Two Days in Washington DC: There are no absolutes – Only Trade-Offs

Nearly everyone who visits their Congressional Delegates “wants” something from them. They are either lobbying to promote a favor they seek for themselves or it’s their job (paid) to do so for someone else. Favors come in many flavors. Some are simple and others complex. Some require education and or other methods of persuasion, because of the many opposing viewpoints and choices. Good and Fair Governance remains difficult at best.

During our Oregon Business group’s visit to Washington D.C., we had an assigned agenda from our group full of wants and desires. Each agenda item was designed to promote an aspect of the Oregon Economy. Of course, each economic increase is tethered to something else. Increasing the Port of Portland’s capacity by dredging the river inherently includes possible environmental risks of disturbing indigenous species along with the unfortunate discards and pollutants that have settled into the riverbed. We are simply unable to have both; an undisturbed river bottom and the capacity to increase our Port’s capacity. Both are important yet the challenges for both need to be seriously considered.

Choosing and ultimately deciding is a balancing act between options and trade-offs. There are no perfect answers. Heck, there are rarely good answers. There are only the best alternatives with the choices we have at this moment in time.

There are no absolutes – Only Trade-Offs

Each member of our delegation was assigned a specific topic or request relevant to the state of Oregon, to discuss whenever an appropriate opportunity presented itself. I was assigned the Jordon Cove LNG Facility proposed for the Coos Bay region on the Oregon coast.

The Jordon Cove project is controversial and puts various interest groups on opposite sides of this proposal. To fulfill the group’s obligations I had to reconcile my personal feelings and beliefs about the Jordon Cove LNG Facility project. This is a project that on its surface provides choices between jobs against the risk of permanent environmental damage and property rights. No one said good governance was easy.

I believe that for complex decisions to be made, leadership must vet and listen to the conclusions made by the “Experts” who understand and likely more knowledgeable about the topic or challenge more than they do.

There are frequently no bright lines. Decisions should ultimately be made by leadership with informed opinions.

The Jordon Cove project puts Tribal coalitions, environmentalists, and global warming/anti-carbon coalitions against the pro-business, pro-employment, and economic improvement groups. Neither of these opposing interests has clear claim to clarity on this issue.

In short context, the Jordon Cove project requires a 36-inch in-ground high-pressure natural gas pipeline that will connect from the southeast Oregon and northeast California border. It will run approximately 200 miles to a plant near Coos Bay, Oregon. It crosses several counties, National Forest lands, ranch lands, tribal lands, and associated private and public properties. There are mountain ranges, pristine wilderness areas and towns, and cities to navigate in and around.

While there are many gas lines buried across the region and country, no one really wants to have one in their proverbial backyard. People generally desire their benefits but hesitate at their costs. This is the essential conflict between wanting benefits and paying for what they “really” cost. No solutions, only trade-offs.

Environmentalists have a solid standing in this discussion. There is no dispute or argument that lands (property), animals, and people will face disruptions and even possibly the real risk of the effects of a pipeline failure. Only a mind blinded by unadulterated optimism would be able to flat out dismiss these “real” challenges.

As for challenges, one of the pioneering cornerstones of the American Ethos is that there are no permanent barriers only the lack of current alternatives. Americans generally bristle at the mere concept of “Can’t”.

In order to perform my duties as an active member of our Oregon Business coalition of business leaders, representatives of government, and educators, I needed to understand both the strengths and weaknesses of both the supporters and proponents. This is what I believe reasonable people should do. Responsible decision makers should research and listen to all points of view. How else can you make an informed decision that is based on both the logical and the practical? While emotional arguments have their persuasive powers, policy decisions instead, should be based upon appropriate value paradigms that recognize that the competing interests will differ in conclusions but can and should always agree on basic common ground items. This is how civilizations have matured since we migrated from the Agrarian Age.

An agrarian society (or agricultural society) is any society whose economy is based on producing and maintaining crops and farmland. … Agrarian societies have existed in various parts of the world as far back as 10,000 years ago and continue to exist today.

Accordingly, I would and should consider the economic and human impact of the project. Clearly, the multi-billion dollar construction project creates jobs, tax revenues, and economic improvements; No doubt. And, Southern Oregon in general and the greater Coos Bay Area, in particular, reassemble many rural communities across the country that echo ghost-like cities that have decayed into the ether. Unemployment and underemployment are rampant; drug abuse is horrific. Communities that for generations have thrived from their conversion of natural resources (lumber, fisheries, etc.) have been decimated due to over-fishing, depleted natural resources (tree lumber), and overall business and eco-environmental changes.

Policies are like Pendulums. They swing far beyond their reasonable centers and stall too long at the extremes.

These jobs could be well-paying jobs; permanent jobs would exceed 200; the economic multipliers are in the hundreds of millions annually. These jobs are a community game changer. The Port of Coos Bay is a naturally deep harbor. It is well suited for ships and transportation. There are of course concerns about safety as any catastrophic shipping accident would be beyond acceptable. Risks can be mitigated. Not eliminated but mitigated.

Policies are like Pendulums. They swing far beyond their reasonable centers and stall too long at the extremes. Extremes are not places for policymakers and reasoned decision makers. We have to consider the benefits and their costs. We have to think about the messaging associated with Yes or No. Are we to be considered “Open for Business” with the benefits of a thriving economy or are we “Closed for Business”. I recognize that not all “business is good business”. Conversely, not all environmental laws and perspectives are “good laws and regulations”. There are no solutions, only tradeoffs.

I was asked to express the Oregon Business Alliance’s support for the Jordon Cove project. I was asked to pitch it to congressional leaders that represent Portland and Eugene, hotbeds of anti-business and especially anti-oil/gas type businesses. And I did my job. I concluded that the project is worthy of at least consideration and possibly support.

The project isn’t perfect. I merely agree that the tradeoffs are worthy. I believe that our lands need protecting and the project can certainly improve protections. I believe that 200+ high paying jobs can turn around an economically decaying community. I believe that people matter. I believe that jobs matter. And…..I believe the environment matters.

Whether the project is approved or not is outside of any influence I may have outside of the Ballot I cast. The Regulators and Legislators are in charge. To Lead (leadership) and to Govern (governance) means becoming involved, performing your own research and due diligence, and consider “other” alternatives that bring the two sides closer together and to strive to be an active team player; “Step Up”; even when your commitment is what you would have preferred skipping. Being a “Responsible” and “Engaged” adult requires more than our own ego; it requires an active participation as a member of YOUR chosen communities and helping the group promote its mission.

By focusing on understanding our tradeoffs we oftentimes find solutions.

Now – Don’t Forget to VOTE
Make your voice heard

Daniel Morris
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