No LUCS for Zenith: Public Testimony to Council

[Harlan Shober and annie capestany testified to the Portland City Council on February 8, 2023.]

Harlan’s testimony:

Hello, Mayor Wheeler and Council members. My name is Harlan Shober.

I was in this room when City Council voted to ban expanding fossil fuel infrastructure. Then I watched Zenith expand its capacity many times over – all without proper permits. Last year when they needed a Land Use Compatibility Statement, you recognized that their operations don’t fit with Portland’s plan, and you denied the LUCS. Zenith appealed, but they lost at every legal turn.

Then, in what to many of us felt like a sneaky move, you snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and granted Zenith a LUCS based on their promise to convert to renewables in five years. Why? Regular citizens have to conclude that your real loyalties belong to big business. All the testimony from neighborhood associations, social justice groups, congregations, and climate organizations counts for nothing. It looks like your real marching orders come from the Portland Business Alliance and Zenith’s lawyers at Stoel Rives.

You say that issuing a LUCS is a standard administrative function and that you’re not required to involve the public. But that’s disingenuous at best. There was a pattern of consultation and the expectation of an open process. You showed further bad faith on January 17th at the scheduled meeting with Commissioner Ryan. Our group, strictly limited to four people, was confronted by more than 10 city employees. Time was arbitrarily limited to 30 minutes. Our questions weren’t answered. Stop trying to outmaneuver the public. You’re supposed to work for us, not against us.

The stakes are high. From Lac-Megantic to Mosier to the unfolding disaster in Ohio we know that rail tank cars derail and explode. Our own CEI Hub Seismic Risk Analysis is unequivocal. Fuel storage along the Willamette is a catastrophe spring-loaded and waiting to happen. We know that when profits come from weapons, tobacco, oxycodone and petroleum, corporations cannot do other than drive all of us over the cliff – if we let them. Don’t let them. Stop caving into the big money. Partner with your constituents. Rescind the LUCS.

We have cardboard gavels to present to the council, with messages written on them. These gavels also represent oil train cars because the council is erroneously relinquishing their power to the fossil fuel companies, instead of recognizing that the power lies in the people’s hands.


annie’s testimony:

Good morning, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I am annie capestany of SE Portland (speaking in place of Lynn Handlin). I use the pronouns she/her. I am a member of Extinction Rebellion, 350PDX and the Scrub the Hub coalition.

I will get right to the point: the City must rescind the LUCS (Land Use Compatibility Statement) that was erroneously granted to Zenith Energy in October by Commissioner Dan Ryan. We must clean up the mess he made before Zenith makes a dangerous, deadly mess of our Willamette River.

In addition to rescinding the LUCS, the Scrub the Hub coalition has two other demands:

1) the city should immediately schedule a public hearing about the LUCS and give Portlanders the opportunity to share their opinions on Zenith’s operations. A decision of such importance should have ample public input;


2) this is directed to Commissioner Rubio: you are now overseeing the Bureau of Development Services. You have been a climate champion in the past and we look forward to working with you to shut Zenith down. Our coalition has requested a meeting with you, and we have not gotten a response. We have sent our questions via email, but we have not gotten answers. We had a brief meeting with Dan Ryan in January with a surprise appearance by you, but the meeting was dominated by condescending lectures from staff members and then was unexpectedly cut short. We still have no answers.

When we get a proper meeting with you, Commissioner Rubio, we will have many questions. And they all deserve answers. Here is a small sample:                           

• Given impending earthquakes and possible derailments, how do renewable fuels address the dangers spelled out in the CEI HUB seismic risk analysis? Don’t renewables still burn, spill, pollute and kill? 

• The city’s Comprehensive Plan has explicit language regarding community involvement, stating that the city works as a “genuine partner with all Portland communities and interests, providing meaningful opportunities to participate in and influence all stages of planning and decision-making.” Knowing that tens of thousands of people have expressed their concerns about Zenith, why did you make a back door deal with Zenith, betraying our trust and violating the Comprehensive Plan? 

• How do the benefits outweigh the dangers of Zenith’s exports for the next five years?

• What evidence do you have that Zenith is and will be in compliance with the Comprehensive Plan?                                                                               

The Scrub the Hub coalition is here today to make sure Portlanders’ worries concerning Zenith’s dangers get the attention they deserve. We are here because we refuse to be ignored. We are here to tell City Council that it doesn’t matter who holds the gavel, the real power is with the people: the voters, the taxpayers, the workers, the protesters, the old, the young. Black. White. Indigenous. The power is in the people’s hands. Please stop banging your gavel and listen to the people.


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