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Karuk, Yurok Oppose Klamath LNG Pipeline

December, 2016

This article was originally published by the Times-Standard and is reprinted with permission.

The Karuk Tribe announced it’s opposition [in early November] to the Pacific Connector Pipeline, a 232-mile long pipeline that would travel throughout southern Oregon, in an effort to protect the Klamath River in Northern California. The pipeline is commonly referred to as the LNG (liquid natural gas) pipeline and would be 36 inches in diameter and stretch from Malin, Oregon to Coos Bay, Oregon. 

The Yurok Tribe also opposed the LNG pipeline along with the Klamath Justice Coalition, a group originally formed around the “Un-dam the Klamath” campaign. Georgiana Gensaw of the Yurok Tribe said it was counterproductive to proceed with this kind of project, especially when the Klamath was still healing from damage caused by the dams which were recently set to be removed by 2020. 

“The Klamath is under extreme pressure and is currently stressed. [We] cannot even fathom having one more stressor like the pipeline which could explode, and anything that happens upstream in Oregon could flow downstream to us,” Gensaw said. 

The project was initially rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in March but members of tribes along the Klamath are still worried the project could gain momentum as Veresen, a Canada-based company, steps forward and continues to look for public and commercial support of the project. 

“We call it the ‘zombie pipeline’ because the project seems to die and then comes back to life,” Gensaw said. “We won’t have much to say because it might be filed under eminent domain. We won’t even benefit from this kind of project because the fuel will be exported from Coos Bay to Japan, meanwhile we’re all placed in harm’s way. There is no safe way they can do this pipeline,”

According to the Karuk Tribe’s Natural Resources Policy Advocate, Craig Tucker, the concept for the LNG pipeline project developed years ago as an import facility for fracking and natural gas production on public land. Tucker said now the project would be an exporter of natural gas. 

“It’s real simple, it’s dangerous to run liquid natural gas under a river,” Tucker said. “We’re afraid of leaks, spills and explosions. The Klamath River has enough problems already, why add another one?” 

Tucker said the pipeline project could possibly be repackaged by its new company and the dangers and opposition... ...could be on par with the Dakota Access Pipeline project in Standing Rock. “It’s not just tribal opposition. Fisherman, environmentalists, property owners are all against this sort of thing. There’s definitely a diverse coalition emerging out of this,” Tucker said. 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s initial denial of the project was addressed by Veresen’s president and CEO Don Althoff who expressed his disappointment in the decision in a statement in March. “Clearly we are extremely surprised and disappointed by the FERC decision. The FERC appears to be concerned that we have not yet demonstrated sufficient commercial support for the projects. We will continue to advance negotiations with customers to address this concern,” Althoff stated. 

According to the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline’s website, planners of the proposed project are committed to adopting design features and operating practices that will exceed already stringent industry and regulatory safety standards which included: remote-controlled shut-off valves monitored 24 hours a day, frequent inspections required by law and regular inspections with highly sophisticated internal tools, thicker steel pipe in certain areas of the pipeline, and mainline valve spacing that exceeds federal standards. Veresen could not be reached for further comment at the time of writing.

Although the LNG pipeline has not been approved, Gensaw said local tribes as well as grassroots organizers are keeping an eye on what they considered a proposed threat to the Klamath River and surrounding rivers.

“We want to stay on top of it and get government attention so they know its not something we want to do,” Gensaw said. “If we stay ahead of the game, we won’t end up like Standing Rock and we won’t need to subject our people to being out there in front of bulldozers.”