October 28 & 30 Rallies & Hearings on Washington Marine & Rail Oil Transportation Study

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Spokane: Tuesday, October 28, 5 to 10 pm

The doors to the public hearing room at the Hilton Double Tree Hotel, 322 North Spokane Falls Court, open at 5 pm. Gather at the Riverfront Park Rotary Fountain at 5 pm for a rally with music, youth climate ambassadors, and other dynamic speakers, then march three blocks to the hearing, where public comment begins at 6 pm and a hospitality suite will provide snacks.

Olympia: Thursday, October 30, 5 to 10 pm

The hearing room doors at the Red Lion Inn, 2300 Evergreen Park Drive SW, open at 5 pm. Meet outside for a coastal jam session at 4 pm and for a rally and music at 5 pm, before a Department of Ecology presentation at 6 pm and public input starting at 6:30 pm.

On October 1, 2014, the Washington state Department of Ecology released for public review the 2014 Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study Preliminary Findings and Recommendations Report, which assesses the serious health, safety, and environmental risks and impacts of the onslaught of Northwest oil shipments by rail and vessel [1]. When the 2014 Washington Legislature failed to pass a bill assuaging growing concerns about more volatile and unpredictable crude oil traffic, lawmakers directed and funded the state agency to conduct the study in April 2014.  Governor Jay Inslee issued a directive in June 2014, outlining key components of the study designed to identify regional oil transportation risks, regulatory gaps addressing these risks, and possible state actions to reduce risks.  For this research, the administration-appointed Department of Ecology consulted the Federal Railroad Administration, the Washington Department of Transportation, the Utilities and Transportation Commission, and the Military Department’s Emergency Management Division [2].  If the state adopts an aggressive regulation plan in its final report due to the Legislature in March 2015, which will guide state agency, executive, and legislative actions, industry could mount legal challenges.

Although this draft report intricately describes the vulnerabilities of Washington sacrifice-zone communities and resources to the explosive, toxic dangers of existing oil train traffic and proposed port facilities, and thus supports citizens’ and firefighters’ demands for an immediate moratorium on rail-shipped crude, it flagrantly dismisses these hazards potentially affecting tribal treaty rights, public infrastructure, and the regional economy as secondary to the focus of the study [3]. The report partially conducted by the only paid railroad consultant, Mainline Management – comprised of retired, career Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) corporate executives with former BNSF, Port of Vancouver, and Washington Public Ports Association clients – incorrectly seeks to normalize the new risks of unconventional extreme energy extraction and transportation as simply additional threats augmenting decades of similar rail and ship activities that can be mitigated.

Even worse, this study defers to federal authorities regulating interstate commerce, relinquishing state leverage of railroad and ship traffic to national agencies such as the industry-dominated, inspection capacity-challenged Federal Railroad Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard. It insufficiently suggests actions to protect public waters and their changing dynamics from the risks of tar sands oil shipments and increased tanker passage.  While state and federal agencies declare the environmental non-significance of Northwest coal and oil terminals and the report promotes further investigation but sidesteps safety precautions to avert catastrophes, regional fossil fuel freight and facilities proliferate, and bulk commodity and passenger rail service suffer.  Attempting to deter widespread resistance to policies ensuring climate chaos, the study authors overlook significant, statewide opposition to proposed oil terminals, misused public ports, expanding oil refineries, risky oil trains and ships, and bureaucratic collaboration in transformation of the Northwest rail system into a permanent, global carbon pollution export corridor.  Did they consider the best interests of Washingtonians over those of private industry in this report that recommends implementation of several procedures costing more than $13 million? Continue reading

Climate Justice Forum 10-27-14


The Monday, October 27, Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) will discuss rail and ship transport of Alberta tar sands and fracked Bakken shale oil across the Northwest, in anticipation of the Tuesday evening, October 28, Spokane public hearing about the draft 2014 Washington Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study report.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PDT, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show also covers continent-wide climate activism news and dirty energy developments, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her/his KRFP DJ.

Statewide Gas Lease Auction Protests 10-15-14


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Statewide Gas Lease Auction Protests 10-15-14 (October 15, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

On Wednesday, October 15, 2014, beginning at 8:30 am MDT, Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE), Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), and allies converged and protested for a second time another auction of oil and gas leases of state lands and sub-surface mineral rights conducted by the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) for the Idaho Board of Land Commissioners [1]. Held in the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Trophy Conference Room in Boise, Idaho, the public meeting offered 11 tracts totaling 5,250 acres in Cassia, Gem, and Owyhee Counties, including 600 acres in Cassia County and 160 acres in Gem County of state lands and 4,479 acres in Owyhee County of split estates with private landowners and state mineral holders.

Although citizens at the auction observed four bidders, only the drilling companies Alta Mesa Idaho of Houston, Texas, and Trendwell West of Rockford, Michigan, paid an average of $46 per acre on purportedly competitive, oral bids for subsequent ten-year leases [2, 3]. Increasing the current tally to nearly 98,000 leased state acres (besides thousands of leased private acres in six southwestern counties), IDL raised $263,000 from the auction of state public trust and endowment trust lands and minerals for oil and gas exploitation, “benefitting” the general fund, state wildlife and transportation departments, and specific educational and beneficiary institutions.  The state will receive a 12.5 percent royalty on any resulting oil and gas extracted from producing wells impacting lands, resources, and waterways at bargain prices.

At the successful, three-woman Statewide Gas Lease Auction Protest in Boise, which delayed the auction for a half-hour, the Idaho Department of Lands leased 160 acres of state lands in Gem County for only one dollar per acre. The first ever Cassia County acres went for only $10 per acre, but the other nine parcels in Owyhee County elicited $40 to $55 per acre, with one at $105 [4].  These discrepancies infer (at least to WIRT) that oil and gas industry representatives are leery to invest in Gem County drilling, due to the County Commissioners’ recent decision to establish a committee guiding and (hopefully soon) implementing independent, legally defensible, baseline, water quality sampling and testing of water bodies and wells prior to potentially harmful oil and gas activities.  Congratulations, Gem County activists! Continue reading

Climate Justice Forum: Alma Hasse 10-20-14


Alma Hasse in Jail

PLEASE CALL IN: 208-892-9200!  The Monday, October 20, Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) gratefully welcomes leading Idaho citizen fractivist and co-founder of Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction, Alma Hasse.  Alma will share her experiences of her wrongful arrest at an October 9 Payette County planning and zoning meeting approving a natural gas processing plant expansion and her week-long incarceration and hunger strike confined to a holding cell while refusing to participate in the booking process.  She will also discuss the government, industry, and resistance background and implications of oil and gas development for civil liberties and property rights in Idaho.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PDT, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show also covers continent-wide climate activism news and dirty energy developments, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her/his KRFP DJ.

Climate Justice Forum: Jim, Alma Hasse’s Husband, & Tina Fisher 10-13-14


The Monday, October 13, Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) gratefully welcomes Jim, husband of leading Idaho fractivist Alma Hasse who is hunger striking in the Payette County Detention Center since her wrongful October 9 arrest at a county meeting approving a natural gas processing plant expansion.  Tina Fisher, cofounder with Alma of Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction and present at Alma’s arrest, will discuss the local background and implications of oil and gas development for civil liberties and property rights in Idaho.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PDT, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show also covers continent-wide climate activism news and dirty energy developments, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her/his KRFP DJ.

Global Frackdown Idaho 10-11-14


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In conjunction with the Global Frackdown worldwide day of action on Saturday, October 11, Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, Wild Idaho Rising Tide, and other groups and individuals arranged and supported Global Frackdown Idaho for a third year in Boise and for the first time in Moscow.  To publicly oppose fracking, concerned citizens and climate justice activists from across Idaho converged and staged demonstrations, calling for a ban on looming first fracking in Idaho and around the Earth.  In response to state and local policy makers and administrators and in solidarity with harmed communities and wrongfully jailed and hunger-striking Idaho fractivist Alma Hasse, protesters gathered with family, friends, neighbors, signs, and banners at the Boise and Moscow farmers markets.  Event coordinators provided verbal descriptions and printed information about the current state of oil and gas development and resistance in Idaho, as they circulated and signed a petition to state officials and considered a ballot measure, to ban fracking, waste injection wells, and all toxic oil and gas practices statewide.  At both events, participants expressed their outrage over government complicity with industrial harms to shared air, water, climate, and community, as they demanded that Idaho officials secure a future powered by clean, renewable energy, not by dirty, polluting fossil fuels that poison people and the planet. Continue reading

Idaho Fractivist Arrested Requesting Public Information


At the Payette County Courthouse in Payette, Idaho, police arrested Alma Hasse of Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction after the 7 pm Thursday, October 9, Payette County Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing about the proposed expansion of the first of two natural gas processing plants and bomb train loading facilities still under construction.

Ms. Hasse was within her rights as a Payette County and Idaho citizen to insist on obtaining public official contact information before departing after the meeting. Denied such access and allegedly refusing to leave, she may be charged with trespassing and possibly disorderly conduct or resisting arrest, according to the Payette County Detention Facility where she is being held.

Multiple calls to the jail (208-642-6006, extension 2) with questions from family and fellow activists revealed that staff will not allow incoming communication and that they claim that Alma is not cooperating with booking procedures. They also state that she will be spending the night and allowed one phone call and, if the judge is willing to see her, she will be arraigned and released at a 1:30 pm hearing on Friday, October 10.  If not, she could remain jailed until Tuesday, over an upcoming “holiday.”

Because Alma has served as the preeminent, outspoken opponent of nascent Idaho oil and gas development over the last four years in the Payette County ground-zero countryside surrounding her home and business, her friends and allies fear that she is being detained by excessive force in a rural prison. We are unsure of her bail amount, but her eagerly anticipated court appearance on Friday may not require it.

Please send Alma your best thoughts and energies throughout Friday morning and beyond, and call the detention center to ask about her situation and to convey that the world is watching. If you can, attend her hearing in solidarity and ensure that she knows to plead “not guilty” and ask for a public defender.  Share this report via email, facebook, Twitter, and phone, and consider donating to Alma’s legal expenses (she has also appealed the second gas processing plant) at P.O. Box 922, Fruitland, ID 83619-0900.  Thanks for supporting our climate heroes!

Statewide Gas Lease Auction Protests


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On Wednesday, October 15, 2014, beginning at 9:30 am MDT, the Idaho Board of Land Commissioners will offer oil and gas leases of state lands and sub-surface mineral rights for sale to the highest bidder, at a public auction in the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Trophy Conference Room 101, at 600 South Walnut Street in Boise, Idaho [1]. The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) periodically conducts these auctions and administers subsequent leases, with oversight and approval of the Land Board.  The 12.5-percent royalty derived from extracted oil and gas raises funds from lands held for the public trust and state wildlife and transportation departments and for specified beneficiary institutions through the state endowment trust.  Of the 11 tracts in Cassia, Gem, and Owyhee Counties, 600 acres in Cassia County and 160 acres in Gem County constitute state lands, while the nine parcels totaling 4,479 acres located in Owyhee County involve split estates of private landowners and state mineral holders [2].

Minimum, competitive bids by drilling companies at the oral auction open at only $0.25 per acre for the 5,279 acres available for leasing [3]. Successful bidders must pay their bid and the first year’s annual rent of $1.00 per acre for leases lasting up to ten years.  If these leases are not drilled or productive, IDL assesses additional drilling penalties of $1.00 per acre per year starting in the sixth year.  The state requires a $1,000 bond for exploration on each lease, which increases to $6,000 prior to drilling, in addition to a drilling permit bond issued by the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.  Before entry on state lands for seismic exploration, companies must acquire IDL permits costing $100 per mile across contiguous tracts or a minimum of $100 per section.

At the last of several state lands and minerals auctions in Boise, on April 17, 2014, activists raised concerns about drilling under rivers and fossil fuel effects on climate change, demonstrating outside IDL headquarters and quietly occupying the auction room filled with gas company executives and attorneys who bid more than $1,148,435 to the state of Idaho [4]. The Idaho Department of Lands leased 17,700-plus acres for oil and gas drilling, including 1,415 acres of state public trust lands and minerals under or adjacent to Boise, Payette, and Snake river beds.  AM (Alta Mesa) Idaho of Houston, Texas, and Trendwell West of Rockford, Michigan, paid an average of $76 per acre for the 150  tracts in Ada, Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, and Washington counties.  The April 17 auction doubled the previously largest amount of Idaho public lands and minerals leased in one period, bringing the total to nearly 98,000 state acres, leased for as low as $2.35 per acre on average, besides the thousands more private acres leased in six southwestern counties [5].  Eighteen drilled but capped wells, awaiting pipelines and production and transportation infrastructure currently proposed or under construction, surround the first producing well in Idaho in February 2014, on the Teunissen Dairy near New Plymouth.  The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality found toluene from drilling mud in a water well several hundred feet away in fall 2012 [6]. Continue reading

Not Yet, Calumet! Megaload & Refinery Protests


Dell Montana Megaload

According to various Montana media accounts, the third, final, and top Calumet Montana Refining hydrocracker section, bound for Great Falls, Montana, and hauled by recent Oregon megaload-dropping Bigge Crane and Rigging, left the Dell, Montana area on Wednesday evening, October 1 [1, 2].  Its arduous trek traversing Interstate 15, U.S. Highway 287, and Montana Highway 200 may require seven or fewer nights, like the second, heavier load.  Ongoing news breakdowns, if not blackouts, suggest that it may have entered Montana over Monida Pass by road, not by rail like the second such transport that crossed two Indian reservations [3, 4].  Uncritically publishing the September 29 Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) press release, the local, weekly Dillon Tribune newspaper finally printed front-page news of the move, but claimed no previous knowledge of these two heaviest-ever, regional megaloads weighing over 1.3 million pounds [5].  Despite MDT statements to the media, veterans of four-plus years of megaload opposition cannot trust MDT’s assertion that “there are no more expected ‘megaloads’ on the calendar, using any of the routes through Montana” [1].

As Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allies prepare for anti-megaload actions, heeding the same reasons we have always resisted fossil fuel evils, Washington and Idaho activists are still deliberating our travel options (that need your donations!) and anticipating that this behemoth could arrive in Great Falls as early as Wednesday night, October 7-8.  Because minimal and broken MDT website links to the presumably similar second megaload transport plan perhaps purposely offer little information, we contacted MDT, asking where on its website concerned citizens could find the Bigge transportation plan for these megaloads [6].  MDT staff replied that, “As of this evening (Friday, October 3), the current, parked location of Bigge Crane and Rigging’s megaload is milepost 108.8 on Interstate 15 [about 17 miles south of Butte].  They are expected to remain parked until Sunday night, at which point they will go through Butte.”  MDT referred additional questions regarding travel routes, planned stops, and past moves to Motor Carrier Services Division Administrator Duane Williams at 406-444-7312 or duwilliams@mt.gov.

WIRT’s best, mapped guess of the progression of routes and layover spots of the third Bigge/Calumet megaload in Montana, based on all currently available agency and media information, follows [7].
* Sunday night, October 5-6: Interstate 15 from Feely through Butte to Jefferson City (points B to C)
* Monday night, October 6-7: Jefferson City through Helena to Lyons Creek (points C to D)
* Tuesday night, October 7-8: Lyons Creek through Wolf Creek to U.S. Highway 287 and Montana Highway 200 to Sun River (points D to E)
* Wednesday night, October 8-9: Highway 200 to Frontage/Vaughn Road to Northwest Bypass to Third Street NW to Calumet Montana Refining (points E to F) Continue reading