It's hard to imagine the mouth of the Columbia River, where American explorers Lewis and Clark traversed during the 19th century, being overrun with a huge natural-gas export terminal and massive pipelines, just to stuff the pockets of dirty-energy companies.
But as crazy as that sounds, a proposal to build this terminal and its pipelines is in the works, along with another one in southern Oregon. And if you're at all involved in the movement to stop natural gas companies from exporting their product to lucrative foreign markets, then you have an ally in Ted Gleichman, a Portland resident who is doing everything he can to keep the natural legacy of Oregon and the Columbia River intact.
"The challenge is fighting multi-billion dollar projects that create short-term jobs but at a very high direct environmental cost, in terms of damage to Columbia River estuaries and the damage pipelines at the width of interstate highways will do," Gleichman says.
The proposal along the Columbia is for a $7.1 billion set of projects that would connect natural gas drilling and fracking in Canada and the Rockies to an export terminal near historic Astoria, Oregon, to ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asia -- where the price is five times the price in North America. More than 200 miles of enormous pipelines would run south from the Canadian border through Washington state, tunnel under the Columbia River, and cut through northwestern Oregon to a massive industrial plant -- complete with three 20-story gas-storage tanks -- at the heart of salmon breeding grounds.
Gleichman and other Sierra Club activists are helping to lead the charge to stop this export proposal, and another in southern Oregon. They've joined a coalition of other organizations -- Columbia Riverkeeper, Rogue Riverkeeper, Earthjustice, to name a few -- that are wondering what this barrage of natural gas and Big Coal export proposals would mean for the Columbia River and the Oregon forests and coastline.