PRESS RELEASE * For Immediate Release
Mobile Residents Draw the Line on Tar Sands on Mobile Bay
New Coalition Marches on GM&O Rail Terminal Protesting Tar Sands Tanker Shipments
MOBILE, ALABAMA, SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2013, 10AM – As multiple new tar sands infrastructure proposals on Mobile’s waterfront reveal themselves, the anti-tar sands movement of greater Mobile has set its sights on the question of how tar sands is entering the community to begin with. Plans for an expanded tar sands unloading depot by the Canadian National Railway (CN) in partnership with Houston-based corporations Plains South Cap, American Tank & Vessel (AT&V) and ARC Terminal have outraged Mobile residents. Fed up with the lack of consultation and led by the newly-formed Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition (MEJACoalition), affected residents and supporters marched to GM&O Terminal to “Draw the Line” on tar sands in Mobile.
“I may be a resident of Africatown, but today I’m marching for all residents of Mobile and our efforts to stop Plains South Cap, CN and the rest from bringing tar sands into or around Mobile County. We really don’t appreciate the way that they’ve done their business,” explained Joe Womack, resident of the Africatown Historic District, the sight of intense opposition to the proposed tar sands projects. “It should’ve been above board and the community should’ve been brought in from the beginning.”
The tar sands train depot, as described in City of Mobile planning documents dating from October 4, 2012, will expand the existing CN railyard adjacent to GM&O Terminal and pipe tar sands under the Mobile River to ARC Terminal tar sands storage tanks on Blakeley Island, formerly operated by Gulf Coast Asphalt Company but acquired earlier this year by ARC in February.
Currently, tar sands are brought in via rail through rural southwestern Alabama communities over the Escatawpa River where trains have derailed twice in the last decade. The CN tar sands tanker cars then wind their way through the hearts of Saraland, Chickasaw, Prichard, and Africatown to the existing CN railyard near GM&O Terminal. To unloaded the cars into tanker trucks the tar sands slurry is taken to ARC Terminal’s Chickasaw depot, formerly Mobile Asphalt. From there, they travel yet again through the heart of Africatown across the Cochrane Africatown USA Bridge to ARC Terminal’s Blakeley Island tar sands storage facilities. The new tar sands depot near GM&O Terminal and the Plains South Cap pipeline under the Mobile River would shorten the circuit and allow for a dramatic increase in the volume of tar sands coming through Mobile for export.
Carrying colorful signs and banners reading “Environmental Justice For All,” “No Tar Sands In Mobile,” and “Africatown Not Tank Farm Town” while symbolically wearing blue and black, the marchers gathered in Cathedral Square before shoving off to the GM&O Terminal where tar sands tankers remain nearby until their unloading at ARC’s Saraland depot.
Foley, Alabama resident Kimberly McCuiston described the symbology of the black and blue color coordination, “We’ve already been deeply bruised by the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. The illnesses, the damage to our waterfront, those things still haven’t been addressed appropriately, and I’m sick of living in a dirty energy sacrifice zone. At this point, certain underrepresented communities like our neighbors in Africatown, Prichard, and Chickasaw are necessarily organizing like Selma in ’63 and I’m here to help. I’m not gonna sit idly by while environmental injustices and human rights abuses on the part of these tar sands corporations are perpetrated on my neighbors.”
Joe Womack agreed, “These projects are hazardous to the entire Gulf Coast, especially Africatown which has been repeatedly dumped on already. It’s time to clean Africatown up and stop making it a dumping ground for hazardous waste and materials in this section of the world.”
Just weeks ago, AT&V unexpectedly pulled their proposal for a massive 32-tank tar sands tank farm to be sighted in historic Africatown across the street from the Mobile County Training School, Alabama’s oldest primarily African-American Middle School. And last week saw a lower Alabama court rule against Plains South Cap corporation’s bid to illegally expropriate private property through eminent domain. That decision affirmed the right of Mobile Area Water & Sewage System to turn down the pipeline corporation’s plans to install a tar sands pipeline through greater Mobile’s primary source of fresh water, the Big Creek Lake watershed.
MEJACoalition’s march coincides with a National Call to Action called “Draw the Line” by the climate justice organization 350.org. The day of action features scores of creative events across the country and the Gulf South, with large rallies planned in areas already affected by climate change and places at increased risk from climate chaos if strong action, such as limiting tar sands exploitation, is not taken. Other events focus primarily on the Presidential Permit required for the northern segment of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which has faced unprecedented pressures from adversely affected nearby residents, tar sands refinery communities, landowners, and climate justice organizers alike.
MEJACoalition is the greater Mobile area’s first environmental justice organization.