Coal Trains Run into Stiff Resistance in U.S.

The InterPress– Matthew Charles Cardinale, December 27, 2013 — SPOKANE, Wa.

Citizens and activists in the U.S. Pacific Northwest are fighting three different proposed coal terminals, including one in Oregon and two in Washington.

Meanwhile, three formerly proposed coal terminals have already been defeated. Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign recently cited these defeats as signs of progress in the broader campaign to retire the use of coal plants across the U.S. altogether.3

“There are three main reasons we oppose coal exports,” Trip Jennings, organiser for Portland Rising Tide, told IPS.

“The first reason – I think the most important for us – is the fact that we’re closing down power plants in the U.S.,” he said. “Oregon and Washington will be totally coal-free in a number of years. We as a community and as citizens decided we didn’t want to burn coal. If we allow corporations to export… it undercuts all the work that we’ve done to address the climate crisis.”

“Second, this has a huge impact on the number of trains that are coming through this area. It creates a situation where we’re committed to shipping highly destructive commodities, rather than shipping people or clean resources on our rails,” Jennings said.

“Third is the dust that is created when these cars lose one pound of dust per car per mile. They’re sprinkling the countryside, the rivers, streams, and communities with toxic, dirty coal dust .”

On May 8, energy company Kinder-Morgan abandoned plans to build a massive export terminal near Clatskanie, Oregon along the Columbia River, which would have exported 15 to 30 million tonnes of coal overseas each year from the Powder River Basin.

On Apr. 1, energy company Metro Ports, the last remaining investor in a proposed Coos Bay Terminal, in Coos Bay, Oregon, allowed its negotiating contract to expire.

International investors Mitsui & Co. of Japan and the Korean Electric Power Corporation had already withdrawn from negotiations. This terminal would have allowed for the shipment of eight to 10 million tonnes of coal each year.

The third victory for activists occurred last August, when Rail America withdrew plans for a coal terminal at the Port of Greys Harbor in Hoquiam, Washington, that would have transported about five million tonnes of coal each year.

The terminals still pending include a two-port plan called Morrow Pacific, in Morrow and St. Helens, Oregon; the Millennium Bulk Terminal at the Port of Longview, Washington; and the Gateway Pacific Terminal in Bellingham, Washington.

The Power Past Coal coalition, Portland Rising Tide and Idaho Rising Tide, the Backbone Campaign, Occupy Spokane, Spokane Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club, are groups that have been involved in opposing these projects.

Portland Rising Tide, founded in 2007, is part of an international network of groups that works to address the root causes of climate change. It started in Europe and expanded to the U.S. in 2006.

According to Jennings, ” also blankets the rivers and streams with toxic dust, killing salmon, preventing salmon from continuing to spawn where they’ve spawned for millions of years. We’ve spent so many resources in the Northwest rehabilitating and protecting our salmon runs. These trains come in and they’ll be blanketing our salmon spawning beds with toxic coal dust.”

The coal would come from mines at the Powder River Basin in northeast Wyoming and the Tongue River Basin in eastern Montana. The proposed trains would bring the coal through the Columbia River Gorge, to boats. It would then be brought by train south through Portland and Vancouver, Washington, where the trains would turn north or continue west to one of the proposed port terminals.

Spokane, Washington would be impacted by any one of the three current coal train proposals, because they would all come through the city. Many residents there are concerned the increased train traffic will increase the number of times each day that traffic is stopped, meaning that emergency vehicles will not be able to get through.

Over 400 people attended a public hearing regarding the Millennium Bulk Terminal proposal in September 2013; most who attended were in opposition to the train.

At the hearing, Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart held up a bag of coal that he and other residents have collected, containing whole pieces of coal that had fallen off previous coal train shipments. The trains can lose up to one tonne of coal during their journey, advocates say.

Overall, the Millennium Bulk Terminal galvanised some 164,000 citizens to submit comments to the Washington State Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prior to the end of the comment period last month.

Meanwhile, the Power Past Coal coalition, which itself is a coalition of groups, has largely spent its time focusing on the regulatory and permitting processes.

One victory from their participation in the environmental impact statement process is that the county and state agreed to consider the environmental impact not only of the carbon emissions in transporting the coal, but also the emissions that will result when the coal is consumed, for the Gateway Pacific Terminal proposal.

However, no government agency has agreed to include in its environmental impact study “what kind of pollutants are going to occur in cities that have no other connection other than that they’re a pass-through city to the ports,” Cullen Gatten, who participated as a legal observer of the protests outside the recent hearing in Spokane, on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild, told IPS.

“China is also slowly moving away from using coal. They’re looking at clean energy, too. They may use it now, but… there is some concern they are going to move on before we excavate all the coal,” Gatten said.

The most significant international investor, involved in two out of three of the proposals, is Ambre Energy, an Australian firm.

At the beginning of this week, Liz Fuller, a spokeswoman for Ambre Energy, asked IPS to email a list of questions, but the company did not respond to them.

Recently, the coal terminal proposals became an issue in the elections for county commissioners in Whatcom County, Oregon, where anti-terminal candidates won a majority of the seats on the board.

As a result, the Gateway Pacific Terminal proposal may be doomed, Gatten said.


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Security now standard cost of moving a megaload

Works for us… – Jessica Robinson, January 3, 2014 — Spokane, WA —

New Year Likely To Bring More ‘Megaload’ Fights —

Two large pieces of oil equipment crossing the Northwest are expected to start moving again in the new year.

The past year has been full of stops and starts for the huge shipments known generally as “megaloads.” The closure of one controversial route is only opening up other conflicts likely to continue into 2014.

Clearer weather in eastern Oregon and southern Idaho has helped Hillsboro, Ore., based shipper Omega Morgan make up some ground over the last several days. The shipper now has two loads en route to Alberta’s tar sands. They’re two lanes wide and nearly two stories tall.

This route is plan B. Over the summer, a federal judge closed Idaho’s scenic Highway 12 to megaloads, a victory for protesters.

Yet the alternatives are also meeting resistance. Adrienne Cronebaugh of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance in north Idaho is worried about a new plan by the shipper Mammoet. It’s trying to send a trio of 1.6 million-pound loads through Coeur d’Alene in early 2014.

“…I don’t want to see Lake Coeur d’Alene’s shoreline become a corridor for industrial megaloads shipments,” Cronebaugh says.

The pushback to megaloads has prompted shipping companies to step up local public outreach efforts. A representative of Mammoet says added security is also now a standard part of the cost of moving a megaload.


Photo by Jessica Robinson


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Second megaload remains parked in Pendleton today

December 24, 2013 — Rising Tide is honored to have taken part in last night’s ceremony. Thank you to the Umatilla tribal members who have been working so tirelessly. It looks like last’s nights prayers and songs paid off–  the second megaload remains parked in Pendleton today!

Here’s wishing a Christmas stocking full of dirty tar sands oil to Omega Morgan CEO John McCalla, for his reckless profiteering from climate change.

Holiday Solidarity to All!

Protesters get mega-loud: Tribes sing, hold ceremony as second megaload begins trek

George Plavin, December 23, 2013 —  Pendleton climate activists joined in solidarity with Umatilla tribal members and elders Monday night as the second of three controversial megaloads rolls through Eastern Oregon to the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada.About 50 people gathered along Highway 395 near St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton, where the convoy was parked after departing the Port of Umatilla late Sunday.  Together, they held signs and sang songs of prayer while police kept watch over the demonstration.Industrial hauler Omega Morgan, of Hillsboro, is trucking the enormous shipment of oil refinery equipment on its route south through the John Day Valley, before crossing east over state lines into Idaho.  Protesters were attempting to block the first load in Hermiston and Pendleton, speaking out against oil extraction that damages the environment.

“We are contributing and allowing our state to be used to expand one of the most environmentally destructive projects on the planet,”said Trip Jennings, of the activist group Portland Rising Tide. “We’re assuming the risk, and seeing none of the benefit.  All we’re seeing is more carbon coming from the tar sands.”

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, meanwhile, has opposed the Oregon Department of Transportation’s decision to permit the megaloads over ceded land without proper consultation between state and tribal governments.

Protesters were active attempting to block the first load through Oregon, which finally crossed over into Idaho over the weekend. The second load is similar in size, though slightly smaller 380 feet long, 23 feet wide and weighing approximately 804,000 pounds.

Tribal elder Art McConville said they remain concerned about anything causing damage to the land and ecosystem.  Their prayers asked for safety and protection, not only for the environment but everybody involved along the route as well.

“It’s a lot of sacred area out there,”McConville said.  “There’s a lot of ceremonial activities that go on all across the land.  We’re concerned about anything that could contaminate the earth.”

Alexandra Amonette, of Richland, Wash., said climate change is the most important issue affecting everyone today.  People have to learn to stop burning fossil fuels and transition to a clean energy economy, she said.

“We absolutely can’t do these tar sands, where this megaload is going,”Amonette said.  “They’re unconventional fossil fuels. We can’t burn them up, or we will overheat the planet.”

In addition, Jennings said groups are looking to keep the route from becoming a long-term industrial corridor to reach the oil sands. Erik Zander, project manager with Omega Morgan, has said there are no plans to use the route beyond these three loads.

The megaload is only permitted to travel between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., with occasional daytime travel on rural highways under special conditions outlined in the project permit, according to ODOT. It will not travel Tuesday or Wednesday during the Christmas holiday.

Drivers can expect delays of up to 20 minutes when the megaload is on the road. Updates will be posted online at

Contact: George Plaven at

Activists confront ODOT officials, demand end to tar sands megaload permits

Portland, OR, Friday December 20, 2013 — Climate justice activists entered the Oregon
Department of Transportation offices in downtown Portland to stop the movement of the tar sands
megaloads through Umatilla and Warm Springs tribal land in Eastern Oregon.

The group presented two letters to ODOT officials outlining their objections to the loads on moral and legal grounds –one by
Portland Rising Tide, the other by the Tribal Government of Umatilla (recently sent to Kitzhaber).

This is the seventh regional action in a little over two weeks against the megaloads. The actions started
December 1st, when two were arrested for successfully blocking the megaload from leaving the Port of
Umatilla. On Monday of this week, resistance continued when activists locked themselves to two
disabled vehicles in front of the 450 ton, 376 foot long megaload, blocking its route along highway 26
outside of John Day. Police arrested 16 activists that evening, violently extracting them from the
blockade and indiscriminately arresting everyone at the site. One minor was arrested and released, and
total bail was set at $150,000 for the other 15 arrestees.

On Tuesday, ODOT gave special permission for the megaloads to move during the daytime, outside the bounds

of their permits, waiving public safety concerns without public notice.
The Oregon Department of Transportation has been providing permits for the megaloads to travel
without permission or consultation from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla and Warm Springs First
Nations. In a recent letter to Governor Kitzhaber from the Umatilla Tribe’s Board of Trustees, Chair Gary
Burke challenged the megaload trespass, citing the absence of mandatory consultation with the tribes,
and the role of tar sands extraction in harming indigenous communities and fueling global climate change.
Government-to-government consultation of this kind was mandated by Governor Kitzhaber in Executive
Order 96-30 and has since become statute in ORS 182.162168.

At the 13th annualgovernment-to-government summit initiated by the order, Kitzhaber emphasized “This is far more than a
statutory obligation… for me, it is a deep personal obligation.”

After gathering in front of the building people entered and delivered the letter to ODOT staff. In their
letter to ODOT, Portland Rising Tide emphasized the actions of those arrested on Monday night,
“Monday people took this risk to do what you have refused to do: to stop the movement of materials
that damage the public good, destroy the global commons, and shred indigenous rights,” said Toby
Seldon of Portland Rising Tide.
“The fossil fuel industry is aggressively trying to transform the Pacific Northwest into a fossil fuel
corridor, with terminal proposals and now with the megaloads, and ODOT’s willingness to permit these
actions is outrageous — we will do everything we can to stop them. ” said David Osborn of Portland
Rising Tide.

Portland Rising Tide is an all-volunteer organization that collaborates with an alliance of groups
organizing to stop the megaloads. We have been accepting contributions to cover the legal expenses of
current and future resistance to the megaload shipments. Donations can be made

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$ 150,000 in Bail Set for Those Arrested in December 16 Blockade – We Need your Support!

The people arrested Monday night blockading the tar sands megaload were arraigned Wednesday, December 18, in the Justice Court of Grant County. Fourteen were charged with five misdemeanors, one with six and the minor arrested in the action was released Monday. Each person has had bail set at $ 10,000 for a total of $ 150,000. The arrests stem from the two blockades that were set up Monday night using two disabled vehicles to stop the controversial, 450-ton, 376-foot long tar sands megaload transported by Omega Morgan, which was delayed for several hours.

The December 16 arrest and detainment in John Day, Oregon of sixteen people included individuals who were merely in proximity to the Omega Morgan megaload now making its way through Eastern Oregon– only some of those arrested were actively protesting.  Others were observers and reporters who were standing nearby on the shoulder of the road, well within the law.

The action Monday was the sixth regional action against the Oregon megaloads in two weeks. The actions started when two were arrested successfully preventing the megaload from leaving the Port of Umatilla on December 1st. A member of the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla was arrested December 2nd trying to block the megaload. Office occupations and disruptions have taken place at Omega Morgan’s offices in Fife, WA and Hillsboro, OR, as well as the General Electric subsidiary that designed the machinery moving towards the Athabasca oil fields in Alberta.

 We need legal funds to support these folks, and to continue our work to stop these shipments from reaching the tar sands!  Please share this link and donate if you can!

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16 arrested in Eastern Oregon roadblock of megaload; further resistance expected

The Oregonian– Richard Read, December 17, 2013 —

JOHN DAY, Ore. — Police arrested 16 protesters late Monday as activists locked themselves to disabled vehicles in front of a tar-sands megaload near John Day, delaying the shipment’s passage.

“Climate justice groups stopped the movement of a controversial shipment of equipment bound for the Alberta tar sands,” said a news release issued at 1:49 a.m. Tuesday by Portland Rising Tide, an activists’ network. “Police responded and arrested 16 at the two blockade sites, using ‘pain compliance’ to extract them.”

The blockade is the second pulled off by activists slowing the 901,000-pound rig as it heads for Alberta via Oregon and Idaho. The load was first blocked Dec. 1, when two men locked themselves to the truck and had to be extracted by police, which took so long the shipment canceled its nightly move…

The Associated Press — Jeff Barnard, December 17, 2013 —

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Protesters trying to slow a megaload of refinery equipment destined for the tar sands in Canada used people chained together in a disabled car and a trailer for roadblocks in Eastern Oregon, but authorities say the obstacles were cleared in about two hours.

Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer says 16 people from Oregon, Washington, Alaska and California were arrested Monday night in John Day on charges of disorderly conduct.

Portland Rising Tide spokesman Stephen Quirke says the moving company should expect “further resistance all along the route” as public awareness grows about how burning tar sands for energy contributes to climate change.

From John Day the load is headed across southern Idaho, then north through Montana into Alberta.

CANYON CITY, Ore. — More than a dozen megaload protesters are in the Grant County Jail Tuesday in Canyon City in northeast Oregon.

A woman who works at the jail says they were arrested overnight for disorderly conduct.

The group Rising Tide says 16 people were arrested for blocking the huge shipment of oil refinery equipment on Highway 26 outside John Day.

The group says they locked themselves to two disabled vehicles in the path of the megaload.

The crews moving the 450-ton shipment had hoped to be near the Idaho border Wednesday. The equipment is headed for the Canadian tar sands oil development via Idaho and Montana.

The megaload travels at about 35 mph and is allowed to move only at night.

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Standoff Between Climate Justice Activists and Cops in Lobby of Omega Morgan Building

Earth First Newswire — December 13, 2013 — Employees at the Omega Morgan corporation were surprised to find a boisterous crowd of climate justice activists in their Hillsboro office challenging their role in tar sands extraction.

The activists burst into a meeting with chants and banners, causing the meeting to disperse. One protestor then read a letter to employees of Omega Morgan demanding that they stop moving mega loads and cut ties to tar sands extraction.

An employee denied the activists’ demand to meet with the CEO, because they weren’t on the schedule, prompting Mike Gaskill with Portland Rising Tide to declare, “Omega Morgan moved mega loads through Umatilla land without asking, so we aren’t the only ones who show up without being on the schedule.”

Pictured:  18 cop cars parked outside of the office; 11 cops formed a line inside of the lobby to keep activists from leaving. Police insisted that the activists leave or be arrested,; one of the cops reportedly delivered a letter from Portland Rising Tide to the CEO of Omega Morgan.

Hillsboro police spokesman Michael Rouches said no one was cited or arrested.

“They were very peaceful,” Rouches said. “They were saying whatever they needed to say, and they split.”

This is one of several actions in the last 2 weeks, including an office occupation in Fife, WA, by Seattle Rising Tide in solidarity with protestors who stopped the Omega Morgan megaload from rolling out of the Port of Umatilla by locking down to the 380 foot long behemoth.

More Here:

AP Wire:  The Island Packet

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Vancouver fails to oppose oil terminal or request comprehensive environmental review

Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies want to spend up to $100 million to build a 42-acre oil-handling operation involving Port of Vancouver sites.  It would be the largest such operation in the Northwest.  The city of Vancouver requested that state regulators conduct a  “thorough oil-terminal study”  but failed to oppose the oil terminal or request comprehensive environmental review. The public comment/scoping period ends Wednesday, December 18.

The following article by Aaron Corvin was published in the Columbian on December 10. Photo: Steven Lane, The Columbian


Vancouver neighborhoods cut off from fire and police protection by increased train traffic. A highly volatile commodity traveling near homes. An industrial area prone to liquefying in an earthquake.

Those are among more than 100 areas of concern the city of Vancouver wants state regulators to include in their examination of the environmental impacts of a proposed oil-by-rail operation at the Port of Vancouver.

City officials on Monday presented to the City Council a draft 12-page document outlining Vancouver’s concerns about the proposal by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies to run a facility capable of handling as much as 380,000 barrels of crude per day for eventual conversion into transportation fuels. It would be the largest such operation in the Northwest.

The city will send its concerns to the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC, as part of the council’s scoping process to decide what should be included in the environmental review of the project. The deadline for submitting remarks is Dec. 18.

Senior Planner Jon Wagner told city councilors that thousands of people have submitted comments to EFSEC. “I feel confident the project will be thoroughly reviewed,” he said.

Project opponents want the city to request a comprehensive environmental review and to oppose the project. They include Jim Eversaul, a Vancouver resident and retired U.S. Coast Guard chief engineer, who was among 11 people who spoke to city councilors last month. “It’s just not that many jobs for the price,” he said of the oil-handling facility.

The city’s concerns reflect many of those raised by opponents, including potential oil spills, detrimental impacts to the city’s waterfront redevelopment plan and climate change. But the city isn’t taking a position on the oil terminal, according to its scoping comments. Instead, the city “encourages EFSEC to require a full and comprehensive analysis of the probable, significant adverse environmental impacts of the entire project.”

In an email to The Columbian, Rebecca Boucher, a spokeswoman for Savage, said the company and Tesoro declined to comment for this story.

More here

From Yellowbird Lives in the heartland of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation upholding the Treaty of 1855

From Yellowbird Lives in the heartland of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation upholding the Treaty of 1855


Winter, Dec. 10, 2013


Last night at approximately 7:50pm CTUIR Tribal members gathered in song & prayer. Led by Walla Walla Chief Carl Sampson (Yellowbird) and Shaker leader Art McConville. There were moments of police interruption but the group stood strong in their right and belief to protect our aboriginal treaty rights of the ceded boundary area of 1855.


We stood witness to the Megaload movement at approximately 10pm. Two Tribal women, Linda & Sandy Sampson followed the Beasts trail to it’s  ODOT approved destination of Ukiah, Oregon and on its destructive path to our relatives of the First Nations. Along the path more than a dozen folks in the community of Pilot Rock stood witness the entourage of vehicles with police & ODOT escorts. Documented footage and photos of the dangerous road conditions will be given to our Tribal Chairmans, Alan Crawford and Gary Burke as they prepare for Government to Government consultation ( a letter from Chairman Burke was sent to Governor Kitzhaber on 12/9/13).


It appears the Omega Morgan Company is in direct violation of their own agreement with the State of Oregon/ODOT regulation:


“734-075-0600 Weather Restrictions 1) Movement is prohibited when  road surfaces are hazardous due to ice, snow, or frost or when visibility is less than 500 feet due to snow, mist, rain, dust, smoke, fog or other atmospheric conditions.”


Chief Carl Sampson, Peo-Peo-Mox-Mox translated as Yellowbird has spoken to the Umatilla and Cayuse Chiefs; as well as our relatives of the Columbia River Treaty Tribes: Nez Perce, Warm Springs, Yakama & Burns-Paiute, to come together on Saturday at noon for a traditional pipe ceremony.  The public will be invited to parts of the ceremony and the potluck dinner to follow at our Longhouse with more details  posted by 12/12/13.


Follow the load on:


Our Tribal website:


Tribal member x-603. Wey-ow’sux. Cathy Sampson-kruse


Send moccasin telegraph to these contacts: Indigenous Environmental Network, Last Real Indians, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Northwest Indian Fish Commission, Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians, Alaska Federation of Natives, First Nations People, National Congress of American Indians,, NRDCSaveBioGems, NextGen Climate Action Committee, Honor the Earth

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