Story by | Emily Owen
Since the 1970s, a Canadian-based energy company called Veresen Incorporated has been working on a plan to build a pipeline to carry natural gas through Southern Oregon, just 200 miles north of Arcata. After being repeatedly turned down, documents are currently being prepared to be re-submitted with the expectation of eventual approval.
According to Veresen Incorporated’s website, the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline is proposed to be 232 miles long, cross under five major rivers and result in the clear-cutting of up to 30 miles of forest. At $7.5 billion, the project is worth twice as much as the Dakota Access Pipeline and is being praised for its potential in economic benefit.
When Leonard Perry heard about the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline and that sections were going to pass through the Klamath River, he readied himself for the fight he knew was coming. Perry, an 18-year-old student attending College of the Redwoods, is a founding member of a group known as Humboldt Water Protectors. The group, now called Sacred Seeds, has made it their main goal to protect the abundance of natural resources in and around Humboldt County.
“We see what’s happening to the world, what’s happening in our own backyard, and people are waking up,” Perry said. “We all drink water. This isn’t a party issue, we need to start looking out for our brothers and sisters. The minute we start coming together there’s change.”
The HSU Environment and Community Club is organizing an on-campus event titled Water is Life: The Standing Rock-Klamath Connection to publicize and spread awareness of the potential Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline. The event will happen on March 4 in the Kate Buchanan Room from 12 to 6p.m. and will shed light on interconnectivity behind the movement for clean and safe water.
Francesca Gallardo and Yojana Miraya, both graduate students in the environment and community program, are coordinating outreach for the event. Gallardo sees the potential to unite these communities and cross boundaries through building coalitions.
“These movements are for everyone,” Gallardo said. “We are fighting the biggest fight of our lives. It is time for everybody and anybody to step up.”
Miraya is from an indigenous tribe in Peru and recognizes the parallels in the global struggle to protect natural resources.
“Leaders aren’t working for the communities” Miraya said. “Educating people will bring consciousness and the parts of society that are marginalized can come together.”
Cutcha Risling-Baldy professor of Native American studies at HSU, is Karuk, Yurok and an enrolled member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe, thinks of pipelines as last resort efforts from the nonrenewable energy industry to stay relevant in a world relying on a failing system.
“There’s a Gold Rush mentality of wanting to make as much money as possible no matter what the consequences are,” Risling-Baldy said. “That’s why we need to always include an indigenous perspective. Native people consult with the land and we see those connections. You can’t account for the way nature plays with your best plans.”
Risling-Baldy stressed the importance of divesting from companies and organizations that fund nonrenewable infrastructure.
“We’re finding out that people think with their money,” Risling-Baldy said. “The government is actively working against the people so you need to speak with your money. Take it out.”
Michael Hinrichs, Director of Communication for the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline, acknowledges the opposition that is growing and wants to assure people that the project is meeting all environmental standards set by the federal government.
“We’re trying to avoid the impacts that people are worried about,” Hinrichs said. “I would encourage people with concerns to make them known.”