UPDATE (Thursday, Nov. 22 at 7:50 a.m. PT) — Opponents of plans to build a liquefied natural gas pipeline and terminal on the Oregon coast occupied Gov. Kate Brown's Salem office Thursday, demanding that she announce her opposition to the project.
Brown spoke to the protesters late Thursday evening and told the group she wants to ensure that federal regulators don't circumvent state agencies' permitting powers. She did not come down on either side of the pipeline debate.
"I believe that Oregonians are best served by knowing that there is a fair process and that I'm not putting my finger on the scale one way or another," she told the occupiers. "Because as you know, your community is quite divided on this issue. Your community is extremely divided on this issue."
Shortly after Brown's appearance, state police began issuing trespassing notices to the activists, according to the group Southern Oregon Rising Tide, and arresting those who refused to leave. The group said 21 activists were arrested and later released.
The protest began with activists opposing the Jordan Cove project rallying outside the Capitol and then in the rotunda earlier Thursday. Then about 75 of them sat on the floor of the reception area to Brown's office and vowed to stay.
They want Brown to come out firmly against the proposed 230-mile natural gas pipeline and export terminal, which would bring natural gas from the Rockies and Canada to Coos Bay, where it would be liquefied and loaded onto ships bound for Asia.
Proponents of the $10 billion project say it will be an economic boon for Southern Oregon, generating about $110 million in annual tax revenue for state and local governments. Opponents fear it will be an environmental nightmare, noting that it would be Oregon's biggest emitter of heat-trapping gasses such as carbon dioxide, and thus could contribute to longer wildfire seasons, more frequent droughts and faster ocean acidification.
Brown spoke to the protesters by phone on Thursday afternoon, answering questions about her approach and sharing a letter she recently wrote to the EPA, according to her office. Later Thursday evening, she stopped by the space that has been occupied and, accompanied by state police, spoke in person to the protesters.
In an emailed statement earlier in the day, her office said the governor “expects state agencies to follow all laws and regulations to the letter when considering how any proposed project affects Oregon’s clean air and water. … The EPA has recently attempted to remove all authority from the state in the permitting of these kinds of projects. The governor has opposed those efforts and communicated with the EPA earlier this month regarding their rule change.”