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For many in Malin, welcoming the Jordan Cove pipeline comes naturally

If approved, the Jordan Cove pipeline would begin in the Klamath County town of Malin — where two other pipelines end.

Posted: Jun 26, 2019 2:35 PM
Updated: Jun 26, 2019 3:02 PM

MALIN, Ore. — From the little town of Malin, the cultivated fields of the Klamath Basin stretch out in every direction.

The town itself is home to some 810 people, a few historical buildings, and two massive natural gas pipelines. If officials with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) decide to approve the Jordan Cove LNG pipeline, it would soon become the third.

Malin's Historical Society Museum resides in the town's old drug store building downtown. Newspaper clippings and pamphlets yellowed with age demonstrate how Malin and pipelines go way back.

The Gas Transmission Northwest (GTN) Pipeline came into town decades ago, and officials for the City of Malin say that it's been pumping money into their town ever since.

"The first came through in 1961, coming down from Canada," said Ryan Bartholomew with the Malin Historical Society. "They added a second one in 1992 that ran parallel to the original pipeline."

The City of Malin has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, built in 1948. Last year it needed remodeling that cost $750,000 — money the city didn't have. City officials were able to get $350,000 from the state, while the rest came from tax revenue generated by the two pipelines already in the ground.

Money for improvements like those done on the pool is just one of the reasons that the City Council voted unanimously to support the Jordan Cove Project.

"I have never talked to anyone in the restaurants or anyplace that was against the pipeline coming in," said Mayor Gary Zeig. "Most of the people living outside the city limits are farmers and ranchers, and I've never heard a bad word about the pipeline coming through."

Malin is a town built on agriculture. A pipeline passing under this land doesn't cause the kind of disruption that it might in other areas, or so the people of Malin seem to believe. But for timberland owners, there are different concerns.

"It effects how we manage our land," said Deb Evans, a Klamath County landowner. She has been part of the resistance against the Jordan Cove pipeline. "I think the issue is that it removes trees off of our property — on a 50-foot right-of-way, those trees don't come back, so we lose that asset."

Evans also has environmental concerns about the project, and she doesn't want the federal government using eminent domain to force her or other property owners who oppose the pipeline to have it go through their land.

In Malin, more than half a century has passed with pipelines as neighbors, and Mayor Zeig doesn't see a problem with the jobs that the pipeline projects bring in and the revenue they generate.

"It's been safe as far as we can tell, and we've never had a leak, we've never had an explosion . . . I can't figure out why anyone would be against it," said Zeig.

Critics say that the past may not be a good indicator of the future. The world in 2019 is very different than it was when John F. Kennedy was president — more threats from the proliferation of greenhouse gases, potential risks to groundwater, and the idea of government overreach to help a private business are just some of the reasons that critics say the potential risks outweigh the potential benefits from the Jordan Cove pipeline.

"They spent $100 million in the first four months of this year, that may be all you need to know," Evans said. "We are just saying that it's a mixed blessing."

If the FERC approves the project, it will take four years for Jordan Cove owners Pembina to complete the project. Two of those years will be spent in the Klamath Basin. According to Pembina, 82 percent of private land along the route has been covered by voluntary easement deals with landowners.

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