During our third year as a direct action collective confronting the root causes of climate change by asserting direct actions and promoting locally organized solutions, WIRT has produced myriad protests, rallies, direct action workshops, solidarity journeys, potluck meetings, presentations, public comments, issue alerts, action reports, newsletters, radio shows, videos, and photos. Expanding integration of our strategies and tactics with our friends among nine regional Rising Tide collectives and a dozen tribes has achieved coordinated, regional demonstrations of opposition to the fossil fuel extraction and and transportation foisted on the environmentally robust Northwest by explosive shale oil trains, dusty coal cars, toxic oil and gas wells, and colossal tar sands equipment, pipelines, refineries, and tankers. In solidarity with frontline communities of resistance and our international, volunteer, grassroots network of activists, we will continue our steadfast defiance of the corporate and government forces of exploitation and death, in defense the ultimate, sacred dignity of the Earth, its life, and all humans.
Early in April 2013, two activists of newly formed Rising Tide Seattle successfully locked down inside the Canadian consulate in Seattle, Washington, demonstrating solidarity with other tar sands resistance struggles and bringing the total of brave anti-tar sands arrests and charges in four Northwest states to 20 over the prior two years. Amongst the enduring angst of frontline Idaho and Montana residents over the 2011-12 unstoppable, regional passage of 350 enormous facilities modules of Imperial Oil’s Kearl Oil Sands Project, the mining operation commenced production in Alberta around WIRT’s second anniversary, despite delays and cost escalations. Palouse region academics and activists welcomed three highly knowledgeable Alberta tar sands experts to the University of Idaho: award-winning author Andrew Nikiforuk, Pembina Institute program director Jennifer Grant, and industry veteran Don Thompson. For Mr. Nikiforuk, WIRT and anti-megaload allies co-sponsored a book promotion open house at BookPeople of Moscow, a Washington State University workshop about dirty energy dilemmas, and a tour of the Highway 12 wild and scenic river/wildlands corridor in Idaho threatened by tar sands equipment transports. But multiple WIRT activists held anti-tar sands signs in the back of the auditorium during Mr. Thompson’s presentation, and posed difficult, oppositional, audience questions. As WIRT contemplated a statewide ballot measure banning fracking and waste injection wells, the Idaho legislature passed a bill requiring signatures of six percent of the registered voters in half of Idaho’s legislative districts, to qualify a citizen initiative or referendum for the ballot. Idaho lawmakers also let any non-freeway routes in the state be designated for extra-heavy trucks weighing up to 129,000 pounds, with input from local highway jurisdictions and public hearings. With other regional groups in mid-April, WIRT gratefully reached out to the Pullman community at the Earth Week Environmental Occupation of Terrell Mall on the Washington State University campus. On the next Saturday, WIRT staffed a minimal booth at the Moscow Hemp Fest in East City Park. At the Kenworthy Performing Arts Center in Moscow and 35 other locations on Earth Day, April 22, WIRT and anti-tar sands allies hosted a nationwide, simultaneous screening of the documentary Bidder 70 and a live-streamed conversation with Tim DeChristopher, the Utah climate activist recently released from federal prison, who stopped an unjust federal oil and gas lease auction. We established a Twitter account and website events calendar to more actively involve WIRT members in our many initiatives.
In May 2013, WIRT honored the outstanding community spirit and service of core WIRT members and tar sands megaload blockaders Bill and Dianne French, as Moscow Renaissance Fair King and Queen, with Moscow Volunteer Peace Band march onto the East City Park grounds. We also celebrated previous ‘Ren’ Fair royalty among our ranks with the fortieth annual fair parade. On the next weekend, we traveled to Spokane, Washington, to give a guest speech about critical climate issues, educate our neighbors through an outreach booth, and enjoy some live music, tribal drumming, and round dances the Word to Your Mother event held in Riverfront Park. Moscow climate activists also interviewed for two extensive articles in The Fig Tree about the regional megaload campaign and climate change. Kinder Morgan withdrew its planned investment in the proposed Port Westward coal export facility in early May, after the ports of Grays Harbor and Coos Bay had similarly dropped plans since the previous August, thus halving the six originally planned coal ports across the Northwest. During mid-month, we commenced our Moscow outreach every Saturday until November at the WIRT Moscow Farmers Market table, and threw a WIRT Activists House Party to stimulate creative ideas for Fearless Summer actions among core WIRT activists. As a partner organization and board member, WIRT also participated in the Paradise Ridge field tour led by the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition, exploring the implications for rare, native Palouse Prairie remnants and wildlife habitat of the Idaho Transportation Department’s proposed realignment and expansion of Highway 95 south of Moscow. On the Thursday evening before Memorial Day, a southbound Edmonton-area Mullen Trucking driver, hauling an oversize Alaska drilling equipment box with a $10 online permit and following a pilot car with a height-indicator pole too closely, struck steel framework trusses and a cable of an Interstate 5 bridge near Mount Vernon, Washington. The “functionally obsolete” span and three people in two vehicles collapsed into the icy Skagit River without the truck, ahead of tens of thousands of disrupted holiday vacationers. Although mainstream media steered the conversation away from such inappropriate vehicles toward aging infrastructure replacement, the incident may have finally catalyzed Washingtonians toward resistance to fossil fuel extraction transports on their roads, in a state that has originated the bulk of tar sands megaloads.
June 2013 not only witnessed songwriter Roy Zimmerman’s Moscow performance premiere of his song co-written with Melanie Harby for WIRT, The Tide is Rising, but a robust, expansive, allied campaign against renewed oil and gas drilling in Payette County. With Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE) comrades, we coordinated Stop the Frack Attack, Idaho! protests at Idaho Department of Lands offices at Boise, Coeur d’Alene, Deary, Kamiah, Orofino, and Saint Maries, confronting the director outside the Boise headquarters about drilling and potential fracking of a natural gas well in the floodplain confluence of two water bodies, near a riparian wildlife refuge, upriver from a city water supply intake, and under state lands and rivers. The continent-wide, early-June week of action grew into a month of action that caused the oil and gas development leasers and regulators at IDL to admit to allowing impending fracking in Idaho and to issue media counter-releases and public disinformation fact sheets. WIRT traveled twice to Boise to demonstrate at the state agency and to educate the public about oil and gas and other dirty energy issues at the Community Progressive III convergence of community outreach booths and information workshops in Julia Davis Park. Against three of four new well drilling permit applications over the next year, we wrote comments that IDL posted but dismissed, despite possible legal repercussions. Continue reading