Report & Further Work on the Idaho Week of Actions Against Bomb Trains


No Idaho Bomb Trains! March & Protest 7-12-14 (July 12, 2014 Spokane and Wild Idaho Rising Tides photos)

Among over fifty coordinated, local, and continent-wide demonstrations against explosive oil trains, dozens of Spokane Rising Tide (SPORT) and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) climate activists from eastern Washington and northern Idaho participated in five events during the Idaho Week of Actions Against Bomb Trains [1, 2].  In the spirit of Big Oil resistance and solidarity with the thousands of frontline communities who live along railroad sacrifice zones across the continent, citizens gathered to honor and commemorate the 47 residents of the still-recovering, devastated town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, who lost their lives when a unit train transporting fracked Bakken shale oil in outdated DOT-111 railcars derailed and exploded on July 6, 2013.  On the  solemn, one-year anniversary of this terrible tragedy, despite dozens of additional oil train disasters, oil-by-rail shipments continue to increase in the U.S. and Canada, and similarly risky tanker cars carry crude Alberta tar sands and Bakken shale oil around and over northern Idaho lakes, through flammable, forested, mountain valleys, and across the urban core of Spokane, Washington.

On Monday evening, July 7, a dozen people learned and discussed tactics and strategies for staging non-violent civil disobedience on railroad property during the Railroad Direct Action Skill-Share and presentation at the East Bonner County Library in Sandpoint, Idaho.  As part of a series of skill-shares in communities along Northwest coal- and oil-transporting rail lines, Blue Skies Campaign volunteers from Missoula, Montana, talked about their recent experiences and insights drawn from two direct actions on or near train tracks in Helena and Missoula.  Conversations in the library’s Rude Girls Room and later over pizza covered railroad security and law enforcement responses, coal train movements, protest logistical considerations, and opportunities for future, inter-group, regionally coordinated actions.  If you would like to engage in these mostly coal train protests and upcoming conference calls arranging them, please contact WIRT or Blue Skies Campaign.

WIRT participated in the Spokane Rising Tide action, Demand Safer Railcars, at the downtown Spokane office of Washington Republican Congressional Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (CMR), beginning at 12 noon on Tuesday, July 8 [3-5].  About a dozen protesters gathered on the North Post Street sidewalk below the fourth floor suite, with props representing an angry mob – cardboard and wooden pitchforks and torches provided by SPORT.  They delivered a great letter written by SPORT’s Terry Hill that sadly could serve as a template for letters to hundreds of other so-called elected officials installed by corrupt industries to ensure their ruthless regimes of continued destruction of the planet and countless lives.  The letter asked how the Congresswoman would protect the safety of her constituents and communities endangered by bomb trains, while she compromises her public interests by taking big campaign contributions from the oil and dirty energy industry and railroad companies.  It requested that she and Congress ensure the security of rail line residents by removing outdated DOT-111 train cars from service.

From within the potential Spokane blast zone of such trains, CMR’s staff members acted congenially, respectfully, and professionally towards the concerned citizens.  They stated that they would forward the letter to CMR, and, when asked by the protesters, promised everyone who left contact information a response specific to their addressed concerns, not the anticipated, vapid, form letter filled with conciliatory comments.  The visitors questioned CMR’s staff about the regularity and accessibility of the Congresswoman’s appearances in Spokane.  The staff members suggested that the group of voters request a “coffee with Cathy” meeting as early as August.  Returning to the street, the comrades energetically repeated five chants that Moscow and Spokane activists devised, hopefully audible in CMR’s office: “Rolling downhill, oil trains kill, 47 slain, no bomb trains!” “Pipelines spill, but bomb trains kill!” “While Cathy takes bribes, bomb trains take lives!” “Big oil bribes, railroad ties, Cathy’s corruption risks our lives!” and “Spokane oil trains, more every day, Cathy’s voters say no way!”  The climate activists then huddled, noticed police entering the building, talked for a while, and dispersed. Continue reading

Climate Justice Forum: Herb Goodwin 7-14-14

The Monday, July 14, Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) gratefully welcomes Herb Goodwin, a core WIRT and Occupy Bellingham activist resisting coal export and tar sands megaloads throughout the Northwest.  Herb will talk about the oil industry end run around the U.S. crude oil export ban by eight proposed refineries with 80,000-barrel-per-day production capacities in Montana, North Dakota, and elsewhere.  He will also discuss rapidly emerging megaload assembly plants and transports on the Montana Rocky Mountain Front, which build Alberta tar sands and Bakken shale oil extraction infrastructure.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PDT, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show covers continent-wide climate activism news and dirty energy developments, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as their KRFP DJ.

State Highway Officials Tour Realignment Picked for 95 South of Moscow

Opponents and supporters interact with state highway officials during Moscow visit.

Members of the Idaho Transportation Board toured the state’s preferred route for realignment and expansion of U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow on Thursday.

Janice Vassar, the board representative for ITD’s District 2, which includes Moscow and Lewiston, described the view from the chosen route as “spectacular.”

But opponents of the preferred plan were also on hand afterward at an event hosted by the City of Moscow and University of Idaho for the seven-member board.

The final environmental impact statement supporting the choice known as E-2 from Thorn Creek Road to Moscow was sent to the Federal Highway Administration from the Idaho Transportation Department’s environmental office this week.  It was the culmination of an 11-year, court-ordered process. Continue reading

Join the Transporta​tion Board Thursday Tour & Moscow Visit: Final Highway 95 EIS Chose Paradise Ridge Reroute

Palouse Prairie (Alison Meyer photo)

Palouse Prairie (Alison Meyer photo)

Final Highway 95 EIS Chose Paradise Ridge Reroute

After releasing its final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for U.S. Highway 95 expansion and rerouting between Thorn Creek Road and Moscow on Tuesday, July 8, “the [Idaho] Transportation Department (ITD) has maintained its preferred route as the eastern path along Paradise Ridge” [1].  The 1200-page FEIS reflects that recommendation, which does not ensure that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will select the E-2 Paradise Ridge alternative for the reroute.  ITD plans to send copies of the FEIS to the FHWA district office and the environmental section of the ITD headquarters office, both in Boise.  Those agencies would review the statement and provide comments and feedback over about three weeks.  The FHWA would then submit the FEIS to its legal section in Washington D.C. for review.  The number of technical reports accompanying the statement – addressing citizen and agency concerns over wildlife, groundwater, weather, wind, weeds, and safety – could prolong FHWA legal section analysis to a couple of months, but ITD does not anticipate many questions.  The worst-case scenario for ITD – resubmitting the FEIS in response to this review – would take an estimated week.  When and if the national FHWA office finally approves the FEIS, it would place it in the Federal Register for 30 days, for other agencies to review and make comments.  Most pertinent federal and state environmental and wildlife agencies have previously advised against the E-2 route.  After this feedback, ITD would issue the record of decision (ROD), a separate document in response to federal agency comments, which would state FHWA’s route alignment selection, summarize the entire process, and undergo a FHWA review before it signs off on the ROD.  At that point, the final design phase and right-of-way plans for the new highway section would begin.  ITD has about $20 million in federal funding shifted to each of the fiscal years of 2016 and 2017 for construction.  ITD’s “very aggressive, but doable” plan foresees construction start-up by summer 2016.

​With characteristically disgraceful hubris rivaling that of Idaho’s highest elected officials, ITD has neither publicly responded as promised to the questions of 400 commenters on its draft environmental impact statement nor directly notified them of its FEIS release, as it files another likely inadequate, incomplete, and fraudulent impact statement.  It also has sidestepped citizen attempts to ascertain the project analysis schedule as well as requests for public hearings addressing legitimate citizen charges of blatant dishonesty.  ITD project manager Ken Helm asserts that “he and various consultants have spent the past year addressing each of those concerns and questions, revising technical reports, and creating new ones, in an effort to produce the final environmental impact statement” [1].  But with ITD’s obstinate insistence on the E2 route, the fix is apparently in.  According to a current schedule posted on ITD’s project website, “the FEIS will address public comments, make any corrections, and provide new information…The document will be sent to the FHWA office in Washington D.C. for a legal sufficiency review in August [and September 2014]” [2].  By mid-October 2014, the responsible (?) agencies intend to publish notice in the Federal Register of a 30-day period of FEIS “review by local resource agencies and the public.”  After the review process, ITD will prepare and issue a record of decision in late December 2014, which will require FHWA approval.

Transportation Board Will Visit Port, Highway 95, & Moscow on Thursday

In its typical last-minute manner, ITD distributed an announcement on Tuesday, July 8, that the Idaho Transportation Board will tour the Port of Lewiston, the Highway 95 section proposed for re-routing and expansion south of Moscow, the Intermodal Transit Center in Moscow, and other locations on Thursday, July 10, before holding its regular monthly meeting on Friday, July 11, at the ITD District 1 office at 600 West Prairie Avenue in Coeur d’Alene [3].  The Board will begin its tour of ITD Districts 1 and 2 highways on Thursday at the ITD District 2 office at 2600 Frontage Road in Lewiston.  Departing at 7:50 am, the Board will meet with officials at the Port of Lewiston until 8:30 am, when it will travel north on U.S. Highway 95 to a “vantage point” on Zietler and Cameron Roads, where observers can envision and discuss at 9 am the eastern and central re-routing paths of Highway 95 between Thorn Creek Road and Moscow.  After 15 minutes, the Board tour will travel north to arrive at the Intermodal Transit Center, at the corner of West Sweet Avenue and Railroad Street on the University of Idaho campus in Moscow, at 9:25 am and stay until 10:25 am.  Stops north of Moscow include Potlatch, Plummer, and Post Falls, along with overnight accommodations at the Holiday Inn Express in Coeur d’Alene and the Friday Board meeting of unknown schedule at the District 1 office. Continue reading

U.S. 95 Reroute May Be Crawling Closer

Final environmental impact statement submitted

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is one step closer to beginning construction on a proposed reroute of U.S. Highway 95 to Moscow, after submitting its final environmental impact statement to the Federal Highway Administration on Tuesday.

“As we speak, the printer is running upstairs,” Kenneth Helm, project manager, said Tuesday.  “It’s almost a 1,200-page document.  That’s just the (final environmental impact statement), that’s not the tech reports.”

The final environmental impact statement is the transportation department’s most recent milestone in the more than decade-long effort to expand Highway 95 between Lewiston and Moscow to four divided lanes, said Helm, who works at the department’s District 2 office in Lewiston.  The department was required to conduct the environmental impact analysis after a federal judge sided with the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition, a group of Moscow residents, in a 2003 injunction that halted construction north of Thorncreek Road to Moscow.

“This is what I consider a huge milestone in the project,” Helm said.  “We’re not there yet, but this is the next big jump.”

Helm said he planned to send copies on Tuesday of the final environmental impact statement to the Federal Highway Administration district office in Boise, as well as to the environmental section of the Idaho Transportation Department headquarters office.  He anticipated that they would take about three weeks to review the statement and provide comments and feedback. Continue reading

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. Continue reading