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.
Nick Gier, Moscow
Moscow-Pullman Daily News 11/16/12
If the coal companies and their allies have their way, the nation’s largest coal terminal will be built at Cherry Point, Washington, just north of Bellingham. It is estimated that 40 to 60 extra coal trains from southeastern Montana and Wyoming will pass through Sandpoint and Spokane.
Nine trains per day will be redirected to Bellingham, and the remainder will be sent to other proposed ports, through a rail system that is already at 80 percent capacity. Nearly 140 million tons of additional coal will be sent to China each year.
The residents of Spokane will at least have a chance to have their concerns heard. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will conduct a “scoping” hearing from 3 to 7 pm on December 4 at the Spokane Fairgrounds. Activists all along various rail routes are demanding that the scope of the environmental impact review be “from mines to ports,” not just the terminals themselves.
The hearings have been billed as the “biggest experiment in environmental democracy the Northwest has ever seen.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has joined the activists in supporting a regional impact study, and the Army Corps has already received 30,000 letters. Continue reading
Since spring 2010, frontline Northwest activists have been resisting tar sands transportation projects and associated police states in our communities and on our roads, through six court cases, a dozen arrests, and over 50 direct actions. Residents of Moscow and Lewiston, Idaho, Spokane, Washington, Missoula, Montana, and regional rural enclaves have defended our wild places, home towns, and public roadways from the climate-wrecking, industrial ravages of “megaload” equipment transported for ExxonMobil, Weyerhaeuser, and other undisclosed corporations to Alberta destinations and tar sands operations. Our monitoring, protesting, and litigating activities have challenged, stalled, diverted, blockaded, frustrated, cost millions, and forced some of the biggest, wealthiest, most powerful dirty energy purveyors on Earth to boost their security, pay our state, county, and city police officers as escorts, guard their unoccupied stopover and port spaces, dismantle their supposedly irreducible loads, and sneak around us on alternative routes. Strategically considering and creatively implementing group trainings, rallies, testimonies, demonstrations, concerts, presentations, sit-ins, videos, photos, critical mass walks and bike rides, marches, street theater, fundraisers, and banner drops, we will not stop resisting until corporate interlopers stop rampaging our planet.
Tar sands module convoys encountered monitors and protests with every passage up Highway 95 through Moscow, Idaho, between July 2011 and March 2012, and similar pushback in Spokane, Washington, in May and June 2012. During the last week of October 2012, a 236-foot-long, 520,000-pound wastewater evaporator accomplished the first successful transit to the Alberta tar sands, through our narrow, sinuous, and steep Highway 12 wild and scenic river corridor across the largest wildlands complex in the lower 48 states. As first fracking in Idaho looms to the south and coal export trains impend in the north, two smaller tar sands transports – with potentially thousands on the outsourced Asian production horizon – will attempt the same rugged route in early December, but not without our vigilant confrontations and their predictable accidents, injuries, and anguish imposed on people and property, collisions with vehicles, power lines, cliffs, and trees, delays of heart attack victims, emergency services, and holiday traffic, and degradation of our shared infrastructure and civil liberties, indigenous rights and northern boreal ecosystems, and atmospheric integrity. Continue reading
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.)
FIRST UPDATE: On Friday and Saturday, January 4 and 5, Wild Idaho Rising Tide and Occupy Spokane are hosting coal export direct action training, brainstorming, and planning sessions in Moscow and Spokane, with a preview screening of the British climate activism film Just Do It: A Tale of Modern-Day Outlaws, to organize a multi-state, concurrent action on Saturday, January 12. We anticipate train track/roadside coal protests in Missoula, Moscow, Sandpoint, Spokane, and perhaps other Montana cities, against the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal coal port at Cherry Point near Bellingham, associated coal mining and railroad transport and subsequent devastation of land, water, air, and human and wildlife health, and an environmental impact scoping process that blatantly excludes Idaho, Montana, and eastern Washington concerns. Join us at 7 pm on Friday evening, January 4, at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street in Moscow, and/or at noon on Saturday, June 5, in Room 1A of the Spokane Public Library, 906 West Main Street in Spokane. We welcome all concerned activists at this discussion of demonstration strategies and legal protest rights followed by the movie screening. Expect another update about protest logistics on Sunday, January 6, and please comment by Thursday, January 3, on Morrow Pacific project proponent Ambre Energy’s removal-fill permit application to the Oregon Department of State Lands, to build coal transfer facilities at Boardman, Oregon. For more information, see WIRT member Nick Gier’s essay, Coal Trains Threaten Environment and Public Health, this WIRT website post, and the December 19 WIRT Newsletter: Solstice Party, Coal Export Comments, Hearings, & Other News. Continue reading
The Monday, November 5, Climate Justice Forum radio program, hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide, features Raphael Cordray, co-founder of Utah Tar Sands Resistance, talking about challenges in the streets and courts of U.S. Oil Sands permits to mine state lands for tar sands in the Uinta Basin of eastern Utah. Raphael discusses public hearings, court cases, demonstrations, and site visits organized in Salt Lake City and near Moab, Utah, over the last few years, as citizens resist the first bitumen extraction in the country. Broadcast on KRFP Radio Free Moscow between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PST live at 92.5 FM and online, and later aired on KMEC in Ukiah, California, the show also covers continent-wide dirty energy developments and opposition to fossil fuel extraction and transportation projects. Listen to an edited recording of the November 5 Climate Justice Forum posted in Radio4All. Thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who recently adopted program host Helen Yost as his KRFP DJ!