Seattle Residents Blockade Tracks To Protest Oil-By-Rail
7:45am, Monday, July 28, 2014, Anacortes Tesoro Refinery
*Anacortes – Three residents of Anacortes and Seattle are currently blockading the oil train facility at Tesoro’s Anacortes Refinery by locking their bodies to barrels full of concrete. Supported by local residents, the three are demanding an immediate halt to the shipment of explosive Bakken oil through Northwest communities, the rejection of all new oil-by-rail terminals proposed for the Northwest, and an end to the refinery’s repeated violations of the Clean Air Act.
“Thursday’s derailment was the last straw,” says Jan Woodruff, an Anacortes resident. “If Federal and State regulators won’t stand up to the fossil fuel companies endangering our communities, then we, the people of those communities, will do so.”
Last Thursday, July 24th, an oil train bound for Tesoro’s Anacortes Refinery derailed in Seattle, highlighting the dangers posed to Northwest communities. Between nine and sixteen oil trains travel through Seattle and Mount Vernon every week – about five of which are bound for the Tesoro refinery. The day before Thursday’s frightening derailment, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and all nine City Council members sent a letter to the Department of Transportation asking for an immediate halt of oil-by-rail shipments through Seattle.
Despite the extreme controversy over the transport of explosive Bakken Oil, all three of Washington’s oil-by-rail terminals were permitted without full environmental review or robust public consultation, through an obscure local process called a “mitigated determination of non-significance.” The same process was used to approve terminals at the Port of Gray’s Harbor and Shell’s Puget Sound Refinery before being reversed by legal challenges and public opposition.
“It’s no surprise that an industry willing to sacrifice the entire planet to catastrophic climate change doesn’t see a few vaporized towns and cities as ‘significant’” says Adam Gaya, a Seattle resident and member of the group Rising Tide Seattle. “With recent disasters and the accelerating climate crisis we shouldn’t even be considering new oil infrastructure.”
Tesoro’s Anacortes Refinery is no stranger to accidents. In 2010 it was the site of an explosion that killed seven workers; the company was later determined to have committed 39 “willful” and five “serious” violations of safety regulations. Both Anacortes refineries are also longtime Clean Air Act “High Priority Violators”, and Tesoro has announced that new railcars it purchases will be equipped to transport tar sands bitumen. Refineries that process tar sands have higher emissions of pollutants like sulfur dioxide and are more prone to explosions.
“Tesoro and the others are bad actors. If any other group of people exposed us to these risks, they’d be locked up,” says Annette Klapstein, a retired lawyer from Bainbridge Island. “This kind of resistance may seem extreme, but these are extreme times…and the resistance to this craziness won’t end with us.”