C: Merkley's office
C: Merkley’s office

In a year where Trump has repeatedly redefined what is acceptable political behaviour by spinning a sordid vortex of lies, half-truths, hate and anger, it is easy to see why more and more people are becoming tired of our politicians.

As the media and public react like a turkey shoot to Trump’s negative truth-diverting tweets, we often forget that politicians can do good.

Many politicians will be in Paris today, at the One Planet Summit. Whilst we need to be able see concrete action to reduce carbon emissions from the Summit, today’s development has to be welcomed. Indeed some 200 groups from around the world, including Oil Change International, are calling on leaders at the #OnePlanetSummit to stop funding fossil fuels. Let’s see if we can have some real positive political action to reduce fossil fuel subsidies.

It would also be totally naïve to assume that just because a politician turns up at a climate conference, they are doing good. We have learnt the hard way that often political action falls short of political rhetoric. Take Governor Kate Brown, the Democratic Governor of Oregon, who attended the recent UN climate meetings in Bonn.

As the group, Rogue Climate, noted in early November: “Even though Governor Brown is going to Germany to talk about her commitment to climate, she still has not come out against Jordan Cove which would be the largest source of climate pollution in the state.”

So what is Jordon Cove? It is a proposed Liquified Natural Gas export terminal, which would be connected by the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline to transport fracked gas from Malin, Oregon, to a LNG terminal in Coos Bay, on the Oregon coast. Gas would then be exported to Asia.

I and many others have repeatedly pointed out that gas is not a clean fuel and should not be used as a bridge fuel due to climate change. As a recent OCI briefing points out, due to climate concerns: “gas use must be phased out, not increased.”

Rogue Climate adds that “In addition to environmental, climate, and seismic risks, the Jordan Cove Project is a direct attack on indigenous peoples. The Klamath Tribes — whose waterways, fishing rights, artefacts, ancestral burial grounds, and cultural heritage are directly threatened by the Pacific Connector Pipeline — have formally opposed the Jordan Cove Project along with the Karuk and Yurok Tribes.”

And finally they have a politician who agrees with them. Sometimes we should recognise when a politician does take positive climate action and takes some flak for doing so.

Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon has abandoned his support for the Jordan Cove Project, which has “set off a political fracas” according to the local paper, the Oregonian.

The paper notes that although “Merkley doesn’t hold much sway in the regulatory process for the $8 billion project … he has been buffing his environmental credentials for some time, and he becomes the only member of Oregon’s congressional delegation to express outright opposition to the project.”

Merkley himself has outlined why he is now opposed to the pipeline and his recent change of heart:

“When Jordan Cove LNG announced its plan in 2012 for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal in Coos Bay, it painted a compelling picture. The project would create hundreds of construction jobs and improve port infrastructure in a region hit hard by the loss of sawmills and canneries. Simultaneously it would lessen the carbon dioxide pollution driving climate disruption by replacing higher-polluting coal.”

However, “Five years later, the project has changed and the world has changed, meriting examining the project anew. The question isn’t whether we need to build infrastructure — we need to invest massively to remedy the neglect of the past four decades — but whether this large-scale fossil fuel project still makes sense.”

Apart from ongoing disputes with landowners: “The project’s pollution profile has also changed … As now planned, the terminal would become the largest carbon polluter in Oregon, with emissions equivalent to putting half a million gas-powered cars on the road.”

Merkley also outlines how we have “learned more about natural gas escaping from fracking fluids and gas pipelines”, making LNG as bad for the climate as coal, and the changing energy market, which means “non-carbon alternatives such as solar and wind are now highly competitive. With a renewable energy future within reach, it makes little sense to help Asia leap from coal to natural gas, locking in carbon pollution for decades.”

Oregon environmental groups are now calling on Governor Kate Brown to join Merkley in opposing the LNG terminal.

Watch this space.