and Westword (Denver). Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.