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Sightline Institute

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?

COIL (coal & oil) Forum held @ Gonzaga Law Library

By Dancing Crow Media - Dancing Crow Media, June 23rd, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

COIL (coal & oil) Forum held @ Gonzaga Law Library, June 23rd, 2015 - Full version from Dancing Crow Media on Vimeo.

Featuring Eric DePlace from the Sightline Institute, Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart, Twa-le Abrahamson-Swan from the Spokane Tribe, Jen Wallis from Railroad Workers United and Jace Bylenga from the Sierra Club.

This Documentary About “Bomb Trains” Filled with Crude Oil Will Make Your Head Explode

By Ted Alvarez - Grist, July 29 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

VICE News just released Bomb Trains: The Crude Gamble of Oil by Raila 23-minute-long documentary investigating the explosive oil trains that regularly run from the Bakken shale to the Pacific Northwest. That might seem a bit long for web video, but you should watch it anyway — mostly because Thomas the Terror Engine is headed to your town, but also because Jerry Bruckheimer has nothing on the terrifying explosions at the 5:09 and 6:00 marks.

Oh, and you can find out if you live near a bomb-train blast zone right here. (Spoiler alert: You probably do.)