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How Northwest Communities Are Stopping Big Oil Projects

By Sarah van Gelder - Yes! Magazine, December 7, 2017

“This is more fun than I’ve ever had in my life,” Don Steinke told me when I called him last week. Steinke, a retired science teacher, is a leader in the fight to stop what would be the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal. Last week, the state agency in charge of reviewing the application voted unanimously to oppose the terminal—a vote that could spell the end of the project.

First proposed in 2013 by Vancouver Energy, the terminal would have been built along the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington; 360,000 barrels of oil a day were to be brought by rail and then loaded on ships for transport to West Coast refineries. But the project quickly ran into local opposition.

The power of local organizing to stop this project got my attention. The opposition is fueled both by local impacts on water and air, and by the fact that building new oil-transport infrastructure is a terrible idea at a time when we must phase out the use of fossil fuel if we are to avert climate catastrophe.

Communities throughout the Northwest, often led by Native American tribes, have been stopping one project after another.

Just last year, for example, what would have been the largest coal export terminal in the United States was cancelled in response to opposition from the Lummi Tribe, which holds treaty fishing rights to the nearby waters. The Otter Creek mine in southeast Montana was also canceled in the face of opposition from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and area ranchers. Early this year, Washington state Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark rejected a lease for a coal export facility in Longview, Washington, along the Columbia River; a county hearing examiner later denied the plant shoreline permits. Also this year, plans for a large oil terminal on the Washington coast were set back by a state Supreme Court ruling. The proposed terminal, which was opposed by the Quinault Tribe, would have shipped 17.8 million barrels of oil a year.

Seattle-based think tank Sightline Institute calls this opposition the “thin green line” separating tar sands oil, Powder River Basin coal, and Bakken fracked gas and oil from Asian markets. If these projects go through, Sightline estimates, they will release the carbon equivalent of five KXL pipelines.

How are these local groups able to succeed in the face of the power and money of huge energy corporations? What is it about place-based work that succeeds?

Olympia Stand Blockade Raided on the Twelfth Day

By Libertarian Socialist Caucus (LSC) of the Olympia Stand Blockade - It's Going Down, November 28, 2017

On the morning of Wednesday November 29th, 2017, at approximately 5:30 AM, a joint force of SWAT officers, Olympia police, the Washington State Patrol, Thurston County sheriffs, and Union Pacific police broke up the Olympia Stand blockade on occupied indigenous land of the Medicine Creek Treaty nations, specifically the Nisqually and Squaxin Island Tribes.

We were made aware of the impending raid the day before by an anonymous tip off from within the city, allowing us enough time to evacuate everyone safely from the camp before police arrival without injury or arrests. Nonetheless, the police raid was accompanied by officers in full riot gear and an MRAP (an armored military vehicle used by the U.S. military). Police officers marched through the abandoned camp, supposedly looking for more protesters, tearing down the tents, tarps and temporary structures that were built and maintained throughout the twelve days that the blockade stood. Police with the sheriff’s office were also seen destroying and removing valuables from a nearby homeless encampment that had nothing to do with the blockade. Throughout the morning, people suspected of participating in the blockade were followed and harassed by police and a local non-profit was surveilled.

This raid came on the very same morning that the Olympia Stand Indigenous Caucus was scheduled to meet with the Olympia City Council and the Port of Olympia. The police raid of last year’s Olympia Stand Blockade likewise took place the morning the Indigenous Caucus was scheduled to meet with a representative from Union Pacific Railroad. These are just two more examples of the countless betrayals that indigenous people in North America have faced in the last centuries.

Keep your fracking sand out of our port

By Brian Huseby - Socialist Worker, November 27, 2017

SUPPORTERS OF Olympia Stand, a climate justice coalition in Olympia, Washington, has constructed an encampment blocking the railroad tracks to the Port of Olympia--under a banner reading "No Fracking Sand in Our Port."

The purpose of the blockade is to prevent fracking sands, known as ceramic proppants, from being shipped from the port to the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and other places.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process of extracting oil and natural gas from source rock, primarily shale. This is done by pumping a mixture of fracking sands, and large amounts of water and chemicals into the veins of the source rock to open them and extract the oil and natural gas.

Each time a well is fracked, between 2 million and 8 million gallons of fresh water is used. Fracking fluid goes through the aquifers, contaminating drinking water with chemicals, many of which are cancerous. Fracking can lead to local drinking water becoming undrinkable and even flammable. Recent research has found further evidence that fracking is causing earthquakes.

As one activist at the blockade said in an interview: "We are here because we reject the port's complicity with the fossil fuel industry. For example, they have a bad contract with Rainbow Ceramics [the Houston-based company that produces the proppants] that allows the proppants to be stored at the port for free."

At about the same time last year and at the same place, a similar blockade was built to stop the trains then shipping fracking sands to North Dakota. The same activist added, "We are here to celebrate the anniversary of last year's blockade and also the 10-year anniversary of the attempt to prevent the port from sending military equipment to [Joint Base Lewis McCord]."

In 2007, members and supporters of Port Military Resistance engaged in a protest that included street battles with police over transporting military equipment between the port and Joint Base Lewis McCord. The equipment consisted mostly of motor vehicles that were returning from Iraq for maintenance and repair and were then scheduled to be returned to Iraq.

Commune by the Tracks: Discussion on the #OlympiaBlockade

By the collective - It's Going Down, November 25, 2017

In this episode, we discuss the ongoing Olympia blockade against fracking proppants with several locals who have watched the blockade, also known as Olympia Stand, grow. Our guests discuss how the current encampment, which has now lasted for over a week, has grown every day of its existence. Our conversation raises the question about why the encampment this time around is larger and more determined, as well as the threat of climate change creating a wider sea of public support.

Beyond these overarching questions, we also discuss how the local press has lied about there being fracking proppants at the port, as well as how people at the encampment are using the space to engage each other and the surrounding community. One point of contention that is brought up is the issue of demands, and how they impact the wider struggle that they come out of. We also touch on how various groups of people within a set struggle can come to terms with each other and work on a common project, even if they do not agree on everything.

Overall, the encampment is discussed as an extremely positive development, both in terms of wide public support and as an opportunity to move forward, as the threat of climate change becomes ever more dire. We close by looking back on 2017 and where it seems that things are headed in terms of the anarchist movement, as well as the lessons that the Olympia blockade offers other autonomous struggles.

Listen Here: https://ia601508.us.archive.org/32/items/olytwoint/olytwoint.mp3

Olympia Train Blockade Again Hits the Achilles Heel of the Fracking Industry

By Zoltan Grossman - CounterPunch, November 24, 2017

For the second time in the past year, Washington activists blocked a train carrying oil fracking supplies from leaving the Port of Olympia on the Salish Sea. The blockade camp prevented a possible shipment of ceramic proppants from being shipped to the Bakken oil shale basin in North Dakota, and possibly other fracking operations. The proppants are used to prop open bedrock cracks during the process of fracking (or hydraulic fracturing) for Bakken oil.

The “Olympia Stand” assembly and other port resistance activists demanded that the Port of Olympia cease all fossil fuel-related and military shipments. The activists’ press release demanded that “The Port of Olympia cease all fossil fuel and military infrastructure shipments,” and accept “Horizontal and democratic control of the Port of Olympia by the community” and accept “A “just transition” for port and rail workers to good, green jobs, and for the economy of Thurston County to a cooperative, sustainable and just economy.” It also demanded “Consultation on all port issues and projects that could impact the tribal treaty lands, traditional lands, and ceded lands of local Medicine Creek Treaty Tribes. Also, consultation with local urban Indian peoples who are often disproportionately negatively impacted by governmental and industry actions.”

Sacrifice Zones

By Barbara Bernstein - Locus Focus, KBOO FM, June 5, 2017

As the fossil fuel industry turns up its pressure to turn the Pacific Northwest into a fossil fuel export hub, a Thin Green Line stands in its way. On this special one-hour edition of Locus Focus, we premiere Locus Focus host Barbara Bernstein's latest radio documentary, SACRIFICE ZONES.

Since 2003 a rash of proposals have surfaced in communities throughout the Northwest to export vast amounts of fossil fuels to Asian markets via Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. If these plans go through the Northwest would become home to the largest oil terminal in North America, the largest coal export facility in North America and the largest methanol refinery in the world.

SACRIFICE ZONES is a story about the pressure to transform a region of iconic landscapes and environmental stewardship into a global center for shipping fossil fuels. This one-hour radio documentary investigates how petrochemical development of the scale being proposed for the Pacific Northwest threatens the region’s core cultural, social and environmental values. And it shows how opposition to these proposals has inspired the broadest and most vocal coalition of individuals and groups ever assembled in the Northwest, a Thin Green Line of opposition that has so far slowed or stopped all the fossil fuel projects being proposed.

In SACRIFICE ZONES we hear from Native American tribes, longshoremen, environmentalists, business leaders, health care professionals, first responders and local residents along the blast zones of oil trains and terminals, who are raising their voices in public hearings, court proceedings, rallies and marches.

This program was funded in part by the Regional Arts and Culture Council and the Puffin Foundation.

Listen Here.

People Vs Big Oil, Part I: Washington Victory Over Shell Oil Trains Signals A Turning Tide

By Matt Stannard - Occupy.Com, October 17, 2016

A Bad Month for the Earth-Burners

From Standing Rock Reservation to the Florida Everglades, 2016 has been an unprecedented year in people’s resistance to the fossil fuel economy. October especially has been a banner month: Mass convergence around the indigenous-led Dakota Access Pipeline protests, activists in three states audaciously (and illegally) shutting down three pipeline valve systems, and groups in the state of Washington forcing Shell to abandon a dangerous oil train unloading facility it had proposed in Anacortes in the northwest corner of the state. The earth-burners have had a difficult month.

I asked Rebecca Ponzio, Oil Campaign Director at the Washington Environmental Council, what it took to accomplish that last goal: How does a group of citizens stop one of the most powerful, frequently vile and ruthless companies from doing something as routine as unloading rail-transported crude oil?

“We sued,” she answered, and through the lawsuit, WEC, Earthjustice, and other groups “won the ability for a more thorough and comprehensive environmental review.” That Environmental Impact Statement in turn concluded: “The proposed project would result in an increased probability of rail accidents that could result in a release of oil to the environment and a subsequent fire or explosion... [that] could have unavoidable significant impacts.”

The EIS wasn’t bullshitting about that. Oil train transport is disastrous, and companies lie about their safety records. Shockingly, trains racing at unsafe speeds with volatile, difficult-to-contain oil is incredibly dangerous. Accident risk is extremely high. Magnitude of impact of such an accident is also extremely high.

“This review process created the space to really evaluate the impacts of the project and to engage the public on how this project would impact them – from Spokane, the Columbia River Gorge, through Vancouver and the entire Puget Sound," Ponzio said. And upon the release of the draft EIS, Shell pulled the project. “Once the public had the chance to engage and evaluate this project for themselves, the level of risk became clear and the opposition only grew in a way that couldn’t be ignored."

Puget Sound refinery officials claimed the decision was purely market-driven, but the subtext was clear: Activists had forced a scientific review, and the review cast the project in the worst possible light. Fighting back worked this time.

EcoUnionist News #122

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 20, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Just Transition:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Whistle Blowers:

EcoUnionist News #121

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 13, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Just Transition:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

EcoUnionist News #120

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 7, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Just Transition:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Whistle Blowers:

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