Climate Justice Forum 10-27-14

The Monday, October 27, Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) will discuss rail and ship transport of Alberta tar sands and fracked Bakken shale oil across the Northwest, in anticipation of the Tuesday evening, October 28, Spokane public hearing about the draft 2014 Washington Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study report.  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 also covers continent-wide climate activism news and dirty energy developments, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her/his KRFP DJ.

October 28 & 30 Rallies & Hearings on Washington Marine & Rail Oil Transportation Study

Spokane: Tuesday, October 28, 5 to 10 pm

The doors to the public hearing room at the Hilton Double Tree Hotel, 322 North Spokane Falls Court, open at 5 pm. Gather at the Riverfront Park Rotary Fountain at 5 pm for a rally with music, youth climate ambassadors, and other dynamic speakers, then march three blocks to the hearing, where public comment begins at 6 pm and a hospitality suite will provide snacks.

Olympia: Thursday, October 30, 5 to 10 pm

The hearing room doors at the Red Lion Inn, 2300 Evergreen Park Drive SW, open at 5 pm. Meet outside for a coastal jam session at 4 pm and for a rally and music at 5 pm, before a Department of Ecology presentation at 6 pm and public input starting at 6:30 pm.

On October 1, 2014, the Washington state Department of Ecology released for public review the 2014 Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study Preliminary Findings and Recommendations Report, which assesses the serious health, safety, and environmental risks and impacts of the onslaught of Northwest oil shipments by rail and vessel [1]. When the 2014 Washington Legislature failed to pass a bill assuaging growing concerns about more volatile and unpredictable crude oil traffic, lawmakers directed and funded the state agency to conduct the study in April 2014.  Governor Jay Inslee issued a directive in June 2014, outlining key components of the study designed to identify regional oil transportation risks, regulatory gaps addressing these risks, and possible state actions to reduce risks.  For this research, the administration-appointed Department of Ecology consulted the Federal Railroad Administration, the Washington Department of Transportation, the Utilities and Transportation Commission, and the Military Department’s Emergency Management Division [2].  If the state adopts an aggressive regulation plan in its final report due to the Legislature in March 2015, which will guide state agency, executive, and legislative actions, industry could mount legal challenges.

Although this draft report intricately describes the vulnerabilities of Washington sacrifice-zone communities and resources to the explosive, toxic dangers of existing oil train traffic and proposed port facilities, and thus supports citizens’ and firefighters’ demands for an immediate moratorium on rail-shipped crude, it flagrantly dismisses these hazards potentially affecting tribal treaty rights, public infrastructure, and the regional economy as secondary to the focus of the study [3]. The report partially conducted by the only paid railroad consultant, Mainline Management – comprised of retired, career Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) corporate executives with former BNSF, Port of Vancouver, and Washington Public Ports Association clients – incorrectly seeks to normalize the new risks of unconventional extreme energy extraction and transportation as simply additional threats augmenting decades of similar rail and ship activities that can be mitigated.

Even worse, this study defers to federal authorities regulating interstate commerce, relinquishing state leverage of railroad and ship traffic to national agencies such as the industry-dominated, inspection capacity-challenged Federal Railroad Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard. It insufficiently suggests actions to protect public waters and their changing dynamics from the risks of tar sands oil shipments and increased tanker passage.  While state and federal agencies declare the environmental non-significance of Northwest coal and oil terminals and the report promotes further investigation but sidesteps safety precautions to avert catastrophes, regional fossil fuel freight and facilities proliferate, and bulk commodity and passenger rail service suffer.  Attempting to deter widespread resistance to policies ensuring climate chaos, the study authors overlook significant, statewide opposition to proposed oil terminals, misused public ports, expanding oil refineries, risky oil trains and ships, and bureaucratic collaboration in transformation of the Northwest rail system into a permanent, global carbon pollution export corridor.  Did they consider the best interests of Washingtonians over those of private industry in this report that recommends implementation of several procedures costing more than $13 million? Continue reading