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By Dan Serres
As highlighted by the article Why Does Climate Change Matter to the Columbia?, we are in the the fight of our lives to stop dirty fossil fuels and transition to clean energy. The good news? You are making a difference right now. As activists, you have a tremendous impact on greenhouse gas pollution in the Pacific Northwest. Over the past decade, you defeated the region's largest fossil fuel proposals. From stopping liquefied natural gas (LNG) developments on the Lower Columbia River, to blocking mind-blowing quantities of coal exports, to persuading Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to deny North America's largest oil train terminal, your efforts register on a global scale.
By Miles Johnson
Why does a river organization like Columbia Riverkeeper dedicate so much energy to fighting fossil fuel projects?
First, fossil fuels threaten clean water. Think oil spills, pipelines that degrade salmon streams, coal dust in the river, and aerial deposition of mercury from coal-burning power plants. But we have additional motivation to fight fossil fuel infrastructure: climate change is harming the Columbia River and our communities right now. And giant fossil fuel corporations want to build more infrastructure—pipelines, fracked gas refineries, shipping terminals—to lock our region into continued reliance on dirty energy. Together, we are taking a stand to protect clean water and our climate.
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A small group led by Republicans in Congress spearheaded a bill that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday. If the bill becomes law, it could lead to the eventual extinction of wild salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers—iconic species in the Pacific Northwest that the federal government is required by law to protect.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with almost a dozen conservation and fishing organizations, the Nez Perce Tribe and the State of Oregon in their efforts to improve wild salmon and steelhead survival as the fish migrate to the Pacific Ocean.
Almost a year ago, in April 2017, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon ruled that federal dam managers on the Columbia and Snake Rivers have to meet higher spill requirements in the spring when baby salmon are migrating to the ocean—meaning they must allow more water to flow over the dams between April and mid-June, to help facilitate safe passage for young salmon.
By William J. Kinsella
Seventy-five years ago, in March 1943, a mysterious construction project began at a remote location in eastern Washington state. Over the next two years some 50,000 workers built an industrial site occupying half the area of Rhode Island, costing more than $230 million—equivalent to $3.1 billion today. Few of those workers, and virtually no one in the surrounding community, knew the facility's purpose.
By Brett VandenHeuvel
Communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel development are taking a stand against dangerous fossil fuel projects. Take a look at the big fight in the small town of Kalama, Washington. The Chinese government is planning to build the world's largest methanol refinery to convert fracked natural gas to liquid methanol for export to China to make plastics.
This four-minute video on the Kalama methanol refinery shows why these residents of this town are fighting and winning:
From a greenhouse gas perspective, this fight is a big deal. The methanol refinery alone would use more natural gas than all industry in Washington combined. Flip it around: If we win this one battle and stop the methanol refinery, we stop the equivalent of doubling industrial natural gas usage in Washington State.
While the gas industry tries to spin natural gas as clean, new science shows just the opposite. The bulk of natural gas is methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Methane leakage from gas wells and pipelines led scientists to conclude that fracked gas can be as bad coal for our climate. And it gets worse. Gas production in North America relies heavily on fracking, a process famous for polluting air and water, endangering the health of nearby residents.
On the Columbia River, we're no stranger to the fossil fuel industry's pipe dreams. Liquefied natural gas. Coal. Oil-by-rail. Our communities have celebrated major victories. The fossil fuel industry's love affair with the Columbia ignores our region's fierce passion for clean air, salmon and standing up for our neighbors. The coal and oil projects that remain—the nation's largest proposals for coal export and oil-by-rail terminals—face a high-profile movement led by cities, businesses, Tribes, faith leaders, conservationists and others to hold the line on short-sighted, high-impact fossil fuel proposals.
But the Kalama methanol refinery represents a new wave of fossil fuel export. This project would drive demand for massive new pipelines and lock the Pacific Northwest into a half century or more of fracked natural gas consumption, further delaying the transition to cleaner energy alternatives.
Northwest Innovation Works proposed a similar project in Tacoma, Washington, on Puget Sound. Community members and elected officials put the project under the microscope and rejected it. Just days before the company dropped their Tacoma methanol refinery idea (and doubled-down in Kalama) an elected public utilities commissioner told the company to "go away and don't come back" without specific answers to Tacoma's concerns.
Tacoma is a city of 200,000. Kalama is a town of 2,000. The passion to fight the methanol refinery is strong and inspiring in Kalama. But because of its small size, voices must rise from across the Pacific Northwest to stop this behemoth. You can help by signing our petition to Gov. Jay Inslee calling on him to oppose the methanol refinery.