Guardian: FBI and police revealed to be monitoring Oregon pipeline fighters

cross-posted from the Guardian

By Will Parrish and Jason Wilson

August 8, 2019

Emails show the latest example of environmental groups facing increased surveillance by law enforcement

Law enforcement groups, including the FBI, have been monitoring opponents of a natural gas infrastructure project in Oregon and circulated intelligence to an email list that included a Republican-aligned anti-environmental PR operative, emails obtained by the Guardian show.

The South Western Oregon Joint Task Force (SWOJTF) and its members were monitoring opponents of the Jordan Cove energy project, a proposal by the Canadian energy company Pembina to build the first-ever liquefied natural gas terminal on the US west coast, as well as a new 232-mile pipeline that would carry fracked natural gas to the port of Coos Bay.

The Trump administration has named Jordan Cove as one of its highest-priority infrastructure projects. Jordan Cove opponents have raised concerns about the project’s significant environmental impacts, impacts on public lands, indigenous rights and climate change.

The emails, obtained via open records requests, reflect the increased scrutiny and surveillance to which law enforcement agencies are often subjecting indigenous and environmental groups, activists say.

It also comes amid an uptick in civil disobedience and direct actions challenging fossil fuel infrastructure projects – particularly in the wake of the Native American-led struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016 and 2017. They also reflect a nationwide tendency for rightwing partisans, law enforcement agencies and the fossil fuel industry to ally with one another in the suppression of such activities.

An email distribution list associated with the taskforce included addressees in the FBI, the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Justice (DoJ), the National Forest Service (NFS), Oregon state police (OSP), and various Oregon municipal police and sheriffs departments. But some of its recipients are outside any government agency, most notably Mark Pfeifle, the CEO of the political consultancy Off The Record Strategies.

Pfeifle was previously a Bush administration PR adviser on national security. More recently, Pfeifle worked with law enforcement on a counter-information operation against the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters.

When contacted by telephone about the Jordan Cove project, Mr Pfeifle said “I just don’t have anything for you, I’m not up on it,” before ending the conversation.

Emails circulated on the SWOJTF email list include activists’ social media posts, emails and rally announcements.

Pfeifle appeared on the distribution list of a November 2018 email from the list’s apparent keeper, the Coos county deputy sheriff, Bryan Valencia, which described a recent protest action by Southern Oregon Rising Tide, a direct action climate justice group.

“These are the tactics that are currently being used to forcibly insert their narrative into the conversation,” Valencia wrote. He noted: “There has long been a call for a ‘Standing Rock’ action by the Klamath Tribe in Klamath county.”

Don Gentry, the chairman of the Klamath Tribes, said Valencia’s characterization is false – his tribe has never put out such a call. “We’re working through the readily available channels to get this project stopped,” Gentry said.

In January 2019, Valencia circulated information on Facebook event attendance to a smaller group of SWOJTF officers, related to an upcoming Oregon department of state lands hearing, to some members of the taskforce, despite stating there was a “lack of a criminal nexus”.

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The Coos county sheriffs office (CCSO) public information officer, Gabriel Fabrizio, wrote in response to emailed questions that SWOJTF had been set up to “ensure a multi-agency approach to any and all contingencies”.

Fabrizio added: “As potential dangers to the safety of the citizens and businesses of the county are identified, we monitor groups as long as necessary to determine if they will become a danger to others. Once it’s determined a group has not or likely will not conduct criminal activity, we discontinue monitoring.”

He also wrote that “Mr Pfiefle has no relationship with the Coos county sheriff’s office or with the SWOJTF. He was involved with training that was presented by the National Sheriffs Association to emergency responders in Coos county.”

He also denied that SWOJTF had been engaged in surveillance. “Surveillance implies an active gathering of data and images, and any monitoring we have conducted has been passive, simply watching for information,” he said.

The records reveal the existence of other law enforcement intelligence activities related to monitoring the work of environmental groups.

In a November 2018 email to Valencia, a BLM law enforcement analyst noted her role in the “Forest Intelligence Group (FIG)” that is also tracking activists. “I appreciate anything you find, and I am glad to share likewise,” the analyst wrote.

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Fabrizio said in an email response to questions that FIG “began its life as a timber investigators meeting in the mid eighties … It has been sharing information about activity including criminal activity in our regions forests since that time. The intent of the group is to identify activities that may require sharing of resources or have an impact across traditional jurisdictional lines.”

In a telephone interview, a spokesman for the US attorney in Oregon also confirmed the existence of another body mentioned in the emails: a “domestic terrorism working group” led by the assistant US attorney, Craig Gabriel, that meets “roughly quarterly” in Portland. He said that the group was mostly made up of federal agencies but included some local law enforcement.

“It’s really just to discuss any current issues in the domestic terrorism arena. This could be local issues, all the way up to international issues,” the spokesman said. He said protest movements would be “within the scope” of its discussions even if no criminal activity had occurred.

In another email exchange, an FBI agent, Michael Frost, offered “open source and social media training” to the Coos county sheriffs, writing to Valencia that “with the significant social media presence of the anti-pipeline individuals, I figured your office would be a good place to start”.

The flyer for the training promises law enforcement officers information on tracking individuals online while minimizing their “digital footprint”, and indicates that it would be hosted by yet another law enforcement “task force”: the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Portland.

A spokesperson for the FBI’s Portland field office said in an email: “The FBI does not comment on what may or may not be an ongoing investigation. However, it is important to note that the FBI can never initiate an investigation based solely on first amendment-protected activity.”

On the training session, the spokesperson said: “The FBI’s Portland field office regularly provides training to local law enforcement agencies. This training covers a wide range of law enforcement topics, including appropriate and legal use of open source material in investigations.”

Fabrizio said that the offer of training had not been taken up.

Although Coos Bay is located more than 200 miles away from Portland, the Portland police bureau (PPB) officer Andrew Hearst is also part of the SWOJTF email list. Hearst told Valencia in January 2019: “As always if we hear anything about our people heading down to your area we will alert asap.”

Jordan Cove opponents expressed alarm upon learning about the level of scrutiny they are receiving from so many different law enforcement entities.

“It is outrageous that our Oregon public agencies are actually working to plan how to stifle the very southern Oregonians whose drinking water, property and communities are threatened by this project,” said Sylvia Mangan, a retired public health nurse who lives on one of the proposed pipeline routes.

Asked why Pfeifle was included in the distribution of intelligence on protest groups, Fabrizio wrote: “Open source information is posted on public forums and not considered sensitive.”

He added: “Anyone who may be affected by potential actions are involved as an effort in community outreach and according to the tenets of community policing.”

Pfeifle previously described his work with law enforcement at Standing Rock during a 2017 presentation to oil, gas and banking executives during a pipeline conference in Houston. “A lot of things that we were doing were being done to put a marker down for the protesters. And, ‘OK, if you’re going to go protest somewhere? There’s going to be consequences from it.’”

In an email comment, the ACLU of Oregon questioned the legality of the activities revealed in the emails.

“Monitoring and compiling information about Oregonians’ political or social views, activities, or associations violates Oregon law,” said the spokeswoman Sarah Armstrong.

Lauren Regan, the executive director of the Oregon-based Civil Liberties Defense Center, says the SWOJTF’s activities reflect a nationwide trend. “Police and corporations are working together to suppress movements against fossil fuels,” she said.

Holly Mills of Southern Oregon Rising Tide, a group regularly subjected to scrutiny in the records obtained by the Guardian, said: “We know that the state, police and corporations have often tried to stop movements like this one by using fear as a tactic and repressing dissent. We have prepared ourselves with this in mind, and we communicate on social media and over email with the assumption that cops might be reading.”

Community Members Occupy Jordan Cove LNG Portland Office Lobby in Solidarity with Impacted Landowners

Pics via NO LNG EXPORTS Oregon. ?

via Portland Rising Tide

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

Contact: Dineen O’Rourke, dineen@350pdx.org, 631.830.7478

Community Members Occupy Jordan Cove LNG Portland Office Lobby in Solidarity with Impacted Landowners

[Portland, OR] On Wednesday, May 22nd, from 11AM-1PM Over seventy community members gathered inside the lobby of the Jordan Cove LNG Portland office (11 SW 5th Avenue) to demonstrate opposition to the the proposed fracked gas project in solidarity with impacted landowners in Southern Oregon.

The Jordan Cove LNG project is a proposed 229-mile pipeline and export terminal to transport fracked gas through Southern Oregon to markets in Asia. The pipeline threatens the private property rights of hundreds of landowners, tribal lands and cultural resources, and 400 rivers and streams. The highly volatile LNG export terminal is proposed in an earthquake and tsunami zone on the coast and places over 16,000 Coos Bay residents in an hazardous burn zone.

If built, the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal alone would become the largest source of climate pollution in the state of Oregon. The full annual climate emissions from this project would be equal to another 7.9 million passenger vehicles on the streets according to a report from Oil Change International.

Pics via NO LNG EXPORTS Oregon.

Inside the office lobby, video messages were screened from Southern Oregon landowners whose property would be subject to eminent domain for the proposed fracked gas pipeline. Community members also joyfully listened to anti-fossil fuel folk music, ate blueberry pie (symbolic of potentially impacted blueberry fields), and wrote comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Large banners in the lobby read, “Protect What You Love”, “No LNG”, and “No Pipelines Anywhere”.

For 15 years, rural landowners, Tribal representatives, youth, environmental advocates, and other residents have mobilized to stop Jordan Cove LNG, which was originally denied by FERC in 2016. Just a few weeks ago, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) denied a Clean Water Act permit that the project cannot move forward without. The company still has permit applications pending at the local, state, and federal levels.

“Jordan Cove has threatened us with eminent domain for over a decade,” said Francis Eatherington, landowner in Douglas County. “Though they recently moved the route off our property, it is now much closer to the house, and so we are still threatened with the effects of a gas explosion. And what will happen when a forest fire burns over the block valve that’s cited near us?”

“Jordan Cove and Pembina have been pressuring landowners to sell permanent access to our land for their dangerous export project,” said Stacey McLaughlin, a landowner impacted by the pipeline. “They have caused us years of stress about the fate of our home and livelihood. I want them to pull their permit applications and stop torturing us.”

At the rally, people called on Governor Kate Brown to deny all state permits for this unpopular and unnecessary project and expressed concerns about the impacts of recent Trump pro-pipeline executive orders.

“Jordan Cove LNG is not welcome in Southern Oregon and it’s not welcome here in Portland either.” said Audrey Caines with Portland Rising Tide. “We will continue to stand with communities in Southern Oregon to fight Jordan Cove LNG until this climate disaster is stopped for good.”

Portland Rising Tide, a local all volunteer grassroots group that takes direct action to confront the root causes of climate change, organized today’s rally. They were joined by community members with 350pdx, Sunrise Movement PDX, DSA Eco Socialists, and individuals representing their own demands to end this pipeline project.

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Southern Oregon: Pipeline Pusher’s Car Blocked By Feces

Cross-posted from It’s Going Down

The following communique was anonymously submitted to It’s Going Down.

It reads:

Monday, March 11, 2019 – Michael Hinrichs, mediocre propagandist for the proposed Jordan Cove Energy Project and Pacific Connector Pipeline, traveled to Southern Oregon today, selling Pembina’s particular brand of bullshit. 

Hinrichs brought his crappy lies to the Roseburg Chamber of Commerce— lies that pipelines and fracked gas are good for our communities (or anyone besides Pembina, really). 

Our region has spent the past 15 years fighting against this destructive, colonial pipeline and fracked gas export terminal. Jordan Cove and Michael Hinrichs keep trying to foist their bullshit on us, so we thought we would return the favor. We won’t let this pipeline get built, we shit you not.

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Salem, OR: Pipeline Resistors Disrupt Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s Inauguration

Cross-posted from EF! Newswire

Happy inauguration day Governor Kate Brown! We are in Salem to demand you #walkyourclimatetalk this year by stowing up with frontline communities to #stopJordanCove.

Pipeline Resistors Disrupt Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s Inauguration

[SALEM, OR] — Activists with Southern Oregon Rising Tide interrupted Governor Kate Brown’s inaugural State of the State address this afternoon to demand the Governor direct state agencies to deny the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and fracked gas pipeline. Following the Governor’s swearing-in ceremony, the activists unfurled a large banner reading “Hey Kate: Walk your climate talk. Support the frontlines, stop the pipeline.”

At the same time, more pipeline resistors gathered on the front steps of the Capitol building with large banners calling on the Governor to live up to her promises to take strong action on climate change.

“Governor Brown talks a big talk about climate change, but she’s remained silent on the largest fossil fuel proposal in the state and claims it’s a federal decision, not a state decision,” said Alex Budd of Southern Oregon Rising Tide. “Our state has the power to stop Jordan Cove LNG and it’s time our Governor shows up for communities who have been on the frontlines of this project for over 13 years.”

Governor Kate Brown has stated in interviews that Jordan Cove LNG is a federal decision, however, the state of Oregon denied permits and stopped a much smaller LNG export terminal proposed on the Columbia River in 2011. Additionally, the Department of State Lands stopped a coal export terminal by denying the same permit they are currently considering for Jordan Cove LNG in 2014.

Supporters at Governor Kate Brown’s inauguration today were given goodie bags full of recommendations for the Governor to help her live up to her rhetoric around climate change. We know climate leaders don’t build pipelines, but does she?

If built, the Jordan Cove LNG terminal would become the largest source of climate pollution in Oregon and open up fracked gas exports from the West Coast of the United States. A recent report from the research organization, Oil Change International, concluded that the full lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of the project would be equal to over 15 times the Boardman Coal plant, which is set to be shut down in 2020 because of pollution concerns.

“In our region, hotter, drier summers mean longer and more intense wildfire seasons,” said Zac Wilner, a wildland firefighter from Jackson County. “Governor Brown should know that it is unacceptable to permit any new fossil fuel infrastructure, especially an explosive gas pipeline through Southern Oregon’s most fire-prone forests.”

Just last week, thousands showed up to Department of State Lands hearings across Klamath, Douglas, Jackson, and Coos counties to ask the agency to deny ‘Removal-Fill’ permits for the 229-mile highly explosive gas pipeline and mega-export terminal. The DSL who could issue the permit is overseen by the Oregon State Land Board, which is tasked with denying permits that jeopardize Oregon’s clean water and is headed by Governor Kate Brown. Impacted Tribal members, landowners, students, and more expressed concerns around the project crossing waterways nearly 500 times. Construction of the pipeline would risk the clean drinking water of over 150,000 people in Southern Oregon. The final DSL hearing on Jordan Cove will take place tomorrow, January 15, in Salem at the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs, with a rally starting at 4:15pm.

“Our communities aren’t backing down in the face of this project; we will continue to take action to defend water, land, and communities,” said Grace Warner of Southern Oregon Rising Tide.

Southern Oregon Rising Tide is dedicated to promoting community- based solutions to the climate crisis and taking direct action to confront the root causes of climate change. We are based in the mountains and rivers of rural Southern Oregon, with most of our members living on ancestral Takelma land in so-called Jackson and Josephine Counties.

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