In the summer of 2022, it seemed that the days of an oil-by-rail facility in Portland, Oregon, were numbered. The previous year, the city had rejected a land use permit for a company called Zenith Energy, which receives crude oil shipped by rail from as far away as North Dakota. Zenith had appealed the decision, but had already suffered a string of defeats in the state. Climate activists and community associations, who were concerned about the risks associated with oil-by-rail shipments, counted the city’s rejection of the permit as a major victory, and were tantalizingly close to prevailing over the company.
On Nov. 19th, action was taken on the invisible border of Wisconsin and Minnesota to halt and block the movement of oil trains to and from one of the refineries on Lake Superior, near the Namadji River. This was done by “tricking” the sensor system on the rails to “believing” there was a train already present on the tracks, thus impeding the way for oil to be transported via railroad for many hours. Our actions today are in solidarity with all those fighting to oppose the racist & colonial Enbridge Line 3, but especially, today of all days, we are in solidarity with the Youth Climate Interveners!
Activists say some 165,000 residents live in the blast zone—or the area near the tracks where crude oil is shipped that will be affected by an explosion. Keisha Allen, the president of the Westport Neighborhood Association, stressed that its communities like her own that are put at-risk by crude oil terminals.
By Staff of Center for Biological Diversity - BAKERSFIELD, Calif.— A coalition of concerned citizens, environmental groups, and health and safety advocates successfully challenged the approval of a massive refinery and rail project that will further harm air quality in the San Joaquin Valley and subject residents in several states to the catastrophic risks of a derailment involving scores of tanker cars filled with explosive Bakken crude oil. The Alon Bakersfield Refinery Crude Flexibility Project, approved by the Kern County Board of Supervisors, would have enabled the refinery to unload crude from over 200 tanker train cars per day, allowing it to import up to 63.1 million barrels of crude oil per year. A lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Association of Irritated Residents, Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club claimed that Kern County’s certification of an environmental impact report (EIR) failed to meet its legal duty to fully assess the project’s risks and disclose them to the public. The court agreed. Bakken crude emits high levels of volatile organic compound emissions that lead to ozone pollution, which in turn causes respiratory illnesses such as asthma. Already one in six children in the Valley will be diagnosed with asthma before age 18. The crude oil being transported to the Alon Bakersfield Refinery from the Bakken formation in North Dakota poses a higher risk of explosion in the event of a rail accident than heavier crudes.
By Sarah van Gelder for Yes Magazine - The last few weeks and months have seen major victories for communities resisting oil trains, coal terminals, pipelines, and strip mines. This is big news at a time of an out-of-control climate crisis—this July and August tied as the hottest months ever recorded. Could these stories represent our best shot at taking on the giant corporations and banks that are trying to build new fossil fuel projects at a time when we need to be phasing out carbon-based fuels?
By Nika Knight for Common Dreams - The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission on Wednesday voted 3-2 to reject a Phillips 66 oil train project, an outcome that was met by a standing ovation. "Here's one for the people," said Martin Akel, a member of Mesa Refinery Watch, a group that opposes the rail-spur project, according to local newspaper The Tribune. "The commissioners got it finally. We finally beat back a major business institution that only had its self-interests in mind, not the people."
By Lindsay Ellis for the Albany Times Union. A daylong effort to block crude oil trains brought hundreds of people near the Port of Albany, where they sat on train tracks and listened to speeches, sang and discussed nationwide and local environmental issues. The Albany event on Saturday, organized by the coalition Break Free From Fossil Fuels, was one of several around the country and world this month. More than 400 of the 1,500 people registered said they would be willing to be arrested for physically blocking the trains. At about 1 p.m., activists Marissa Shea and Maeve McBride delayed an oil train coming from North Dakota into the Port of Albany by rappelling off a railroad bridge that crosses the reservoir. They were arrested with three others and released on their personal recognizance.
From Rising Tide of North America. Below is a live blog of tweets reporting on the Break Free protests. For the past week, across the world people have been standing up to power of the fossil fuel industry. Rising Tide North America will be sharing live updates from Break Free actions through the weekend. Tweet from the United States, Canada, Germany and Ecuador. People came on land and on the water. The protested refineries, coal, coal trains and carbon infrastructure. People used banners, processions, sit-ins and tripods -- and more. The global uprising across the world called for humanity to break fee from fossil fuels.
By Barbara G. Ellis for Truthout - During the December 2015 global protests over the feeble results of the Paris climate conference, more than 500 of us Portland environmentalists donned woollies, overcoats and hats, raised our umbrellas and marched across the Tilikum - the newest bridge in Portland. The disheartened were later cheered up by 350.org's successful environmental achievements in 2015, as shared by the organization's executive director May Boeve. We are eating the fossil fuel "elephant" one bite at a time.
Staff for Rising Tide North America. The Delta Five’s action threatened Big Oil millions of dollars in lost profit. One BNSF Railroad official said “One train can be millions in revenue. “When you have a backup on a system, this impacts yard activity, the ports are impacted from ships, then you have passenger and commuter (traffic) in the corridor. It’s a time-sensitive, very busy terminal area. We can’t tolerate it. They can voice their opinion, but we don’t want them on our property. We’re trying to conduct our business.” Corporations and the government don’t want a climate movement willing to take such risks to stop such abhorrent destruction costing them untold profits. Our democracy is broken. Our voices are not heard. Corporations own politicians in Washington D.C. and state capitols across the country making it impossible for ordinary people to have a voice on crucial issues such as global warming. Large environmental groups are also compromised as they pander to politicians and seek funding from corporate donors.
By Tim DeChristopher for The Guardian - In the face of governmental failure in addressing climate change, the climate movement has seen a dramatic increase of civil disobedience. The threat of jail is real to activists who use these tactics – as I learned first hand. But now activists now have a powerful form of defense: necessity. For the very first time, US climate activists have been able to argue the necessity defense – which argues that so-called criminal acts were committed out of necessity – to a jury. The Delta 5, who blockaded an oil train at the Delta rail yard near Seattle in September of 2014, have been been allowed to use the defense in a historic climate change civil disobedience trial being heard this week.
By Climate Disobedience. Lynwood, WA - Five community members who blocked the path of an explosive oil train in Everett last year will finally go to trial in Snohomish County on Monday. In a surprise ruling Judge Anthony E. Howard has allowed the defendants to argue that their actions were justified by the threat of climate change. This is the first time a U.S. court has heard a ‘necessity defense’ in a case relating to climate action. The defendants, known to supporters as the Delta 5, will call expert witnesses including a co-author of the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change report and a rail safety expert, to convince the jury that the threat posed by climate change justifies their acts of civil disobedience.
By Mike Gaworecki in DeSmogBlog - People of color and low-income communities are bearing a disproportionate burden of risk from dangerous oil trains rolling through California, according to a new report by ForestEthics and Communities for a Better Environment. Called “Crude Injustice On The Rails,” the report found that 80 percent of the 5.5 million Californians with homes in the oil train blast zone — the one-mile region around train tracks that would need to be evacuated in the event of an oil train derailment, explosion and fire — live in communities with predominantly minority, low-income or non-English speaking households. Nine of California’s 10 largest cities that have oil train routes running through them have an even higher rate of “discriminatory impact,” the authors of the report found.
By Meaghan LaSala, Emma McCumber and Will Bennington for Rising Tide VT. Champlain Valley - Hundreds of people participated today in a coordinated series of actions across the Champlain valley -- including a blockade and lake flotilla -- demanding an end to extreme energy extraction and transport. Rallying behind the slogan “Not by truck, not by rail, not by pipeline,” participants denounced industry attempts to turn the Champlain valley into an energy corridor for fracked gas, oil, and tar sands which are driving climate change. In Addison County, Vermont, over forty organizers with TWAC (Trans* and/or Women's Action Camp) blocked trucks carrying fracked gas from making deliveries at the International Paper mill, resulting in five arrests. In Ticonderoga, New York, over 150 people participated in a symbolic oil train blockade and flotilla highlighting threats to the lake posed by the trains.
By Dahr Jamail in Truthout - In May, hundreds of doctors, nurses and health-care professionals from Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) called on Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to take a stronger position against proposed oil-by-rail shipping terminals in their respective states, in order to insure the health and physical security of families and communities there. Washington PSR describes itself as a group that promotes "peace and health for the human community and the global ecosystem by empowering members, citizens and policy makers to develop and model for the rest of the nation socially just and life-enhancing policies regarding nuclear issues, climate change, environmental toxins, vulnerable populations and other risks to human health." The group has sounded the alarm over what it sees as a direct health threat to the country stemming from the oil-by-rail system.