Victory for Free Speech and Anti-LNG Advocates
April 21, 2011: Roseburg, OR — After an ACLU volunteer attorney contacted County Counsel Tuesday and County Commissioners heard testimony from upset pipeline opponents Wednesday, Douglas County changed course and will now allow anti-LNG activists to participate at the Douglas County Earth Day event this weekend in Roseburg.
The County’s Public Works Department, which oversees the Douglas County Earth Day and Energy Fair, earlier had decided to deny the group’s request.
Douglas County citizens organizing against the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) project will now be allowed to display educational materials and share information at a booth for the annual Earth Day celebration at the Douglas County Fairgrounds on Saturday.
“We were very disappointed that our county leadership was censoring our right to speak about important issues with our community at a public event,” said M. A. Hansen, a Douglas County resident who is opposed to the pipeline. “The LNG import facility and pipeline that are proposed for southwest Oregon would have major impacts on citizens, forests, rivers, fish and wildlife. We felt this was an appropriate issue to discuss at the Douglas County Earth Day and Energy Fair.”
In response to the County’s decision to limit free speech at a public event, members of the coalition working to stop the LNG project contacted the ACLU of Oregon. On Tuesday, ACLU volunteer attorney Jim Arneson, of Roseburg, contacted Douglas County Counsel Paul E. Meyer notifying informing him that ACLU believed the denial was based on the content of the group’s political views.
“Free speech includes the right to express differing points of view on a topic,” said David Fidanque, ACLU of Oregon Executive Director. “It was clear to us that either county officials weren’t aware that anti-pipeline organizers have also been promoting developing of renewable energy sources or the county was hoping to avoid political controversy at the event. We’re pleased that county commissioners reversed the denial once it was brought to their attention.”
The proposed Jordan Cove/Pacific Connector LNG project would build an import facility in Coos Bay and a 230-mile pipeline to California across Coos, Douglas, Jackson and Klamath counties. The proposal has spawned staunch opposition due to the potential impacts on community safety, private property, forests, rivers, fish and wildlife, as well as furthering reliance on imported fossil fuels.