Law enforcement groups including the FBI have been monitoring opponents of a natural gas pipeline project in Coos Bay, The Guardian revealed this week. The report says those agencies circulated information about environmental activists to an email list that includes a Republican public-relations consultant promoting natural gas pipelines.
OPB confirmed Thursday that the monitoring was conducted by the Coos County Sheriff's Office, and that the information was shared by a taskforce under that office. It included activists' social media posts, rally announcements, protest actions, and emails, as well as suggestions for training law enforcement to track activists via open source material and social media.
Those activists are battling the Jordan Cove Energy Project. That project—backed by Canadian pipeline corporation Veresen, now Pembina—proposes to construct and operate a liquefied natural gas export facility in Coos Bay in 2013.
The project would be the first terminal of its kind on the West Coast, and could export up to 7.8 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas annually. It'd also require a 230-mile pipeline to carry fracked natural gas to the bay, stretching diagonally across the southwest corner of the state.
The promise of local jobs and economic growth has made Jordan Cove a key priority for the Trump administration. But opponents of the project are concerned about the pipeline's environmental impact, damage to public land, infringement on indigenous rights, and possible destruction of local communities in natural or other disasters.
According to Oregon statutes, law enforcement agencies aren't allowed to collect or monitor information about specific individuals or organizations unless that information is directly related to an investigation of possible criminal activity. But spokespeople for those agencies have claimed protests and demonstrations lie within the scope of possible criminal activity, and that they're justified to consider activist groups "potential dangers."
Oregon's top civil liberties watchdog organizations don't agree. "Monitoring and compiling information about Oregonians' political or social views, activities, or associations violates Oregon law," said Oregon ACLU spokeswoman Sarah Armstrong in a comment to The Guardian.
Jordan Cove opponents say they're disturbed by this, but not entirely surprised.
Holly Mills of Southern Oregon Rising Tide, a direct climate action group mentioned in several of the emails circulated by the task force, told The Guardian that Rising Tide "know[s] that the state, police and corporations have often tried to stop movements like this one by using fear as a tactic and repressing dissent [and] have prepared ourselves with this in mind." She and her fellow activists, she says, communicate on social media and over email "with the assumption that cops might be reading."