SALEM, Ore. — Troopers with Oregon State Police arrested nearly two dozen activists after they staged a sit-in at the State Capitol on Thursday, protesting the Jordan Cove LNG project currently under consideration by federal regulators.
The protest began with a peaceful sit-in by several dozen protestors at Governor Kate Brown's office, according to activist organization Southern Oregon Rising Tide. Others gathered in the Capitol rotunda beyond, singing and displaying banners.
"Governor Brown has said she wants Oregon to be a leader in climate policy. Keeping silent on a project that would become the state's largest climate polluter is absolutely incompatible with 'climate leadership,'" Rising Tide said in a statement. "The era in which natural gas, which is largely derived from fracking, could be considered a 'bridge fuel' is long past. Scientists around the world agree fossil fuels must be phased out completely and quickly."
OSP said that the protest began around 2 p.m. with a group of roughly 75 people. They continued the sit-in until 5:30 p.m., when the Capitol closes to the public.
"Several of the people remained in the building and refused to leave, requesting to speak to Governor Kate Brown," OSP said. Governor Brown emerged and answered several of the activists' questions before leaving, and most of them soon dispersed as well.
However, a few protestors stayed behind. When they refused to leave at OSP's request, the agency said it arrested the 21 remaining people and booked them into the Marion County Jail on criminal trespass charges.
A handful of the activists arrested on Thursday were from Southern Oregon communities — Ashland, Talent, Jacksonville, and Klamath Falls.
The Jordan Cove project proposes a 229-mile liquid natural gas pipeline that would bisect southwestern Oregon from a terminal facility in Coos Bay to a junction with several other pipelines near Malin in Klamath County. As it result, it has drawn fierce opposition from a coalition of local landowners, tribal groups, and environmental activists.
"The Jordan Cove LNG facility, pipeline, and tankers pose big risks to me, my family, and the lives and property of my friends and thousands of local residents," said Mike Graybill, a former Department of State Lands employee and Coos County resident who attended the protest. "I am taking action today to urge Governor Kate Brown to step up and take a position of opposition to this project. Oregon could and should invest in a future for Coos Bay that does not threaten so many people’s lives and negatively impact existing businesses and residents."
NewsWatch 12 reached out to Pembina, the company behind the Jordan Cove project, for comment on Thursday's protest at the Capitol.
"We are aware of today’s demonstration of free speech in Salem. Our priority remains working with our neighbors and stakeholders in the communities where our project will be constructed and operate, in Coos, Douglas, Jackson and Klamath Counties," said Paul Vogel, a Pembina spokesman.
"The economic impact Jordan Cove will have on Southern Oregon is clear, but the environmental benefits of reducing global coal use are largely misunderstood and misrepresented by local activists focused on symbolically reducing Oregon’s carbon footprint, while disregarding opportunities like Jordan Cove to achieve more meaningful progress on global climate goals," Vogel continued.
A recent environmental analysis issued by federal regulators found that the project would cause “temporary, long-term and permanent impacts on the environment,” but a separate commission will ultimately decided to approve or deny the project following a public comment period.
Friday, the Bureau of Land Management opened public comment on the impact statement. You can go to its website to review the document and make a comment.