Vancouver, WA — Right now, community members from Oregon and Washington are blockading a rail line at the Port of Vancouver, Washington that is transporting pipe for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project. In early September, activists broke the news that pipe for the project’s construction is being imported by ship to the Port of Vancouver. Today’s action at the gates of Terminal 5 is causing a major delay in loading pipe onto trains destined for British Columbia.
If constructed, the Trans Mountain Expansion would transport an additional 590,000 barrels of toxic, heavy crude every day from the Alberta Tar Sands to the shores of British Columbia. This boost in export shipments would increase oil tankers in the Salish Sea 700%, threaten endangered Orca whales, and violate Indigenous rights. Moreover, the emissions from such an expansion of tar sands oil production could spell game-over for our climate. This mega-project, which is larger than the controvertial Keystone XL Pipeline, is opposed by Indigenous communities throughout the region, whose local waters, lands, and way of life would be directly threatened by project construction and the risk of an oil spill.
This action, organized by Portland Rising Tide and Mosquito Fleet, is part of a larger fight against the Trans Mountain Expansion that has been ongoing since 2014. Both organizations are working with other groups across the west coast of the U.S. and Canada to pressure Prime Minister Trudeau, Govenor Inslee and the Port of Vancouver, WA, who are all supporting this project. We demand they stop the Trans Mountain Expansion project immediately, respect the rights of Indigenous groups, and halt any further fossil fuel expansion.
Yesterday, a pipeline fighter has locked themselves to a Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) helicopter near Elliston, VA. The banner on the helicopter reads “DOOM TO THE PIPELINE.”
The pipeline fighter taking action, going by Squirrel, stated: “I took action today in an attempt to slow the construction of this destructive pipeline project. If completed, the MVP will ship billions of cubic feet of natural gas to be burned every single day. This pipeline will inevitably leak, and many natural gas pipelines have exploded, killing people and wildlife.
“In times such as these, with the catastrophic effects of global warming accelerating at an alarming pace, it is imperative to act now. The planet is in crisis, and the ruling class would rather continue the genocidal and ecologically destructive projects of capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism, than address the largest existential threat in human history. It’s up to us to intervene — they won’t stop unless we make them stop. For a world and a future without exploitation, capitalism, and the destruction of the wild! No compromise!”
pic via Appalachians Against Pipelines
MVP uses helicopters for a few purposes, including surveillance and large scale hydroseeding. Hydroseeding is a process in which they drop proprietary pellets on the pipeline easement (and everywhere else they happen to hit within a mile or so) as part of their bogus, destructive attempt at “environmental remediation.” In 2018, MVP dropped “erosion control” pellets on Neal Laferriere’s organic farm Blackberry Botanicals in Summers County, WV, a quarter mile from the easement, hitting Neal’s children in the face and causing the family to lose their organic certification and livelihood. Hydroseeding has been proven worldwide to be incredibly damaging to native plant communities and long term ecosystem stability.
The action took place just down the road from the Yellow Finch tree sits, which have been preventing construction and defending some of the last remaining trees on the pipeline route for 398 days and counting!
Revealed: anti-terror center helped police track environmental activists
Observers argue efforts by the Oregon Titan Fusion Center to disseminate information about protesters violates state law
By Will Parrish and Jason Wilson
A federally sponsored anti-terrorism fusion center in Oregon assisted a taskforce monitoring protest groups organizing against a fossil fuel infrastructure project in the state, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.
The Oregon Titan Fusion Center – part of a network set up to monitor terrorist activities – disseminated information gathered by that taskforce, and shared information provided by private security attached to the gas project with some of the task force members.
Observers, including the American Civil Liberties Union, argue these efforts break Oregon law.
Previously, the Guardian revealed the existence of the South-western Oregon Joint Task Force (SWOJTF), a group spearheaded by the Coos county sheriff’s office (CCSO), and its surveillance of those opposing the Jordan Cove energy project: a $10bn proposed liquid natural gas project that would include a new export terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon.
The sheriff’s office passed on information harvested from social media accounts and emails to a network of local, state and federal police agencies. In addition to monitoring non-violent protests by Jordan Cove opponents, the SWOJTF has also tracked individuals’ attendance at regulatory hearings and routine campaign emails circulated by grassroots groups such as Southern Oregon Rising Tide, Rogue Climate and 350 Eugene.
Chuck Cogburn, who is currently an analyst with the Oregon Titan Fusion Center, has been among the regular recipients of SWOJTF emails, records obtained by the Guardian via open records requests show.
On 8 November 2018, Cogburn, who until 2015 also served as the director of the fusion center, responded to an email circulated by the CCSO deputy Bryan Valencia on a pipeline protest at a Medford Chamber of Commerce meeting, by telling Valencia he will “put this out as a SAR”, which fusion centers define as a “suspicious activity report”.
Later, on 22 March, Cogburn forwarded an email from a private firm providing security services for Pembina, the project’s owner, to Valencia and Strain. The initial email read: “There is a protest scheduled in front of our Klamath office next Thursday from 12-2pm. The local Democrat Party dropped the poster below at the chamber office, and then joined the chamber.
It then reproduced the text of a poster for a “block the pipe party” protest held at a theater in Klamath Falls on 5 April.
Cogburn forwarded it with the message, “FYI. Not sure if you get these.”
The national network of fusion centers were created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as focal points for cooperation and information sharing between federal, state and local agencies in detecting and responding to terrorist and criminal activities. In 2018 the House homeland security committee counted 79 fusion centers around the country.
In its own materials, the Titan Fusion Center is described as “a collaborative effort of state and federal law enforcement agencies”, focused on “terrorism, organized crime and gang-related criminal activity”.
The center also says that it “may retain protected information that is based on a level of suspicion that is less than ‘reasonable suspicion’, such as tips and leads or suspicious activity report (SAR) information”.
National fusion center materials say that they “receive information from a variety of sources, including suspicious activity reporting (SAR) information from stakeholders within their jurisdictions, as well as federal information and intelligence”.
The center also says that it “will not seek or retain information about an individual or organization solely on the basis of their religious, political, racial, or social views or activities; their participation in a particular non-criminal organization or lawful event”.
The center states that its activities are governed by Oregon statutes that prevent the gathering of “information about the political, religious or social views, associations or activities of any individual, group, association, organization, corporation, business or partnership unless such information directly relates to an investigation of criminal activities”.
But it is precisely such statutes that observers like the ACLU of Oregon say that SWOJTF, and the fusion center, are breaking.
Kelly Simon, an ACLU of Oregon staff attorney, said: “These communications are just more evidence of the Coos county sheriff’s and Titan Fusion Center’s utter disregard for the bedrock principle of freedom of expression and of Oregon’s anti-profiling laws”.
National and local environmental leaders agree.
Meanwhile, 45 leaders from international, national and Oregon-based organizations sent a letter to Governor Kate Brown on 26 September calling on her to withdraw the state’s cooperation with any surveillance of activists, citing the Guardian’s reporting on the SWOJTF last month. Prominent activists, including Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, argued that “monitoring and compiling information about Oregonians’ political or social views, activities, or associations violates Oregon law”, and ask that the governor “protect the civil liberties of your constituents by withdrawing all Oregon resources and participation in the SWOJTF immediately”.
University of Southern Maine criminologist Brendan McQuade, the author of a recent book on fusion centers, says fusion centers and other law enforcement taskforces frequently help law agencies get around laws like the one in Oregon.
“The structure allows the police to take advantage of the unevenness of the laws in different jurisdictions, by utilizing the differing powers afforded to state, local and federal agencies as part of a flexible overall operation,” McQuade said.
Chuck Cogburn, the analyst, did not respond to emailed questions from the Guardian, but his LinkedIn page lists his duties as: “Support Fusion Center operations. Provide analytical support. Produced risk, threat, vulnerability assessment.”
At the state level, the center falls under the purview of the Oregon department of justice (DoJ). A DoJ spokesperson did not respond to a detailed request for comment on adding the Medford protest to a SAR, or on the composition of the taskforce. Asked about passing on information from a private firm about the Klamath Falls protest to CCSO, the spokesperson said, “Mr Cogburn forwarded on a notice for an advertised event. It was public information, so it was not considered confidential material.”
The Titan Fusion Center has encountered criticism before regarding its monitoring of left-leaning activists on social media. In 2016, a fusion center investigator allegedly violated Oregon law by using a software package, DigitalStakeOut, to monitor the head of the civil rights unit in the Oregon department of justice.
In that instance, the investigator used DigitalStakeout to geographically isolate the source of tweets which used the #blacklivesmatter hashtag to the Oregon DoJ headquarters. The tweets had been sent by Erious Johnson, the head of the civil rights unit. Some of the tweets which put Johnson under surveillance were about the hip-hop group Public Enemy. Johnson sued the state over the surveillance, settling in 2017.
In 2016, the fusion center investigator, James Williams, said that he had not been aware that Oregon law made his surveillance illegal. Reportedly, it was Cogburn who had arranged for the center to receive the trial of the software which allowed Williams to pinpoint Johnson’s tweets.
The CCSO spokesman, Captain Gabriel Fabrizio, has described SWOJTF as having been “created to ensure a multi-agency approach to any and all contingencies. Coos county, due to the potential sighting [sic] of the terminal on the Coos Bay, has been conducting drills and planning regarding all hazards since Jordan Cove has made its intentions known.”
In fact, the fusion center appears to have played a key role in setting up the southern Oregon taskforce. In an April 2017 letter to Oregon legislators supporting a boost in Fusion Center funding, the Coos county sheriff, Craig Zanni, wrote that “[t]he Oregon Titan Fusion Center has provided leadership and guidance that is facilitating the formulation of the Southwestern Oregon Joint Task Force.”
Zanni wrote in the same letter that the taskforce would “be instrumental in combating the extremist agenda in Southern Oregon”.
CCSO did not respond to a detailed request for comment about SWOJTF’s relationship with the fusion center, and what the “extremist agenda” in southern Oregon amounts to.
“The problem with pipelines is they always leak,” stated Duff. “What they leak are toxins into the land, water, and air.”
This site is just minutes down the road from the ongoing Yellow Finch tree sit blockade, where 2 tree sits have been standing strong in the path of the pipeline for 388 days and counting.
Folks at the tree sits stated the following in support of today’s action: “Thank you, Duff, for stopping the pipeline on its path to the tree sits. Thank you for stepping up the climate strike — from refusing to participate, to actively preventing the destruction of the earth. We are so pleased to see that we are part of an intergenerational struggle, and that our elders are not leaving all of the challenges facing the planet to the youth. Let’s all rise up together to stop the MVP!”
Crystal Mello, a fellow grandmother from Montgomery County, VA (who took up residence in the nearby tree sits a few months ago), stated: “Any action to prevent any more destructive actions taken by this company is one-hundred percent ok with me. This pipeline will be a ticking time bomb, especially in this spot that MVP had to abandon on December 4, 2018, and still has yet to attempt digging. They’re steadily ripping up the earth and planting pipe elsewhere.”
This site has long been a point of contention for anti-pipeline activists. Crystal refers to December 4 of last year, when MVP halted construction at Cove for the winter because they exposed several underground springs. Pipeline workers attempted to dig a trench to lay pipe, only to have the area repeatedly fill with water, turning the site into muddy pond. Pipeline opponents held a press conference at the site after MVP “surrendered to the groundwater” asserting that nature itself was fighting back against the pipeline. MVP claimed they would return in the spring when the area was “less wet” but they have yet to dig up that particular site.
In addition, this summer, pipeline fighters staged a protest nearby where over 30 people walked onto the pipeline easement. Today, Duff’s action escalates the ongoing resistance in this area.
THANK YOU DUFF, and all the other water protectors and mountain defenders who joined us today & every day!