Portland, Oregon Mayor Charlie Hales Does the Right Thing
Daphne Wysham discusses the importance of rejecting a $500 million facility to ship propane gas from Portland to markets in Asia
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.
We can report on two major victories for the environmental movement today. One is that Lax Kw’alaams, a First Nations tribe in British Columbia, Canada rejected a billion-dollar offer from NorthWest LNG, a Malaysia-based energy giant, for a proposed natural gas terminal on their land. This was a final and definitive vote. And in Portland, Oregon the mayor Charlie Hales under pressure from the public has reversed his support for the Canadian company Pembina’s proposed $500 million facility to ship propane gas from the city’s port markets in–to port markets in Asia.
To discuss all of this from Portland Oregon and about the Mayor’s reversal, I’m joined by Daphne Wysham. She is joining us from Portland, Oregon. Daphne is director of Climate and Energy Program at the Center for Sustainable Economy, and she is associate fellow at Institute for Policy Studies.
Daphne, welcome back to The Real News Network.
DAPHNE WYSHAM, CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY: Thank you, it’s good to be here.
PERIES: Daphne, things have changed since you last did an interview with us on this very topic. Why did the Mayor change his mind?
WYSHAM: It was a fantastic coalition effort by a wide array of groups under the banner of the Climate Action Coalition, but it also included others outside of our coalition, artists, raging grannies, Keystone XL pipeline organizers, Rising Tide, essentially putting public pressure over and over again in very creative ways on the Mayor, and finally we got through to him. And he has reversed his initial very positive support for this proposal.
And it was the largest proposal in Portland history, by the way. It was a half a billion dollar proposal to build this propane terminal, and it was all but certain that it was going to be approved. So we’re very excited.
PERIES: And I remember last time we interviewed you, you were talking about the irony of this. Because the White House had deemed Portland, Oregon one of these climate-friendly cities. And so when we did that last interview it was very disheartening. So congratulations on this victory.
WYSHAM: Thank you, thank you. Yes, Portland was the first city in the country to put in place a climate action plan. It has a very international reputation as a climate leader. So I think they were sensitive to the criticism that this was a major backslide for the city if they were to move forward with this.
PERIES: So there must be a bigger story here. This is one minor victory in the scheme of things, so tell us more about the related energy infrastructure issues involved in this particular case.
WYSHAM: Well, one thing that I think people don’t understand, because we don’t get as much press coverage for things like the Keystone XL pipeline out here in the Northwest, but the Northwest is under assault. The amount of oil, gas, coal, and propane exports planned for the Pacific Northwest amount to five times the carbon as the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would be exported to, largely to Asian markets. Put another way, this is roughly twice the annual fossil fuel emissions from the entire country of India that is being proposed to be exported from ports in the Pacific Northwest.
And basically people here are pushing back left and right, and they’re winning. But we’re doing it with very limited resources, and we’re, as soon as–we call it whack-a-mole, because as soon as we kill one proposal there’s another proposal coming up just around the corner. Downstream, upstream, upriver. We’re getting just one proposal after another by these fossil fuel companies.
PERIES: And then Daphne, I understand also these, the TTP for example, the big trade deals we are negotiating at this time, also have these hidden ways in which the companies are getting away with sneaking in all kinds of fossil fuel unfriendly tactics.
WYSHAM: Exactly. I mean, one of the things we were very concerned, given that this was, this included an inter-governmental agreement. Because the propane was to come from fracked gas in Alberta, in Canada, and would be transported via mile-long trains to Portland to the propane terminal that they were planning on building in the city of Portland, which would be just extremely hazardous. And on a daily basis they were planning on bringing these mile-long trains.
If Portland after signing this agreement to build this terminal had second thoughts, there could be all sorts of opportunities for the government of Canada to sue the U.S. government for loss of profits under the TPP. That’s one of the hidden aspects of the TPP that the Institute for Policy Studies and other groups have been raising the alarm around, which is this opportunity to sue, for corporations to sue, to sue for lost profits if a contract is canceled in any way.
PERIES: Right. And coming back to Portland, Oregon, you had off-camera told me that Pembina has not given up here. What are they expecting to do next?
WYSHAM: Well, one of the things that was proposed as a condition of this project moving forward was a carbon fee that amounted to a penny a gallon. And Pembina balked at this fee. They said it would cut into their profits. And the Port Commission is siding currently with Pembina in opposition to the Mayor and the will of the people. So we’re in a bit of a, sort of a battle both in terms of taking on the port now, and taking on the corporation. But we’re pretty confident with the entire city behind us that we will win.
PERIES: Daphne Wysham, thank you so much for joining us and giving us this update, and I hope you come back soon and keep us posted because it would be good to follow this victory and make sure it’s nailed.
WYSHAM: And one last thing before we say goodbye. I just wanted to say, this is the beginning of a campaign to take on all-new fossil fuel infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest. We’re starting with Portland and we’re going to be pushing beyond to the state of Oregon and the state of Washington. So stay tuned for that.
PERIES: Thank you, Daphne.
WYSHAM: Thank you.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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