Citing the interests of maintaining ancestral burial grounds, as well as significant environmental concerns, the Klamath Tribes have intervened in the Pacific Connector LNG pipeline and Jordan Cove Energy Project proceedings.
The Klamath Tribal Council unanimously voted to make the motion in a regular meeting on Oct. 11, before officially filing the motion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to Don Gentry, tribal chairman.
The 232-mile pipeline is proposed to run between Malin and Coos Bay, where construction is planned for a liquified natural gas export terminal.
In the motion, Gentry said that construction of the pipeline would need a 95-feet-wide path and travel through areas where ancestral tribal villages once existed and where human remains associated with the Klamath Tribes “would most certainly be disturbed.”
“We are equally concerned with the potential adverse effects and possibly catastrophic events that may occur from construction and operation of the Pipeline as it proceeds west through the coastal range and from the construction and operation of Jordan Cove’s Liquified Natural Gas export terminal in Coos Bay,” Gentry said in the motion.
The act of filing a motion to intervene protects the Klamath Tribes in case a decision is made to move forward with the pipeline, according to Gentry. The Tribal Council first came out in opposition to the pipeline in 2016, but the latest action puts it in a stronger legal position.
“If we didn’t intervene, we wouldn’t have the legal standing to formally appeal the decision,” Gentry said.
“This concern is validated by the fact that graves with human remains have been found in these areas through previous ground-disturbing activities.
“Our folks have almost looked at it like a cemetery with unmarked graves,” Gentry said in an interview with the Herald and News. “You wouldn’t want to go into a cemetery not knowing where the graves are and put a pipe through there, and potentially disturb human remains.
“How could we support something that risky? I hope folks would understand it from that perspective.
Pipeline proponents have touted the economic benefits of the project, saying engineering, procurement and construction spending would be about $10 billion. The project would generate $60 million in annual property taxes, including $20 million in the pipeline counties, the company says.
About 6,000 workers would be employed during the construction phase, with about 200 permanent jobs created. Most of the permanent jobs would be associated with the export facility, according to the company.
But a coalition of landowner, environmental and tribal groups says the project will trample landowner rights, drive up energy prices, risk polluting waterways and create the largest source of climate pollution in the state. It would cross through Klamath, Jackson, Douglas and Coos counties and would cross 400 bodies of water, including the Rogue River.
“Folks have tried to marginalize or minimalize what the risks are,” Gentry said. “We just believe that the risks aren’t acceptable and so that’s why we’ve taken the strong position that we have.”
Gentry emphasized the decision to intervene is not “emotionally motivated,” but an attempt to protect the public from greenhouse gases and tribal ancestral grounds from interruption.
“We really do believe that we have to do this,” Gentry said. “Not only to protect our cultural sites that might be disturbed but a lot of questions about the risk to the public all along the way.”
The deadline to intervene in the LNG pipeline proceedings is 2 p.m. Thursday.