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Solidarity with Ferguson– Thousands Protest in Portland

   solidarity-w-ferguson2_11-25-14    solidarity-w-ferguson3_11-25-14

November 25, 2014 — Tonight Portland joined communities across the nation to express outrage at the Michael Brown verdict in Ferguson, Missouri and against the deep social inequities that enable police violence.   More than 2000 people gathered in front of the Multnomah County detention center for a peaceful rally held by a coalition of community organizations including the Albina Ministerial Alliance, the All African People’s Revolutionary Party, and the Urban League. Portland Rising Tide was among many community groups present in solidarity.  Protesters chanted “No Justice, No Peace” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” as the rally turned into a well-orchestrated march through downtown.

At least one protester held up a sign with the names of African Americans killed by Portland Police including: Denorris Laron McClendon, Darris Eugene Johnson, Keaton Dupree Otis, Jack Dale Collins, Aaron Marcell Campbell, Lesley Paul Scott Stewart, Marcello Vaida, Vernon Allen, Willie Thomas Grigsby, James Jahar Perez, Kendra James, and a 17-year-old youth killed in 2012 whose name has been withheld.  In 2012,  the U.S. Department of Justice sued the City of Portland  for excessive force against people with mental illness.

Reflecting on community violence waged by police, it is important to note that despite the US Government’s proclivity for tracking statistics of every type, there is still no reliable national registry of police shootings or victims.  The Department of Justice  Arrest-related Deaths  database includes only self-reported information from about 750 law enforcement agencies1. Portland police shootings have been tracked by  Portland Cop Watch.  An emerging issue that has exacerbated police violence targeting communities of color2 is the increasing militarization of US state and local police.  

After tonight’s peaceful protest, police deployed pepper spray and made seven arrests after a break-off group of protesters “snarled up traffic on Interstates 5 and 84 and gummed up passage on the Burnside, Morrison and Marquam bridges” according to the   Oregonian.

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Rising Tide North America’s statement of solidarity with Ferguson can be read here.

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1) Washington Post — Wesley Lowery — September 8, 2014 — How many police shootings a year? No one knows

2) American Civil Liberties Union Report — War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing

 

 

 

 

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Why Every Oil Tank Car Is A Tank of Doom

Train of Doom
Freight train, freight train, run so fast.

According to a May 2014 report by Oil Change International, from 2007 to 2013 the volume of oil shipped by rail in the United States increased 70 times. The current volume of oil shipped by rail in Canada and the US is at 1 million barrels per day (bpd). Forecasts predict volumes as high as 5.1 million bpd nationwide by 2016. According to Sightline Institute, if all oil-related projects proposed in our region are approved, 858,800 bpd, a little more than the capacity of  the Keystone XL pipeline, could soon be passing through the Pacific Northwest.

Meanwhile, scientific evidence leaves little doubt that climate change is already beginning to wreak havoc in the form of extreme weather events, receding Arctic sea ice, and melting ice sheets. This September was the warmest recorded yet. With the CO2 that human activity has so far sent into the atmosphere, scientists believe that the melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets will result in a 20 meter (66 feet) rise in sea level over the next several centuries. Almost anyone over 50-years-old you talk with these days will acknowledge the weather is weird compared to what they knew growing up. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows and you don’t need a climate scientist to know that the wind is acting strangely. The last thing we should be endeavoring to do is burn fossil fuels at an ever increasing rate but as the statistics above and others reflect, that is exactly what we are doing.

Even with all of the alarming news about the climate, politicians–like Governor Kitzhaber, for example—want to see oil-by-rail as only a public safety problem with some kind of a solution. Public safety is, of course, something we should be worried about. Trains pulling 100 cars of explosive Bakken Shale crude are going right through the centers of towns, right past homes and schools. They have already killed dozens of  people. Fire departments and other agencies say they are ill-equipped to handle potential fires. The trains run parallel to the Columbia River for about 250 miles. Are regional agencies prepared for a major spill on the Columbia River? But even if we could make the trains completely safe from derailments and explosions (which is probably impossible–they don’t call them bomb trains for nothing), can we ever consider them safe if each one contains approximately 327 metric tons of climate destroying CO2?

Admittedly, 327 metric tons, though it sounds big, is a tiny fraction of the world’s total annual CO2 output of 32 billion metric tons per year. One could dismiss each individual tank car of oil as a miniscule drop of doom in the big bucket of total green house potential. Symbolically however, the reality that our society has chosen to exploit a resource that is damaging to ecosystems, human health, social fabric, and the global climate, in spite of all the evidence that screams urgently at us to stop burning fossil fuels of any kind, each tank car represents certain doom for human industrial civilization. Each one symbolizes our collective inability to acknowledge the truth of our predicament. In every tank car are the malls, the oversized big-box retail stores, the oversized trucks and cars, the oversized houses built at the end of cul-de-sacs and hours-long commutes, the endless volumes of plastic trash washing into the oceans, and all of the things that we should be trying to rethink as quickly as possible. Each tank car represents all the things that we are clever enough to invent but too stupid to manage responsibly. Each car represents all of those aspects of our nature that we seem incapable of changing. If that ain’t doom, what is? It’s not so much the absolute amount of CO2 that is in each tank car. It is the cosmically tragic fact that we let them keep rolling.

Why do we let them? As it turns out, each tank of doom contains more evil than meets the eye. The cars keep rolling because, with the political and economic systems as they are, the average person has practically no power. Even when it is becoming apparent that a majority of U.S. citizens support policies to curb climate change, there is no progress on policy. In a political system in which money is considered free speech,  the preferences of those with the most money win out.  Through corruption, collusion, and the media control and advertising that leads us willingly to the slaughter, a few corporations and wealthy individuals lock North Americans into an isolating and politically debilitating dependency on the automobile that is mowing down every ecosystem on the planet. Each oil tank car represents the entrenchment of that dependency and all of the corruption that keeps the junky crawling back for more. 

It's our very own ToD-111. Don't worry. It's perfectly safe.
It’s our very own ToD-111. Don’t worry. It’s perfectly safe.

Yes. The tanks of doom just keep coming, with more and more of them coming every day. There is such a profound sense of unfairness about all of this. Effectively what is happening is that very few individuals with lots of money are deciding the fate of all life on the planet. They may not be conspiring together necessarily,  but as the National City Lines case illustrates, collusion happens. Even without a conspiracy, their collective efforts to act only in their own self-interests achieve the same result. What is an ordinary person to do? There are lots of ways that an individual can disengage from some aspects of the current system. There are a lot of groups that one can join in order to add their efforts to the construction of better alternatives.

At some point though, we have to get political. If we want to manifest the kind of radical changes that are necessary to break free of the stranglehold that the fossil fuel companies, and corporations generally, have on our society, joining with others in mass actions of civil disobedience to disrupt business as usual may be the only tool we have left. History shows that the only time radical system change happens is when some critical mass of the citizenry finally stands up and so acts. The New Deal reforms of the 1930s, the civil rights and environmental legislation of the sixties and seventies where all passed on the tails of mass citizen unrest. These were real reforms that made a positive difference in our well-being. Compare those periods with the era of political sleep walking we’ve been muddling through since the mid-seventies. While we’ve been sawing logs, many of the reforms of the New Deal and those of the 60’s and 70’s have been effectively erased. If there is any hope in all of this doom, it is in people finally standing up once again and resisting in ways that cost the elites real money. Just think what could happen if enough people got together and decided not to go to work for a few days. If only…

1506336_449541818480997_1406005406_oTo raise awareness that every oil tank car on the North American railways is a tank of doom, and to inspire more people to stand up with us, a number of us at Portland Rising Tide have built (in keeping with the times) an oversized bike float called, naturally, the Tank of Doom. The Tank of Doom was originally called “Megaload by Bike”. We were inspired by a vision of a regulatory dream world in which the Oregon Department of Transportation would not permit Megaloads—large pieces of Alberta tar sands mining and processing equipment that approach the size of Saturn V rockets—to cross the state unless they were towed by Warren Buffett on a bicycle. It seemed like it could make great street theater to parody such a fantastic event. 

Alas, the megaloads were quickly forgotten once they left the state. Fortunately, our design lent itself to a quick conversion to something that looks very much like an oil tank car.  Those are likely to be highly visible in the media and not forgotten soon since over the next few years various problems (like explosions) may be frequent occurrences as a few million barrels of crude are moved over the North American railways each day.

Look for the Tank of Doom at a climate justice direct action happening soon near you. What do you do when you see an endless train of Tanks of Doom coming down the tracks? Stand up! Fight back! 

 


 

 * The 327 metric tons/tank car is a calculation based on a hard-to-pin-down figure: kilograms of CO2 per barrel of oil. The number you get there depends on whether you assume that every hydrocarbon molecule in the barrel will be turned into a combustible product or whether you consider the reality that some of those hydrocarbons get turned into asphalt, plastic polymers, etc. If you assume the former, you get around 432 kg CO2 / barrel and 317 kg CO2 / barrel if don’t assume the entire barrel is burned.

It seems reasonable to use the higher number because, yes I am biased, and because the calculation does not account for embedded CO2. For example, they are mining sand from various places and transporting that to the Bakken Shale drill sites. What about all those flare-offs of methane at each wellhead? How much energy is required to truck the huge amounts of water that fracking requires out to the drill sites? It would take weeks or months of research to track all this down. If you could with some accuracy include the embedded energy in a unit of Bakken Shale crude, you would probably get a number way higher than 317 kg CO2 / barrel.

Here’s the calculation:

Tank car typical capacity 31800 gal
Gallons per barrel of oil 42
CO2 per barrel of oil according three different sources:

317 kg (http://numero57.net/2008/03/20/carbon-dioxide-emissions-per-barrel-of-crude/)
433 kg (http://www.answers.com/Q/How_much_CO2_produced_by_burning_one_barrel_of_oil)
432 kg (http://pyrolysium.org/how-much-co2-produced-by-burning-one-barrel-of-oil/)

kg CO2 / tank car =  [ ( 31800 gal / tank car ) /  ( 42 gal / barrel ) ] X 432 kg / barrel
                             =  757.14 barrel / tank car X  432 kg  CO2 / barrel
                             =  327086 kg CO2 / tank car

mt CO2 / tank car =  ( 327086 kg CO2 / tank car ) / ( 1000 kg / mt )
                              ~=  327 mt CO2  / tank car

 This is an approximate calculation.

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Activists’ Protest Prevents Oil Shipments Today at Arc Logistics oil-by-rail terminal

 

Activists form blockade against oil trains at Arc Logistics, crude oil-by-rail terminal

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DSC06429 web DSC06428 web  2014.10.9 Arc Logistics Protest_Vance Walstra 4 WEB 2014.10.9 Arc Logistics Protest_Vance Walstra 2 web rally pic

 

NW Portland: 100 people gathered in protest this afternoon at Arc Logistics, Portland’s only crude oil-by-rail terminal. Five activists risked arrest by sitting directly on the rail tracks to prevent an oil train from reaching the oil terminal. Information leaked from a worker at the facility revealed that due the controversial protest, oil shipments had been halted for the day. Protesters, including those blocking the tracks have dispersed peacefully.

Crude oil trains have caused a great deal of controversy across the county. Nearly a dozen derailments have occurred in the past two years, many ending in fireball explosions that have killed 47 people and caused hundreds of millions in property damage. Event organizers say these trains represent an unacceptable threat to our communities: risking explosive train derailments, dangerous spills and leaks, degrading air quality, and destabilizing the climate.

“I am an obstetrician, gynecologist with a degree in public health. I have devoted my career to protecting mothers and babies and worked internationally in almost 40 countries. I have taught at Harvard and Stanford. The importance of these efforts now pales,” said Kelly O’Hanley, MD, MPH, one of the five activists willing to risk arrest if an oil train attempted to enter Arc Logistics. “I have never gone to jail but the specter of climate change has moved me out of my clinic, out of the hospital and out of my comfortable living room – onto the streets and into jail if necessary.”

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“Portland is a choke point for fossil fuel transport in the Northwest. We are drawing the line to support all those affected from extraction to the climate-destabilizing combustion,” says organizer Mia Reback, “today’s action is intended to send a strong message that the community will not allow these dangerous oil trains to come through Portland.”

Today’s protest continues a series of direct actions and resistance against Northwest oil-by-rail projects. In June, activists with Portland Rising Tide blocked the Arc Logistics site in Portland when a woman locked herself to a concrete filled barrel on the tracks. Following that action, community members across the Northwest have set up blockades at oil facilities in Anacortes, Washington, Everett, Washington and most recently Port Westward, Oregon.

Arc Logistics currently ships crude by rail from fracked oil shale in Utah. The first US tar sands mine is under construction in Utah and Arc could soon be accepting this controversial fuel. The Arc Logistics terminal can also receive explosive Bakken crude oil from North Dakota without notifying Portland residents.

The Climate Action Coalition demands that the city of Portland halts the operations of Arc Logistics and imposes a ban on all new fossil fuel infrastructure that puts our climate and communities in jeopardy.

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The Climate Action Coalition is: Portland Rising Tide, NoKXL, 350 PDX, Portland Raging Grannies, First Unitarian Universalist Community for Earth Team, PDX Bike Swarm

 

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Open Letter: Laborer Challenges Union Support of Fossil Fuel Export Projects

Detail from Diego Rivera's mural at Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, "Man at the Crossroads".
Detail from Diego Rivera’s mural at Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, “Man at the Crossroads”.

The following is an open letter from  union member Tim Norgren to Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). Read on as Tim explains why union support of fossil fuel export projects is short-sighted and generally not in the best interest of workers. 

Dear LIUNA and Fellow Workers,

In joining forces with avowed union enemies to lobby for export projects like coal and bitumen/oil terminals and pipelines, which would create some short term, but VERY FEW long term local jobs, I strongly feel we’re selling ourselves out, along with every worker in America!

The propositions stand to benefit billionaires like the Koch brothers and other members of ALEC, which as you know are behind state by state attacks on worker’s rights via campaigns like the “right to work” bill recently pushed in OR (see www.alecexposed.org for more).

Export proponents Arch and Peabody coal (ALEC members) were featured in the Labor Press last summer for shifting pensions worth over $1.3 BILLION (owed to some 20,000 beneficiaries) to a shell company- then bankrupting it, leaving retirees destitute. This “success” opened the door for Detroit to become the first city to declare bankruptcy and default on pensions. Scrutiny showed this to be an ALEC “model” scheme. Supporting companies which commit such crimes against dedicated workers is UNACCEPTABLE for anyone who purports to be part of a labor movement!

According to Greg Palast (investigative reporter for the BBC), the Koch brothers stand to save about $26 a barrel bringing in the oil from the Keystone XL instead of from H. Chavez in Venezuela. The Koch’s Houston refineries are designed to refine only the high carbon tar sands oil available from those sources and cannot even process the lighter Texas crude. $26 a barrel would add up to a lot more ammo in their union-busting arsenal.

Should proposals succeed, then when our job’s over, coal will continue being extracted from public lands, with mainly non-union miners and huge federal subsidies (taxpayer expense) in obscenely higher quantities than now, then carted though our neighborhoods alongside explosive fracked oil tankers. Tar sands oil will keep flowing into Koch Industries refineries. And while NOT keeping us working, it WILL continue to profit enemies of labor (fueling their next campaigns) as it’s shipped to Asia, providing cheap fuel for deathtrap factories where subsistence workers slave at jobs outsourced from living wage employment in America!

Indeed as industrial and other jobs are replaced with government subsidized resource extraction and privatization schemes, across the board from fossil fuels and lumber to such basic staples as water and social services, we can see in our mirror a third world nation.

In my humble opinion as a member of LIUNA, pursuing these proposals rather than insisting on cleaner, more labor-friendly energy and transmission projects IS SUICIDE! Are we truly willing to follow the short-term carrot on a stick, like an ass to the slaughter? To feed ourselves willingly to those who would destroy us? Or do enough of us still have the conscience, guts and faith to stand up with those who’ve struggled at such cost to give us rights as workers?

Sincerely,

Tim Norgren, Laborers Local 320

 

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Is Natural Gas in the Pacific Northwest Getting a Free Pass?

Natural Gas Storage TanksTouted as a transitional fuel that can help us fight climate change, shale gas is being pushed by the fossil fuel industry and politicians as a step towards energy independence and reducing carbon emissions.

If shale gas is vital for our fight against climate change, why are we planning to export it to Asia? Why is it that fracked gas releases more methane, is more energy-intensive, and plays a greater role in contributing to climate change than coal? And how is poisoning the water of millions of Americans ever acceptable? Even in “green” Oregon, we have several proposals for shale gas infrastructure that will threaten our air quality, our watersheds, and our climate while benefiting only a wealthy elite.

One proposal is for up to three gas power plants in Troutdale. These plants create higher levels of acid rain and smog that will blow towards the scenic Columbia River Gorge, a vital part of Oregon and Washington’s economy. Even Morrow-Pacific, operator of the Boardman coal-fired power plant, is questioning why this proposal is moving forward with little debate when it will have a greater impact on the air quality and scenery of the Gorge than their own coal plant. The Troutdale power plants are being bid on by Development Partners, a New York energy company that keeps tight-lipped on its involvement in other energy projects. The Troutdale city council recently gave the project a $46 million subsidy to promote its construction and operation, with the expected lifespan of the plant to be 30 years.

Another project is the Warrenton LNG terminal, where a battle has been raging on the front lines for over a decade. The hijacking of our democracy by Kitzhaber and the Land Use Board of Appeals has been egregious. While finally caving to massive public pressure on the Boardman coal export terminal, the LUBA was simultaneously declaring that a Clatsop County vote to reject the LNG terminal proposal was illegal because a county commissioner had a bias against he project. He had run a campaign promising to oppose the LNG terminal, got elected, and then voted like he promised.

Why is it legal for elected officials to take massive amounts of cash from corporate and fossil fuel interests and vote on their behalf, but it is deemed a bias of conflict-of-interest when they vote to serve the public interest?

The Jordan Cove LNG terminal in Coos Bay is another controversial project due to its impact on local fisheries and ocean pollution while using eminent domain to construct a pipeline through Southern Oregon. The project, funded by out-of-state investment group and promoted by Senator Ron Wyden (http://www.wyden.senate.gov/news/press-releases/wyden-applauds-approval-of-jordan-cove-lng-terminal) would promote increasing our exports of gas to Asia while continuing climate change at a catastrophic rate. The Pacific Connector Pipeline, powered by eminent domain land grabs, is also providing more infrastructure for this export expansion while putting rural communities in danger of ruptures and leaks.

And now right here in Portland we are facing another fossil fuel export terminal: a $500-million liquid propane terminal in the Port of Portland (Terminal 6). This terminal will accept propane (a product of gas and oil refining) via rail cars and stored underground next to the Willamette. Propane is a fossil fuel that contributes to climate change, but is also the main contributor to exploding crude oil trains. A propane rail car explosion in Tennessee killed 16 people in 1978. These tanks also sit on land that is prone to liquefication in event of an earthquake greater than a 6.0. And Mayor Charlie Hales is supporting all this as an environmentally-friendly project. With this terminal and Arc Logistics, Portland will have two fully-operational fossil fuel terminals on its banks.

We must ramp up our resistance to these projects just as we resist oil and coal projects. We act in solidarity with communities on the front lines who have no water to drink or no land to grow food. We know that if these projects are allowed to happen, more extraction will occur and their will be catastrophic consequences for those on the front lines of extraction and for all people who are experiencing the effects of climate change.

Coal, Oil, Gas.

None shall pass!

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Police extract Sunny Glover from the blockade tripod by incrementally shortening the legs.

Police Risk Protester’s Life to End 9-Hour Oil Train Blockade

Authorities incrementally shorten the legs of the tripod used in the blockade.
Authorities incrementally shorten the legs of the tripod used in the blockade.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 09/19/14

Contact: David Osborn, (503) 516-8932, osborn.david.a@gmail.com

Scott Schroder, (510) 842-5747, terra.enigmae@gmail.com

Clatskanie, OR—Yesterday afternoon, climate justice group Portland Rising Tide and allies from Columbia County erected a 20-foot-tall tripod of steel poles to blockade the Port Westward oil terminal. Dozens of police, working at night under floodlights, were mobilized to remove 27-year-old Sunny Glover from the tripod’s apex. After an initial attempt to remove her with a bucket truck—which she foiled by locking her neck to one of the tripod’s poles—the police resorted to far more drastic and perilous measures.

In a surreal scene, the amassed law enforcement officers began using a circular saw to cut through the tripod’s legs in approximately foot-long increments, gradually lowering the structure to the ground amidst a shower of sparks from the saw. Glover’s neck remained locked to a pole the entire time. Each precarious cut threatened to topple the structure. About 40 protesters shouted words of encouragement from a nearby road until she was arrested and driven from the scene around 11:30pm.

“The courage my friend Sunny exhibited tonight was tremendous,” Scott Schroder said. “Unfortunately, she lives in a world of terrifying scenarios. She can either have her life jeopardized by the police or by catastrophic climate change and exploding oil trains. She chose to resist because she understands acquiescence is the greater peril.”

The terminal, operated by Massachusetts-based Global Partners, has been controversial since its inception. At the protest today were residents of the Columbia County towns of St. Helens, Scappoose, and Clatskanie, whose homes and businesses are within the blast zone should an oil train derail and explode. Rising Tide activists are demanding a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels in order to avert a climate catastrophe that would be felt for millennia.

Protesters were critical of the tremendous mobilization of public resources to dismantle the blockade—there were approximately 40 combined fire, police, and medical personnel on site—saying it amounted to essentially another subsidy for the fossil fuel industry.

“Taxpayers have already given Global Partners millions of dollars in clean energy construction subsidies, when we thought their facility was going to be an ethanol plant,” said David Osborn. “Now the public is handing over thousands more to keep the train tracks free of people outraged by their bait-and-switch.”

This summer, Rising Tide collectives have blockaded oil train facilities in Washington and Oregon five times. The groups say they are working toward mass mobilizations that will significantly impede the ability of oil to be transported by rail in the Pacific Northwest.

“We will be back,” Schroder said. “Over and over again. And we’re bringing more people every time.”

PHOTOS, VIDEO, AUDIO: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B8Tw30qC0uQib2xlLXk0cERaeVk&usp=sharing_eil

09/18 ACTION PRESS RELEASE: https://drive.google.com/?usp=folder&authuser=0#folders/0B8Tw30qC0uQib2xlLXk0cERaeVk

BACKGROUND ON OREGON OIL TRAINS AND THE CLIMATE CRISIS: https://portlandrisingtide.org/oil-trains-oregon-bakken-shale-uinta-basin-climate-crisis/

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TWACtion: Env & Gender Rights Groups Occupy I-5 Billboard

Earth First! Newswire — September 8, 2014 — Demonstrators from Trans and/or Women’s Action Camp (TWAC) and the Gender Alliance of the South Sound (GASS)  staged a dance party at a billboard along I-5 (Northbound, Exit 72).  The billboard’s former advertisement was replaced with a massive banner with the message “Transgender Health, Not Fossil Fuel Wealth.”

The protesters wish to draw attention to the fact that the investment in fossil fuels comes at the expense of the basic needs of citizens such as affordable healthcare.  In particular, transgender citizens in Washington are commonly denied health coverage for medically necessary drugs, therapy, and procedures.   More here!  Go TWAC!! RTpdx <3 U!

10406497_10152726280644684_119484728209337913_n_transgenderHealth2_9-7-14     10406497_10152726280644684_119484728209337913_n_transgenderHealth_9-7-14

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Citizens Blockade Oil Train in Everett, WA

EverettBlockadeA group of citizens took direct action this morning to block a train full of Bakken Shale oil in the Delta rail yard in Everett, Washington. It is reported that they set up a tripod of long poles over the tracks. Usually such devices are at least a couple dozen feet high. Once assembled, someone climbs it, which forces authorities to extract that person before the tripod can be disassembled and removed. 

Updates: See RT-Seattle and AP story for more information (1:10 PM PST on 9/3)

More details regarding this action will be posted as we get them. 

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Oregon Approves $5M Subsidies For Oil & Coal Transport– Denies Additional $2M for Coal

OPBTony Schick and Cassandra Profita — August 22, 2014 — The Oregon Transportation Commission voted Friday to approve nearly $5 million in subsidies for rail and dock infrastructure tied to controversial coal export and oil-by-rail projects.

The port was denied another $2 million to reconstruct part of the dock, which would have been used for coal exports. Of 36 applications, it was the only denial.

The subsidies were recommended as part of a $42.3 million package of transportation funding through the ConnectOregon program. The program leverages state lottery dollars to pay for transportation projects such as airport runway upgrades, railroad improvements and dock expansions.

This year the list of grants included $4 million to expand a dock at the Port Westward near Clatskanie, Oregon, that is integral to both crude oil-by-rail and coal export projects. The commission approved half of the request from the Port of St. Helens, which owns the dock.

The port will receive $2 million to extend the dock and enable it to support mid-size tankers.

Massachusetts-based Global Partners currently uses a dock to load crude oil onto barges in the Columbia River, bound for refineries along the West Coast. Ambre Energy of Australia also planned to use the dock as a transfer site for coal in its Morrow Pacific project to export coal to Asia. That project was denied a crucial state lands permit this week.

Another $2.9 million was approved for safety improvements along the rail line in Rainier, Oregon, by adding gates, curbs, signals and intersection closures to separate trains from pedestrian and vehicle traffic. As a consequence, more oil trains would be allowed to move through town at a faster pace on their way to the Global Partners oil terminal. The safety features would allow the number of oil trains to increase from 24 a month to 38 along that route. Oil train speeds could increase from 10 miles per hour to 25 mph.

Opponents of crude-by-rail and coal exports have urged the state not to spend public money to help developers of two controversial fossil fuel projects.

“Increasing crude oil unit train traffic would not ‘connect Oregon,’ but divide it,” wrote Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, in a letter to the transportation commission. “Subsidizing the expansion of crude oil shipping at Port Westward will lead to increased crude oil unit train traffic through large and small communities in Eastern Oregon, the Gorge, Portland, and Columbia County, further impairing transportation connectivity for ordinary Oregonians and jeopardizing the safety of anyone living or working near these dangerous oil trains.”

Rainier resident Darrel Whipple says he’d rather see the oil train risk removed rather than spend public money to reduce it.

“The safety emergency is real, but it was created by the Port and Global Partners to bring hundred-car trains full of explosive crude oil through Columbia County in unsafe tank cars on unsafe tracks,” he said. “This is an impossible situation being forced on the community by the Port and its grandiose scheme for coal and oil export.”

Port of St. Helens Director Patrick Trapp said the dock expansion at Port Westward wouldn’t only benefit the oil and coal companies planning to use it in the near future. It will also help the public port as a whole and its future tenants, he said.

“This allows us to turn what we consider a single berth dock into two berths,” Trapp said before the state’s decision. “Port-owned assets in fact are used to attract a multitude of customers and this is investment in that infrastructure.”

© 2014 OPB

Oregon approves permit for Global Partners crude oil railport

Aug 20, 2014 –Rory Carroll–  Reuters — Oregon environmental regulators on Tuesday approved an emissions control permit for a Global Partners LP railport along the Columbia River that clears the way for the firm to significantly increase the amount of crude oil it can receive via rail and load onto vessels to deliver to U.S. West Coast refineries.

The project is among many along the West Coast as refiners and logistics companies seek to tap cut-price crude from North Dakota’s Bakken shale and Canada to replace more expensive imports. Those, and other energy projects, have faced growing opposition from residents and environmental groups.

Global Partners won permission to handle 1.8 billion gallons of crude oil and ethanol per year – up to 120,000 barrels per day – at its Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery facility in Clatskanie. That is up from the 50 million gallons per year, or 3,261 barrels per day, that the previous permit allowed.

Oregon considers the expanded crude transloading operations a new source of air pollution, and the permit requires vapors released during vessel loading to be captured and controlled.

The regulators also approved an oil spill contingency plan for the facility after receiving about 1,400 public comments on the proposal.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) said it found no issues with the railport’s design that would prevent permit compliance, nor would the facility present an imminent danger to human health or the environment.

The DEQ didn’t address rail safety issues, as its permitting action was limited to the stationary emissions source.

Global Partners Chief Executive Eric Slifka said in a statement that the permit was the next step toward infrastructure upgrades that will bring more jobs to the area.

The new permit approval came after the state in March fined Global Partners $117,292 for shipping six times more crude oil than the previous permit allowed. The Massachusetts-based company is appealing that decision, but it doesn’t affect the new permit.

Earlier this week, Oregon denied Ambre Energy’s request for a permit to build a coal export terminal on the Columbia River, saying the project was not in the best interests of the state’s water resources. Unlike the Global Partners project, Ambre’s proposal required a new dock that the state said would impact historic tribal fishing sites.

Global Partners’ project is similar to a much larger proposal from independent refiner Tesoro Corp about 55 miles away in Vancouver, Washington. Tesoro wants to build a railport that could bring in up to 360,000 bpd of Bakken and Canadian crude that also would help supply West Coast refineries.

Tesoro’s proposal is undergoing a detailed state review as required for projects involving crude loaded onto a waterway, and must have Gov. Jay Inslee’s approval before going forward.

David Monro, northwest region air quality manager for the Oregon DEQ, said Oregon doesn’t require that kind of review.

(Additional reporting by Kristen Hays in Houston; editing by Andrew Hay)

 

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