Far past talking about Alberta tar sands operations, WIRT activists catalyzed some action at the 2013 Oil/Tar Sands Speaker Series organized by the American Chemical Society at the University of Idaho. Education is not enough! WIRT staged a protest starting at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, April 17, to express our resistance to tar sands development and welcome to our Moscow, Idaho, frontline Don Thompson, a 30-year veteran of the oil sands industry and past president of the Oil Sands Developers Group. Mr. Thompson is now an executive advisor for Canadian Oil Sands Ltd., a member organization of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Although Don says that he is committed to a balanced conversation about what he considers ‘one of Canada’s greatest treasures, the oil sands,’ his last presentation of the series encountered difficult, oppositional, audience questions posed by WIRT volunteers who dug up some dirt on Mr. Thompson and his outlandish arguments. He also endured multiple protesters holding anti-tar sands signs in the back of auditorium during his entire presentation and personally confronting him with their concerns as the audience dispersed. Mr. Thompson was surprised that Idahoans cared about the people and places that his ecocide and genocide has devastated throughout his career. For a more extensive event description, see WIRT core activist Sharon Cousin’s photo comments.
More photos posted by March 6.
Thanks to the difficult, ongoing, behind-the-scenes work of our allies who provided logistical information in December, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) staged a great Idle No More solidarity rally on Sunday, January 27. A few dozen WIRT activists bundled against the relatively mild Idaho/Washington winter, carpooled, and gathered at the Port of Wilma on the Snake River, expecting to encounter two Bantrel/ConocoPhillips tar sands megaloads offloading and staging in the port yards. Instead, the haulers were late again and/or avoiding us, and we noticed only a few railroad workers, chip trucks, and scores of Canadian geese. Nevertheless, we are outrageously proud of all of our heroes who foisted protest signs and the WIRT banner, marched, stood, chanted “Shut Down Tar Sands!”, and composed and sang revised lyrics to Down by the Riverside (“We’re gonna protest those megaloads…Down by the riverside…We’re gonna stand for a cleaner world… Ain’t gonna bow to greed no more!”). Thanks to everyone who participated in showing our solidarity with indigenous allies opposing the devastation wrought by tar sands development across the continent. View more photos of this demonstration in the WIRT facebook album
Megaload-empty Port of Lewiston (Tom Hansen photo)
Offloading protest signs at the Port of Wilma (Tom Hansen photo)
Offloading protest signs at the Port of Wilma (Tom Hansen photo)
Gathering to march at the tar sands megaload-tardy Port of Wilma (Greg Mack photo)
Marching at the tar sands megaload-tardy Port of Wilma (Greg Mack photo)
In early January 2013, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) released its U.S. 95 Thorncreek Road to Moscow draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) and technical reports on three alternatives for proposed realignment of the dangerously accident-prone 6.5-mile stretch of Highway 95 just south of Moscow. Its preferred E-2 alternative mirrors 10A of the 2002 ITD environmental assessment that the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition and its allies successfully challenged, secured a federal injunction, and forced ITD to complete the current DEIS review process. The purportedly shorter and safer E-2 eastern route would climb 400 to 500 feet up the western, exposed shoulder of scenic Paradise Ridge, while compromising weather-related highway traveler safety, area aesthetics and noise levels, wetland preservation, and protection of rare remnants of native Palouse Prairie habitat and wildlife. It would also inflict the greatest detrimental effects on pine stands, ungulate conservation and collisions, endangered species, and ecosystem restoration, as it imposes more stream tributary crossings, impervious surfaces, pollution runoff, and weed infestations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the Idaho Department of Fish and Game have strongly recommended against this eastern Highway 95 corridor, likely advanced by ITD to accommodate international industrial traffic like tar sands megaloads.
The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, and concerned Moscow area citizens and groups welcomed public involvement and discussion at the Highway 95 Forum and Field Trip, a knowledge-sharing session in the 1912 Center Great Room in Moscow, followed by E-2 realignment site visits on Saturday, January 19, 2013. Between noon and 2 pm, community members Al Poplawsky, Cass Davis, Tim Hatten, and Brett Haverstick summarized the DEIS, presented arguments in opposition to the eastern alternative, and opened the informational meeting to questions and insights. From 2 until 5 pm, event organizers and participants carpooled and staged a field trip to locations along and near the proposed eastern Highway 95 route described in the DEIS. Several Paradise Ridge residents hosted pertinent site explorations and talks off Eid and Paradise Ridge roads in the sunny, early evening light. For further information about the Highway 95 Forum and Field Trip, see the event descriptions on facebook and on the Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) website. Ongoing issue updates, articles, and interviews appear in the Highway 95 Re-Route section of the WIRT website.
On Wednesday, November 28, performer and environmental educator Dana Lyons brought his Great Coal Train Tour to Pullman, Washington, and offered a free afternoon community organizing workshop and a live evening concert at Washington State University (WSU). Singer and guitarist Dana Lyons hails from Bellingham, Washington – ground-zero of Northwest resistance to coal exports, near the largest proposed coal port facility in North America. Best known for his comedy hit song Cows with Guns, Dana has recorded eight albums during his lifetime artistic career and worked around the Earth to raise awareness, activism, and funds for environmental and social justice issues. During his 40-plus-show tour, Dana has visited dozens of communities throughout four Northwestern states, from Billings to Bellingham and from Portland to Coos Bay, along the route of proposed coal export trains that could carry 160 million tons of coal per year from Montana and Wyoming to the Columbia River and West Coast and via supertanker to China. He has networked with local residents and organizers across the region, who are working to stop potential coal mines, trains, and ports for health, safety, traffic, economic, and environmental reasons. Hosted by the WSU Environmental Task Force and Environmental Science Club student groups, Dana’s fun, inspiring, and family-oriented Pullman concert intermingled with place-based storytelling catalyzed community interest and engagement in this significant regional issue among the 30 audience members. For more information about Northwest coal exports, see CoalTrainFacts.org, PowerPastCoal.org, Coal-Free-Bellingham.org, and WildIdahoRisingTide.org. Visit Dana’s website to explore his music, videos, merchandise, and tour schedule at CowsWithGuns.com and listen to his coal train song, Sometimes.
In conjunction with grassroots climate justice and tar sands co-activists from Canada, the Northeast, Texas, and Utah, near ruptured pipelines and oil spills, and across the continent, regional Wild Idaho Rising Tide members gathered at 5 pm on Monday, November 19, near the Moscow, Idaho, City Hall, for a Climate Change Resistance Solidarity Action. To recognize and support Tar Sands Blockade’s Mass Action in East Texas on Monday, blocking TransCanada construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, 350.org’s march around the White House and rally in Washington DC on Sunday, again denouncing Obama administration backing of the Keystone XL, and over 40 worldwide climate solidarity actions, a handful of stalwart tar sands megaload protesters wore WIRT T-shirts and hoisted the organizational banner and protest signs to compose solidarity photos posted and shared with courageous comrades in the Texas trees and numerous anti-tar sands allies. The rapid reunion demonstrated the participants’ ongoing resistance of tar sands and fossil fuel exploitation by oil companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, and TransCanada that are expanding Alberta tar sands mining operations on indigenous lands and associated production and transportation facilities throughout the U.S. Compelled by the aftershock of Hurricane Sandy, Midwestern crop failures, Western wildfires, the hottest year on record, aggressive corporate development of dirty energy, and presidential campaign silence on urgent climate change issues, American citizens and disproportionately impacted victims of extreme weather disasters and pollution are collectively and increasingly demanding climate crisis resolutions through unconventional methods.
On Saturday, November 17, between noon and 4 pm, two dozen activists from Occupy Spokane and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) converged in several high vehicle and pedestrian traffic areas in Sandpoint, Idaho, with a people’s train of “rail car” protest signs, sidewalk parades, and chants. Rebuking schemes for five coal export facilities on the Columbia River and Washington and Oregon coasts and increased toxic coal train traffic from Montana and Wyoming across the Northwest, demonstrators distributed coal issue flyers and door hangers, encouraged northern Idaho participation in December 4 scoping hearings in Boardman, Oregon, and Spokane, Washington, on proposed Coyote Island and Cherry Point coal terminals, and mobilized a network of activists for direct actions at the hearings and in the field before respective December 12 and January 21 public comment deadlines. As federal, state, and county decision makers and industry perpetrators of pollution and climate change discount the concerns of communities most adversely affected by potential coal export train traffic through eastern Washington, Idaho, and Montana, by staging distant opportunities for purported public input, anti-coal organizers are demanding rescheduling of the overlapping hearings, a mine-to-port programmatic environmental impact study and statement for all coal export proposals, and hearings in Idaho and Montana to expand the current exclusionary scoping process.
Thanks to our amazing Occupy Spokane and Wild Idaho Rising Tide comrades, two dozen activists contributed to a great seven-hour November 3 brainstorming/strategizing convergence, full of enthusiastic and insightful conversations, alliances, and upcoming actions! Following through on the successes of the Northwest Extraction Resistance Workshop in June, we networked with activists from the Spokane area, northern Idaho, British Columbia, Montana, and Oregon. Among a whirlwind of creative ideas, we designed a coal export train demonstration in Sandpoint on Saturday afternoon, November 17, to instigate more public participation in the December 4 Spokane scoping hearing on proposed West Coast coal port facilities. As we learned local hearing logistics from Crystal Gartner, who has diligently worked with numerous Coal-Free Spokane volunteers over the last year to secure and populate the event, we also planned tactics and props to augment the rally and citizen involvement in the hearing and to stage an on-the-ground action before the January 21 comment deadline. Heartfelt thanks to Terry for initiating this gathering and inviting western Washington allies’ input, to Val for workshop food provision, Nick for round-trip alternative fuel transportation between Moscow and Spokane, and to Andy, Peter, Cheryl, and Kerry for traveling so far to participate. As we left this last event ever held in the former Rainbow Tavern of the International District in Spokane, Peter of Oregon said, “You know, 100 years from now, people will point to that building and say ‘That is where a small group of people met and made the plans that stopped the coal trains.’” To join in discussions about coal export train direct actions, please join the facebook group Stand Up Fight Back Against Big Coal in the Northwest and/or our Spokane workshop email list shared among about 30 activists.
(All photos provided by Aaron Kathman of OUTSIDEmedia.)
On Friday evening, October 19, performer and environmental educator Dana Lyons of Bellingham, Washington, brought his Great Coal Train Tour to Moscow. Best known for his comedy hit song Cows with Guns, Dana has recorded eight albums during his lifetime artistic career, working around the world to raise awareness, activism, and funds for environmental and social justice causes. Visiting communities from Billings to Bellingham and from Portland to Coos Bay along the route of proposed coal export trains through four Northwestern states, Dana’s fun and inspiring concert intermingled stories of resistance to associated mines, trains, and ports, gathered from potentially impacted groups like eastern Montana ranchers, Lummi Indians, and Puget Sound residents. While federal, state, and county agencies accept public scoping comments on the largest prospective coal export facility in North America, five local conservation organizations hosted this benefit event to bolster knowledge and participation in this significant regional and global issue. Wild Idaho Rising Tide, the Palouse Group of the Sierra Club, Friends of the Clearwater, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, and the Palouse Broadband of Great Old Broads for Wilderness offered appetizers and no-host beer and wine for almost 100 attendees at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse. After the show, visiting Occupy Spokane activists and Wild Idaho Rising Tide members staged a light projection action near the Sixth and Jackson street intersection in Moscow. Illuminating some recently repainted crop silos with messages denouncing Northwest coal exports and proclaiming various group affiliations, Ziggy and his comrades huddled under an awning in the rain, as passing motorists and pedestrians marveled at huge spotlighted campaign slogans and logos.