Twenty-One People Arrested Blockading Oil Train Route in Vancouver, WA

vancouverTwenty-One People Arrested Blockading Oil Train Route in Vancouver, WA

via Portland Rising Tide

Over 100 people stopped rail traffic by forming a human blockade across the tracks in Vancouver, WA on Saturday, June 18.  Watch a recap video and donate to their legal fund.

Organized by the Fossil Fuel Resistance Network in response to the recent oil train derailment in Mosier, OR, the action united voices from across the region in concern not only about the potential local impacts of continued oil-by-rail, but also about the immediate and critical threats of carbon emissions and climate change. During the blockade, many community members spoke about their grief and rage that corporate greed is putting our local ecosystems and communities at risk and fueling the sixth great global extinction.

The Union Pacific train that derailed in Mosier on June 3rd contaminated the Columbia River and local sewer system with crude oil fracked from the Bakken Shale, ignited a fire that released toxic oil smoke into the air, evacuated local neighborhoods and schools, and ultimately drained the city’s entire aquifer.  In the last three years alone, oil train derailments in North America have killed forty-seven people, spilled millions of gallons of oil into waterways, forced the evacuation of thousands and caused billions of dollars in property damage and environmental destruction.

Community members connected the local disaster to a greater climate crisis – ecosystems across the planet are rapidly destabilizing, confirming the worst case scenarios of climate scientists’ predictions.  “We need Governors Brown and Inslee to do more than just advocate for a temporary moratorium on oil trains!  We need them to enact an immediate just transition to a post-fossil fuel economy,” said Portland resident Audrey Caines.  “If governments are not going to take decisive and immediate action to keep fossil fuels in the ground, people’s movements like this one will.”

Speakers also addressed the social consequences of fossil fuel infrastructure, stating that marginalized communities bear disproportionate risks and consequences, as oil train blast zones, pipeline routes, and drilling sites typically exist in low-income rural areas and communities of color. In Mosier, the disaster threatened food and water sources for local Native tribes.

BNSF and the Vancouver city police tried to disperse the crowd multiple times.  In an act of pure intimidation, BNSF ran an engine within 50 feet of the protesters on the tracks and blew it’s horn repeatedly.  Despite the looming non-verbal threat, nobody sitting on the rails made any moves to leave.

The Pacific Northwest has seen a growing movement against fossil fuel transport throughout the region.  Concerned residents point out that proposed new fossil fuel terminals and terminal expansions, including the proposed Tesoro-Savage oil terminal in Vancouver, WA, could result in a dramatic increase in coal and oil trains passing through the Columbia Gorge each week. Mosier would see five times the amount of oil train traffic if these projects are approved. “This is not just the beginning!” said Portland Rising Tide activist Mia Reback. “This movement is growing and will not stop until all fossil fuel extraction projects are shut down and all known fossil fuel reserves are kept safely in the ground! Oil barons beware: we will be back!”

Union Member Risks Arrest at Arc Logistics, Opposes TPP and Fossil Fuel Exports

close-up-300x170Portland, OR. Tim Norgren of Stevenson, WA and Laborers International Union of North America member is locked to a barrel at Arc Logistics Partners’ Portland Terminal to draw a clear connection between fossil fuel exports and trade agreements like the TPP, and to call for action to put a stop to both. Tim is supported by the climate justice group Portland Rising Tide.

The crowd is gathered at Arc Logistics to support Tim and draw the connections between existing & proposed fossil fuel infrastructure and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive trade deal being pushed by many politicians including Democrats Senator Wyden, Representative Blumenauer, Representative Bonamici, and President Obama. Many environmental and labor groups oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the grounds that it is written and promoted by the fossil fuel industry and American Legislative Exchange Council, gives multinational corporations more rights than communities here in the US, sends jobs overseas, and jeopardizes worker and environmental protections around the Pacific Rim.

The AFL-CIO opposes the TPP and is holding a rally today at 4:30pm at the Sentinel Hotel to tell President Obama, who is in Portland to speak on trade agreements, to stand up for workers and the environment. “I’m locked down today in part because climate change is an issue of survival inextricably linked to so-called ‘free trade’ globalization efforts like the TPP. While many of us strongly appreciate President Obama’s willingness to bring the climate crisis into the national debate, he has been unwilling to connect major fossil fuel exports to the TPP or veto the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Tim Norgren.

With proposals by major Alberta Tar Sands investor Pembina Pipeline Corporation for a propane (derived from fracked gas in Alberta, Canada) export terminal in Portland, the Jordan Cove Natural Gas terminal proposed in Coos Bay, a proposed natural gas terminal in Warrenton, as well as already-operating Arc Logistics and Port Westward oil-by-rail terminals, Oregonians are concerned that the Trans Pacific Partnership will promote more export terminals, send domestic energy overseas to fuel jobs in countries with lower workers’ rights standards, and hasten climate change. At a time when scientists tell us we need to leave most fossil fuels in the ground to prevent disastrous climate change and runaway global warming, this is completely unacceptable.

Tim hopes this action will send a message to union leaders and politicians alike that everyday workers want sustainable jobs. “I’m also taking this action to let my union, the Laborers International Union of North America, know that it has rank and file members who are willing to stand up not only for prevailing wage contracts, but for the survival and rights of all workers, rather than support those who would see minimum wage remain at poverty levels while jobs are freely outsourced to foreign factories with subsistence wages and no safety or emissions standards whatsoever. All they offer us in return is a chance to build infrastructure for an economy based on environmentally destructive resource extraction, and that’s just not sustainable.”

People gathered today at Arc Logistics spoke about being inspired by resistance from other communities in the Pacific Northwest, and hope that local governments can be leaders in stopping fossil fuel exports. “In Seattle, the Mayor recently took a strong stance against Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet and hopes to stop drilling in the Arctic entirely. We can only hope Mayor Hales will do the same, reverse course, say no to the Pembina propane export terminal and begin the process of dismantling all current fossil fuel infrastructure in Portland,” said Rising Tide organizer Jonah Majure.

Portland Rising Tide will be hosting a legal defense fundraiser for Tim at 7:30 pm on May 22nd at Ecotrust (721 NW 9th Ave, Portland OR).

Media Contact: Jonah Majure: 623-262-3063

Oil Train Opponents Blockade Tracks At Port Westward, OR

Oil Train Blockade

Clatskanie, OR—Climate justice activists, local Clatskanie farmers, and oil train opponents from all over Columbia County are blockading the tracks that lead to Port Westward on the Columbia River. The blockade consists of a 20-foot-high tripod of steel poles, its apex occupied by 27-year-old Portland Rising Tide activist Sunny Glover. Any train movement would risk her life, as would any attempt to remove her from the structure. A banner suspended from the tripod reads: “Oil trains fuel climate chaos.” She has vowed to stay as long as she is able.

Donate to help Rising Tide Portland keep blockading!

Massachusetts-based Global Partners ships oil by rail from the fracking fields of the Bakken Shale to the blockaded facility. From there, it is loaded onto oceangoing vessels bound for West Coast refineries. The facility was constructed with public clean energy loans and tax credits to manufacture ethanol in 2008. The owners declared bankruptcy almost immediately, and in a twist of savage irony, it became a crude oil terminal.

“Fossil fuels are catastrophically destructive,” Glover said. “Extraction ravages land, water, and the health of local communities – transport results in deadly explosions, toxic spills and dust – and as they are burned, the Earth is forced ever deeper into immense climate instability. Fossil fuel production is violence, and on an incredibly vast scale.”

Dozens are joining Glover on the tracks. The increase in US oil production in recent years, and the consequent rise in oil train traffic, has outraged a diversity of groups and communities. Rising Tide activists, hoping to deter the most severe effects of climate change, are demanding a rapid dismantling of fossil fuel infrastructure throughout the region and the world. Residents of areas effected by oil train traffic are horrified by the propensity of Bakken crude trains to derail in fiery explosions—a May, 2014 emergency order by the US Department of Transportation describes the trains as an “imminent hazard.” Residents of the patchwork of farms, dikes, and waterways north of Clatskanie are fighting to protect agricultural land and salmon habitat from industrialization.

“When the crude oil trains began rolling through Columbia County, we had no prior warning—not from DEQ, not from the Port of St. Helens, not from the county, and not from the State of Oregon,” said Nancy Whitney. “With the close proximity of our towns, and particularly our schools, and considering the track record of crude oil derailments, my fear is that the potential devastation from leakage or explosion could be astronomical—and it will happen unless these trains are stopped.”

This is the fifth oil train blockade in the Pacific Northwest since June.

“This is only the beginning,” said Noah Hochman. “We will continue to blockade until it is financially, logistically, and politically untenable for oil trains to threaten climate and communities.”

Portland Rising Tide Occupies Department of Environmental Quality

(Photo by: Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA)Portland Rising Tide responds to the Global Call for 10 days of Action from Earth Day to May Day by joining other groups who together represent the public’s interest in opposing polluting fossil fuel export terminals in the Pacific Northwest.

About 70 people occupied the lobby of the DEQ and called out local toxic polluters, including ESCO and Precision Castparts (which was recently named the #1 toxic air polluter in the country).

As Governer Kitzhaber recently said in his speech on April 19th to the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, “The time has come to end all coal exports in the Pacific Northwest” to stop “the very real consequences of climate change”, as we are “the last generation that can do something about it.”

Rising Tiders say we need to stop much more than coal, and are concerned about the 15 coal, oil, and gas terminals being proposed in the Pacific Northwest that would harm our coast, the Columbia River, local communities, and the global climate.

Some handed out notices that the DEQ was being dissolved, and offering guaranteed employment with the People’s Agency, where their job would be to enforce a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure by denying all permits for coal, oil, and gas export proposals.

They also made a group phone call to Morrow Pacific CEO Clark Moseley, informing him that the DEQ had just been dissolved, that his three permits for a coal export facility at Boardman recently issued by the DEQ have been revoked (issuing what they called a “notice of termination”), and that any pending future permits have been summarily denied. They then left a message on his cell phone for his records.

There is majority public opposition to exporting global climate crisis and suffering the local health and ecological consequences of fossil fuel terminals. Portland Rising Tide illustrated this tension with a crowd representing the People’s Agency, participating in a tug of war with the Department of Destruction, in the DEQ’s downtown lobby.

Portland Rising Tide’s skepticism of state regulatory agencies protecting us from fossil fuel devastation is fueled by the DSL allowing Ambre Energy 7 extensions to their deadline despite what even Kitzhaber calls ‘repeated failures’ to supply information regarding their project’s legality.

“This process shows that the permitting process is essentially one of approval – with illegal and destructive projects delayed, but never denied,” said Karen Coulter.

Furthermore, ODOT recently issued illegal permits for Omega Morgan’s hauling of tar sands megaloads through the ceded lands of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, despite substantial public and Umatilla opposition.

More recently, ODOT officials were caught lying about the volume of oil trains rolling through Oregon with their tacit consent. In the ensuing public scandal, they announced their refusal to give the public *any *further information on oil trains.

“We’re here today to show that the public can’t trust the regulatory agencies to protect our ecosystems and future. We have to show each other what it looks when the people take charge, and confront the root causes of climate change,” said Wes Kempfer, a participant in the political theater.

Fully two-thirds of the greenhouse gas pollution in the US is legally permitted by regulatory agencies1 <#sdfootnote1sym>. Oregon’s DEQ has already proven their willingness to allow this destruction in Oregon – handing out three permits for Ambre Energy’s coal export facility in Boardman, Oregon.

“I agree with Kitzhaber that it is time to get past 19th century fossil fuels, but it is equally necessary to move beyond the illusion that regulatory agencies are really protecting ecosystems and the public interest,” said Rising Tide member Stephen Quirke. “In fact, we cannot have one without the other.”

“It’s no mystery that climate change follows from the regulatory agency jigsaw puzzle approach to ecological protection, which has too many missing pieces, and doesn’t really fit together,” said Katherine Cotrell, another Rising Tider. “The public needs to intervene if we want a sane response to this truly insane situation.”

In response to the revelation that the Clatskanie oil train terminal was carrying 6 times more than their permit allowed, DEQ charged Global Partners LP $117,000, but failed to halt the oil trains rolling along the Columbia, through rural communities, and ultimately through Portland.

This is the equivalent of one penny per barrel of illegally shipped oil, being transported in the most dangerous way possible. In response to journalist inquiries, ODOT’s rail division announced they would no longer request reports of hazardous oil moving by rail, since they knew it would “not be protected” from the public.

They were over-ruled by the their director and Governor Kitzhaber one day after Rob Davis covered the story. This is just one more reason we cannot trust the regulatory agencies.

The DEQ is currently reviewing air quality permits for Jordan Cove LNG, after FERC gave their approval. DEQ appears set to approve these permits—they say it pollutes less than the Weyerhauser paper mill that used to be on the site.