In this edition of Client Voices, I interviewed Jim and Fuji Kreider, founders of the Stop B2H Coalition, a grassroots organization based in La Grande, OR.  Founded in 2015 and incorporated into a 501(c)3 nonprofit in August 2017, the Stop B2H Coalition has worked tirelessly to halt the unnecessary 300-mile long transmission line from Boardman, OR to Hemingway, ID. 

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Uniting Eastern Oregon Communities for an Energy Democracy

Over ten years ago longtime environmentalists and political activists, Jim and Fuji Kreider learned that their neighborhood was to be invaded by 180-foot tall giants – an enormous transmission line which would stretch 300 miles across Eastern Oregon, threatening trails, forests, parks, communities, and wildlife habitats. Jim and Fuji of La Grande, OR have always been conscious of issues surrounding energy policy and solutions. The Kreiders’ passion for this subject led them to be politically active for decades. It just so happened that the B2H (Boardman to Hemingway) transmission line led them to harness a grassroots political movement in their own community in Eastern Oregon. The news of the B2H transmission line spurred controversy in their small town and other Eastern Oregon communities. Many concerned residents came together to explore ways that they could stop the construction. 

What is the B2H?

The Kreiders were quick on their feet – researching anything and everything they could about the controversial transmission line. What they found is that the B2H transmission line is an outdated and unnecessary way to transport energy that harms communities and the environment for the financial benefit of large for-profit corporations. 1,200 transmission lines between 130 and 185 feet in height would cut across one of the few remaining segments of the Oregon Trail near the Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, forever marring views that currently allow visitors to contemplate the landscape as it looked to the immigrants who followed the Oregon Trail in the 1800s. The line would also threaten the sage-grouse population, making these birds even more vulnerable to predators, such as raptors and ravens, which would perch on the transmission line and prey on the sage-grouse. Along with these critical impacts due to construction, the line is simply an old school solution for transporting energy. New innovations in the renewable energy field have made it possible to locally source energy instead of relying on large for-profit corporations to transport energy through monstrous transmission lines across the entire state. 

The Grassroots Coalition Begins

After researching the economic, environmental, and historical impacts of the B2H transmission line, Jim and Fuji spread the word and organized fellow concerned neighbors into the “Stop B2H Coalition.” They educated their friends, family, and neighbors about the impacts of the transmission line until there was a strong consensus to block construction of the line. As a result of their efforts, the Kreiders have created a coalition of more than 800 members and 8 organizational members to date. Jim and Fuji frequently visit concerned community members’ homes for presentations or letter writing sessions to decision makers. The Kreiders remain true to their belief that education is a source of power, especially for marginalized communities. For years, the Kreiders have promoted environmental justice in their rural community through the “Stop B2H Coalition”. The Kreiders truly embody the definition of grassroots political leaders for environmental justice. 

The coalition’s mission has evolved since its founding in 2015. The Stop B2H’s mission started simple: To stop the approval and construction of an unneeded 305 mile, 500 kv transmission line through Eastern Oregon and Western Idaho, thereby: protecting environmental, historical and cultural resources; preventing degradation of timber and agricultural lands and the Oregon National Historic Trail; promoting energy conservation and acknowledging the past decade’s revolutionary developments in renewable energy,  energy storage and distribution.”

One of the long term goals of the Stop B2H Coalition is to move the State of Oregon and the U.S. in the direction of an energy democracy. Energy democracy, a concept strongly supported by Oregon senator Jeff Merkley, promotes the development of decentralized, community-owned, and community-benefiting energy systems. The Kreiders have particularly paid attention to movements around the nation and globe to move in the direction of locally-sourced renewable energy such as movements at Green Mountain Power and other creative solutions. It is clear that the Stop B2H Coalition represents more than simply the halting of a singular transmission line, but is indicative of a movement towards solving these complex policy and economic issues. 

Crag & The Stop B2H Coalition

It was just recently that B2H sought legal support from Crag Law Center. In 2017, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service approved the transmission project based on incomplete findings from the Environmental Impact Statement. The Environmental Impact Statement failed to take a hard look at the transmission line’s impacts to Greater Sage Grouse, the Oregon Trail, and the community of La Grande. The Stop B2H Coalition gathered new information previously not considered in the original 2016 Environmental Impact Statement issued by the BLM. The new information that came to light after the BLM review showed that the B2H transmission line would cause severe environmental impacts to communities as well as the natural land and habitats of Eastern Oregon. 

Stop B2H Coalition wrote a formal request to BLM calling for a revision and ultimately, recall of the Environmental Impact Statement. The Coalition received no response from the BLM. The Coalition’s original intent was not to take any legal action, but the lack of response and negligence on the part of the BLM left them with no choice. We believe that the agency has a duty to prepare a supplemental EIS to fully and fairly disclose and consider that new information. In November 2019, on behalf of Stop B2H Coalition, Greater Hells Canyon Council, and individuals Jim Kreider, Fuji Kreider, and Gail Carbiener, Crag and co-counsel Dave Becker filed a federal lawsuit challenging the approval of the transmission line.

“We are fairly new to Crag but already Maura and Oliver understand our complex issues. They are reassuring and patient with our grassroots nonprofit and our lack of legal know-how.  We are grateful for their willingness to work with the STOP B2H Coalition!  Thank you, Crag Law Center.” -Fuji Kreider

 

While the Stop B2H Coalition and Crag Law Center have a fairly new relationship, Crag has been important in offering specialized legal services to help this community coalition fight this hazardous transmission line. Not only does Crag believe that this transmission line construction can be halted, but Crag supports all the important advocacy work that this grassroots group is doing. Jim and Fuji Kreider are uniting their rural communities through environmental and political action for an innovative vision for the world. They have spent countless hours over the years plowing through tens of thousands of pages of environmental, utility, and regulatory documents. The Kreiders continue to mobilize their small communities every day in small and large ways in order to advance their innovative energy ideas, representative of a growing energy movement.

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For more background on the B2H transmission line visit their website: http://stopb2h.org/

Read the “Top 10 Reasons to Stop B2H”.

Learn more about Crag’s work challenging the B2H transmission line.

 

Bridget O’Brien is a 2020 Crag summer intern and a rising junior from Whitman College. Bridget is majoring in Politics and German Studies. She is most interested in environmental politics and policy.