Citizen Action Monitor

Fearless activist mom, suspended above tracks, halts oil train in Washington State

“If elected officials won’t stop the fossil fuel takeover, we’ll have to do it for them,” says protester

No 1136 Posted by fw, September 4, 2014

“Suspended above oil-by-rail train tracks, this courageous mother and climate justice activist is compelled to risk life and limb to protect our communities’ and our children’s future. Her righteous actions offers a stark contrast to the reckless actions by billionaires Warren Buffett and transnational corporations whose only allegiance is to profit. It is the fearless defense of what we love by ordinary people that will bend our society towards justice, not the inaction of politicians embedded in the establishment.” —Bill Moyer of Backbone Campaign

Two related articles appear in this post. The first connects the recent growth in the northwest US of train transport of oil to the determined efforts by local residents, cum activists, to resist the fossil fuel frenzy. The second features a hyperlink to a video news report of the “suspended mom” event and the subsequent arrest of 5 protesters. A railroad official warns that stiffer, possibly felony charges, are being considered.

Oil Train Halted By Mother Suspended Above The Tracks by Bill Moyer, www.BackboneCampaign.org, reposted by Popular Resistance, September 3, 2014

Mom blocks trainSuspended above oil-by-rail train tracks, this courageous mother and climate justice activist is compelled to risk life and limb to protect our communities’ and our children’s future. Her righteous actions offers a stark contrast to the recklactions by billionaires Warren Buffett and transnational corporations whose only allegiance is to profit.

It is the fearless defense of what we love by ordinary people that will bend our society towards justice, not the inaction of politicians embedded in the establishment.

Five local residents have stopped work at a Burlington Northern Santa-Fe Rail Yard in Everett [Washington State] by erecting a tripod structure on the outbound railroad tracks, directly in front of both a mile-long oil train and a coal train. 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 of 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.

“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 derailed 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 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, and 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 16. 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 28, 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.”

*****

5 arrested in oil train protest at Everett rail yard, published by King 5 News and Associated press, September 2, 2014

To watch the news report and read the accompanying text, click on the above linked title or on this URL — http://www.king5.com/story/news/local/everett/2014/09/02/coal-oil-train-protest-everett/14958949/

Five people were arrested Tuesday after demonstrators blocked railroad tracks at a Burlington Northern Santa Fe yard in Everett.

Railroad spokesman Gus Melonas says two women and three men were taken to the Snohomish County Jail after refusing to leave a protest of train shipments of oil and coal and proposed export terminals in the Northwest.

Melonas expects they will be charged with trespassing.

Protesters included one person sitting atop a tripod over the tracks, according to organizers with the group Rising Tide Seattle. Others are locked to the legs of the tripod.

One of the arrested demonstrators, Patrick Mazza of Seattle, said he agreed to chain himself to the base of the structure because he feels the transport and burning of fossil fuels puts future generations at serious risk.

“This is a gift to my daughter,” said Mazza, whose daughter is about to celebrate her 18th birthday.

“People in the Pacific Northwest are forming a thin green line that will keep oil, coal and gas in the ground,” spokeswoman Abby Brockway said in a statement. “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.”

The demonstration started about 6 a.m. and blocked an oil train and freight trains at the yard near Interstate 5, said railroad spokesman Gus Melonas. The main line remained open at the scene, about 30 miles north of Seattle.

Everett police were standing by and letting Burlington Northern Santa Fe police handle the situation because it’s a trespassing issue, said Officer Aaron Snell. BNSF police are commissioned officers with authority to issue citations or make arrests for trespassing or other criminal activity on railroad property, Melonas said.

Rising Tide Seattle says it’s an all-volunteer collective dedicated to taking direct action to confront the causes of climate change.

About two-dozen demonstrators on a nearby overpass carried signs that said, “Coal-oil-gas. None shall pass” and “Cut oil trains, not conductors.”

Trains carrying coal from northern Plains states as well as oil trains from the Bakken Fields of North Dakota have drawn increasing opposition from environmentalists because of plans for terminals in Washington, Oregon and along the Columbia River to export fossil fuels to Asia. Oil trains already are serving refineries at Tacoma, Anacortes and Ferndale.

Coal terminals have been proposed at Longview and Bellingham and oil terminals at Vancouver and Grays Harbor.

In Washington, crude oil shipments went from zero in 2011 to 17 million barrels in 2013, according to rough state estimates.

More than 20 new or expanded coal, oil and gas terminals are proposed between British Columbia, Washington and Oregon, said Rising Tide Seattle.

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This entry was posted on September 4, 2014 by in climate change, demonstration counterpower and tagged .
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