Hood River, OR – Area residents opposed to the shipment of oil extraction and refining equipment up the Columbia River marked the one year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with a rally in Hood River on Wednesday. The event brought together indigenous speakers from Alberta and British Columbia, as well as representatives from affected communities along the Columbia. It was affiliated with an international “Day of Action against Extraction” marking the Gulf oil spill anniversary.
“We are drawing the line,” Hood River resident Anthony Villagomez explained. “For the health of the salmon, the river and all the communities of the Gorge, we need to say no to this energy of mass destruction.”
Organizers with climate justice group Rising Tide brought a festive atmosphere with colorful kayaks, flags, and kites. The rally marched from Marina Park to Hood River City Hall with a resolution to oppose tar sands oil extraction and the use of the Columbia as a shipping corridor.
Mining and refining equipment bound for the Alberta tar sands – widely regarded as the largest and dirtiest oil extraction project on the planet – began moving up the Columbia River late last year. Area residents are also concerned about the impact an accident on the Columbia shipping route would have on salmon runs and those who depend on the fish for their livelihood.
In order to extract tar sands oil, an area of boreal forest the size of Florida is being clear-cut and excavated. It takes four barrels of clean water to produce one barrel of tar sands oil, and requires requiring three times the energy to extract as conventional oil. Indigenous communities have been the most severely impacted by tar sands development. In 2008, Alberta Health confirmed a 30% rise in cancers cases between 1995 and 2006.
“The cultural heritage, land, ecosystems, and human health of more than sixty First Nations communities are being sacrificed for oil money,” said Heather Milton-Lightning from the Indigenous Environmental Network, who brought the concerns of native people to the rally. “This is slow industrial genocide.”
“What happened to the Gulf of Mexico was tragic, but it was entirely preventable” said Meredith Cox with Rising Tide. “We don’t want to see the Columbia transformed into yet another oil sacrifice zone.”