On July 6, 2013, 47 residents of tiny Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, lost their lives when a unit train transporting fracked Bakken oil in outdated DOT-111 railcars derailed and exploded in their downtown. One year later, despite dozens of additional oil train disasters, similar tanker cars carry crude Alberta tar sands and Bakken shale oil around and over northern Idaho lakes and through the urban core of Spokane, Washington. As the urgent need for climate justice activism escalates and the expanding movement blocks pipelines and megaloads across North America, the oil industry has stealthily but drastically increased oil-by-rail shipments in the U.S. and Canada. Meanwhile, dirty energy producers, railroad haulers, and federal governments quibble over the ‘best methods’ to transport fossil fuels and other hazardous materials on railways. Congress could improve the situation by enacting legislation banning DOT-111 railcars from moving any type of oil, even while industry pushes to remove prohibitions on exporting crude oil. But such debates distract public attention and action away from the root causes and solutions of this debacle. Alberta and North Dakota oil producers and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and other railroad companies will extract, transport, and export all the oil they can find. They will downplay the risks and costs of “bomb trains” to public, environmental, and climate health, well-being, and safety, and recklessly endanger communities for every opportunity to turn a profit.
While continuing to oppose Big Oil resuming these volatile shipments through their still-recovering town, the devastated community of Lac-Mégantic will gather on the solemn July 6, one-year anniversary of this terrible tragedy, to honor the memory of their families and friends. In a letter to the Quinault Nation translated from French and dated June 27, 2014, Lac-Mégantic representatives commended the support and solidarity expressed by Northwest tribes, communities, and organizations, who are rising up to create and stage actions and send a unified message to industry and government decision makers during the week of July 6 through 13: “Keep oil off the rails and in the ground!”  Although frontline, grassroots, Rising Tide activists usually decline Big Green bandwagon actions, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) requests your participation in local and continent-wide demonstrations promoted by 350.org, ForestEthics, Oil Change International, and the Sierra Club . For the sake of Lac-Mégantic and other people and places in the path of bomb trains and for the protection of north Idaho’s greatest natural assets, please RSVP and join Blue Skies Campaign, Spokane Rising Tide, and WIRT resistance in commemorating the Lac-Mégantic lives grimly lost to Big Oil and in ensuring that such senseless suffering and destruction never happens again, as we call for public awareness and action on a moratorium on all crude oil shipments by rail.
Monday, July 7: Railroad Direct Action Skill-Share (with Blue Skies Campaign)
This summer, Blue Skies Campaign of Missoula, Montana, and allies like WIRT are holding a series of skill-shares in communities along Northwest coal- and oil-transporting rail lines, to discuss tactics and strategies that they have learned from direct actions on railroad property . Through the process of staging two acts of non-violent civil disobedience on Montana Rail Link (MRL) property in the last nine months, Blue Skies comrades have acquired plenty of practical lessons that other groups may find useful for similar actions. They are eager to share insights about MRL security, coal train movements, and the unique logistics of direct actions on or near train tracks.
At this skill-share, a few Blue Skies volunteers will give a brief presentation on what happened during their direct actions, what they learned from the experience, and how security and law enforcement could likely respond to future actions on railroad property. Inter-group conversations about participants’ experiences and opportunities to work together will follow the presentation. Please join Blue Skies Campaign and WIRT on Monday, July 7, from 5 to 6:45 pm in Rooms 103 and 104 of the East Bonner County – Sandpoint Library, 1407 Cedar Street in Sandpoint, Idaho, for this significant discussion. Continue reading