Idaho Week of Actions Against Bomb Trains

Lac-Megantic Railway Crude

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2013, 47 residents of tiny Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, lost their lives when a unit train transporting fracked Bakken oil in outdated DOT-111 railcars derailed and exploded in their downtown.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!” [1]  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, ForestEthics, Oil Change International, and the Sierra Club [2].  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 [3].  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.

Tuesday, July 8: Demand Safer Railcars (with Spokane Rising Tide)

Please meet Spokane, Washington, residents and climate activists for a peaceful, regionally coordinated, non-violent action starting at 12 noon outside the office of Cathy McMorris Rodgers, 10 North Post Street, to ask the eastern Washington Congresswoman what she has done to protect community safety endangered by bomb trains [4].  According to Open Secrets sources, huge campaign contributions that she has received from the oil industry, such as Tesoro and ExxonMobil, and from railroads like BNSF and Union Pacific may compromise her public interests.  Demand that Congress ensure the security of rail line residents by removing outdated DOT-111 train cars from service.

Saturday, July 12: No Idaho Bomb Trains! March & Protest (with Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

Converge with WIRT and allied activists from across northern Idaho for a march and protest in downtown Sandpoint, beginning at Farmin Park, between North Third and Fourth Avenues and Main and Oak Streets, at 12 noon on Saturday, July 12.  Please bring your family and friends, oil train protest signs, banners, and props, musical instruments, voices, and chants, but especially your spirit of Big Oil resistance and solidarity with the thousands of frontline communities who live along railroad sacrifice zones.  Carpools from the Palouse region depart the WIRT Activists House in Moscow (call 208-301-8039 for the address) at 9:30 am and return by 5 pm.

Ongoing Action: Oil Train Watch (with Vancouver Action Network)

Allies among Vancouver Action Network (VAN) in Vancouver, Washington, suggest that when you see a 100-percent oil train, tweet the time (am/pm), city, and direction of train travel along with a hashtag, the two-letter state abbreviation, and oiltrainwatch (for example, in Washington state: #waoiltrainwatch) [5].  Search for webcams pointed at railroad tracks in your city, and start a train watch in your community.

Ongoing Action: Request Oil Train Information (with Vancouver Action Network)

VAN is calling all comrades to file for public information about oil train numbers, locations, and timing from your state Emergency Management Agency, since the U.S. Department of Transportation emergency order of May 7, 2014, now requires railroads to provide information about crude oil shipments through each state [6, 7].  Northwest citizens have the potential to cost the railroads, primarily BNSF and Union Pacific, extensive funds and at least $300 to seek a court injunction against every person who files a request for this public information.  In Washington, BNSF recently declared that it will not impose injunctions against the 100-plus people who pushed for records requests.  Idaho, Montana, and Washington have refused to sign confidentiality agreements with the railroads; thus, these states will release oil train records to the public.

[1] People of Lac-Mégantic, Canada, Support Quinault Nation Efforts over Oil Trains (June 27, 2014 Montesano Today)

[2] Oil by Rail Week of Action (2014 Action Network)

[3] Blue Skies Campaign (2014 Blue Skies Campaign)

[4] Demand Safer Railcars (Spokane Rising Tide)

[5] Twitter Oil Train Watch – Ongoing Action (Vancouver Action Network)

[6] Request Oil Train Info from Your State EMA (Vancouver Action Network)

[7] States, Railroads at Odds over Oil-Train Information (June 6, 2014 Columbian)

5 thoughts on “Idaho Week of Actions Against Bomb Trains

  1. Pingback: Report & Further Work on the Idaho Week of Actions Against Bomb Trains | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

  2. Pingback: Sandpoint Stops Oil Trains Week of Action 2015 | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

  3. Pingback: Sandpoint Stops Oil Trains Week of Action 2015 Report | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

  4. Pingback: Stop Oil Trains in Idaho 2017 Actions | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

  5. Pingback: Stop Oil Trains in Idaho: July 5-7, 2018 Actions | Wild Idaho Rising Tide

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