Seattle Activists Mount Tripod – Stop Exploding Oil Trains

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UPDATE 3:32pm PDT: Abby has been extracted after an epic 8 hour blockade. Donate to get all five awesome climate defenders out of jail!

Five residents of Seattle and Everett, WA, working with Rising Tide Seattle, have stopped work at a Burlington Northern Santa-Fe Rail Yard in Everett by erecting a tripod-structure on the outbound railroad tracks, directly in front of a mile-long oil train. Follow Rising Tide Seattle for live updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Seattle resident Abby Brockway – a small business owner, and mother – is suspended from the structure 18 feet above the tracks while four other residents are locked to the legs the tripod. The group is demanding an immediate halt to all shipments of fossil fuels through the Northwest and calling on Governor Inslee to reject permits for all new fossil fuel projects in Washington, including proposed coal and oil terminals.

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“People in the Pacific Northwest are forming a thin green line that will keep oil, coal and gas in the ground,” said Brockway, “Just one of these proposed terminals would process enough carbon to push us past the global warming tipping point – we won’t let that happen.”

Today’s protest has shut down work at BNSF’s Delta Rail Yard in Everett. With the increase of fossil fuel transport in recent years the yard has become a crucial staging ground for coal trains headed to Canadian export terminals and oil trains bound for Washington refineries. An oil-train carrying explosive bakken crude oil sat stalled while the protest continued.

“Exploding oil-trains running through my town are just a reminder of how out of control the fossil fuel industry really is,” said Jackie Minchew an Everett resident and retired educator locked to one of the tripod’s poles.

In a controversial move, Burlington Northern Santa-Fe recently announced a tentative deal with Union leaders to reduce train crews from an engineer and conductor to a single engineer. The oil train that de-railed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec was crewed by a single engineer. BNSF claims that oil-trains will continue to have two person crews, but critics point out that nothing in the proposed contract binds the company to that statement. Under the proposed deal Coal Trains would be operated by a single crew-member.

“BNSF is endangering workers, communities and our environment. They should keep the conductors and lose the oil trains,” said Brockway.

The surge in oil-train traffic is already impacting other commodities like passenger rail and agricultural shipments. Farmers from the Midwest to Washington State have faced what they call “unprecedented” delays in moving Wheat and other products to West Coast ports. Amtrak service through fossil-fuel train corridors has also suffered significant disruption and officials have expressed concern that the problem will only get worse as more terminals come online.

“Railroads can be part of the solution, transporting crops and people or part of the problem with coal and oil. We should make that decision, not the fossil fuel companies,” Said Patrick Mazza, a longtime climate activist also locked to the tracks.

Mazza says he is taking this action for his daughter who will turn 18 tomorrow.

“My last act as a father before my daughter reaches full adulthood tomorrow is to put my body on the line today,” Said Mazza, “It is up to us of the parental generation to do our absolute best to leave the least climate disrupted world we can, to put our bodies on the line to give our kids a fighting chance to deal with what we have left them.”

Development of extreme energy projects like the Alberta Tar Sands, Bakken Shale Oil and coal from the Powder River Basin, has fueled an explosion in proposed fossil fuel infrastructure in the Northwest. More than twenty new or expanded coal, oil and gas terminals are proposed between British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. In both states and British Columbia these proposals have been met with fierce local resistance. Local communities have challenged both the safety of transporting coal, oil and volatile gas through their communities and the role of fossil fuel export in fueling catastrophic climate disruption. Proposed coal terminals in Longview and Bellingham or oil terminals in Vancouver and Gray’s Harbor, would lead to more carbon emissions than produced in the state of Washington each year.

“We could pass every climate initiative proposed by Governor Inslee, but if we let these terminals be built our future is on the chopping block,” said Liz Spoerri a Seattle middle school teacher also locked on the tracks.

While proposed coal and oil terminals have been controversial for years, climate activists in the Northwest have significantly intensified their tactics this summer. In Montana, residents sat on the tracks to block a coal train last April, and again on August 16th. In early July a woman locked herself to a 55-gallon barrel filled with concrete, blocking oil-trains at a Portland facility. In a similar action on July 28th three people blocked oil-trains at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes by locking themselves to concrete filled barrels. Most recently three Seattle residents, including state legislative candidate Jess Spear, were arrested blocking oil and coal trains near the Seattle Waterfront.

“People in the Northwest are not going to allow this region to become a fossil fuel superhighway,” said Mike LaPoint, an Everett small business owner locked on the tracks. “This is just a sample of the resistance that will happen if any large fossil fuel project is permitted.”

Despite controversy the number of fossil fuel trains on Washington’s rails continues to rise. While larger coal and oil terminals are undergoing lengthy environmental reviews, projects at Washington’s refineries have brought approximately two oil-trains per day to communities like Seattle and Everett. While the Department of Ecology conducts a study on the safety of oil-by-rail construction continues on a new terminal at the Phillips 66 refinery in Ferndale, and local officials are attempting to fast-track an oil-train terminal at Shell’s Puget Sound Refinery, without environmental review. Each of these projects could add up to six oil-trains per week to the rails. Expansions at the Fraser Surrey Docks coal export facility in Vancouver, Canada would increase the number of coal trains moving through Washington. Activists are demanding an immediate moratorium on all new fossil fuel terminals.

“Politicians play a blame game and talk about safety, but new terminals keep getting rubber stamped and built,” said LaPoint, “If elected officials won’t stop the fossil fuel takeover, we’ll have to do it for them.”

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Seattle:Tar Sands Protestors Chain Themselves To Canadian Consulate Doors

RT seattleContact:
Annie Lukins: (206)708-4872 annielu@uw.edu

Tar Sands Protestors Chain Themselves To Canadian Consulate Doors

Seattle, WA: Two Seattle residents have chained themselves to the doors of the Canadian Consulate in downtown Seattle today protesting proposed pipelines that would bring Canadian tar sands to American refineries.

“We used to look up to Canada as an environmental leader, but promoting extreme energy like tar sands has soiled that reputation forever,” said Carlo Voli, a 47 year old Edmonds resident, as protestors poured fake oil over Canadian and American flags. Voli and Lisa Marcus, a 57 year old Seattle resident and grandmother, have U-Locked their necks to the doors of the consulate’s conference room.

Participants are protesting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and proposals to increase the number of tankers carrying tar sands through the Salish Sea. More than fifty people have been arrested at similar protests around the country this past month. 1

“We’re here to expose the collusion between the tar sands industry and the Canadian government,” explained Rachel Stoeve, a recent University of Washington graduate who was holding a banner outside the cheese factory, “The Canadian government and the tar sands industry are working together to bring tar sands to our communities. They’re not doing it for our benefit; they’re doing it for profit,”

Canadian Diplomats have come under criticism around the world for their aggressive promotion of the tar sands industry. The Harper Administration also provoked the indigenous rights movement Idle No More when they opened up native lands to development. In March Environmental Defense, a Toronto based group, released nearly one thousand pages of internal e-mails from Canadian diplomats outlining a strategy to promote the Keystone XL pipeline with American journalists.2 Last year an internal memorandum released by Post-Media news revealed the Harper government had deployed a network of Diplomats to lobby Fortune 500 companies in order to counter an environmental campaign targeting the tar sands.3 In Europe, the Canadian government has attempted to undermine the European Union’s “Fuel Quality Directive” with a lobbying campaign that Friends of the Earth described as “possibly the most vociferous public relations campaign by a foreign government ever witnessed in the EU.”4

While the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline has become a headline issue for environmentalists around the country, Seattle residents point out that Canada’s tar sands are already impacting the Salish Sea. All five of Washington’s refineries currently process tar sands materials, transported by Kinder-Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline and oil tankers.5 THe Kinder-Morgan has proposed twinning the Trans-Mountain pipeline nearly tripling its capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 850,000 barrels per day.6

“”There is no safe method for tar sands transport. Kinder Morgan’s plans could bring up to 360 tankers through the Salish Sea7 and the Department of Ecology still has no plan to deal with a tar sands spill. It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” warned Rachel Stoeve

The Department of Ecology estimates a major oil spill could cost the state’s economy $10 Billion and 165,000 lost jobs as well as wipe out Washington’s resident Orca population.

“We’ve had enough of politicians on both sides of the border acting as mouthpieces for the fossil fuel industry. It’s time for ordinary people to put their bodies on the line to protect our region and our climate from extreme energy,” said Voli.

Photos available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/94446910@N03/