Sandpoint Stops Oil Trains Week of Action 2015 Report


On Monday evening, July 6, through Sunday afternoon, July 12, activists of Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), Spokane Rising Tide (SPORT), and the Occupy movement participated in several demonstrations of the Sandpoint Stops Oil Trains Week of Action 2015, to halt oil train traffic while commemorating the second anniversary of the July 6, 2013, Lac Mégantic, Quebec oil train catastrophe that took 47 lives [1, 2]. Together with climate, environmental, and social justice activists across North America, WIRT and allies organized and staged over 100 powerful and effective, local demonstrations during the Stop Oil Trains Week of Action [3, 4]. These events in the United States and Canada stood in solidarity, defense, and protection of the residents of Lac Mégantic, who lost 47 people killed by an exploding oil train, and other frontline, rail corridor communities and our shared global climate, all caught in the crosshairs of the oil and rail industries’ pipelines on wheels.

Although dozens of horrifying, fiery, extreme energy train wreck disasters have occurred over the last two years since the grim Quebec accident, northern Idaho and eastern Washington citizens continue to endure the unsafe, risky, and expanding rail transportation of potentially explosive Alberta tar sands dilbit, moved by the Union Pacific Railroad, and fracked Bakken shale oil, hauled by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), both to Washington and West Coast refineries. BNSF has previously reported that 16 to 19 mile-long oil trains traverse the interior Northwest every week. Additionally on the 70-mile-long, railroad chokepoint between the Sandpoint and Spokane downtown areas, referred to as “the funnel,” BNSF carries dusty, diesel-towed coal from the Powder River Basin along the Montana/Wyoming border to coastal terminals for export. Recently revised federal regulations no longer require BNSF to report the number of oil trains that pass through the region, and have never forced disclosure of Union Pacific tar sands by rail volumes.

With their hazardous loads and reckless resource and policy exploitation, Big Oil and Rail discount and transgress the millions of lives, the human and environmental health and safety repercussions, and the associated carbon and other toxic pollution within the mile-wide, track-side, oil train blast zones, along their paths to profit around the Pacific Rim [5]. In appropriate response, thousands of concerned citizens gathered for 63 events in July 2014, including multiple protest and outreach actions in Sandpoint and Spokane [6]. 2015 participants joined in actions to publicly call attention to the growing threat of “bomb trains,” to display the growing power of the worldwide climate movement, and to demand an immediate ban on all crude oil trains. Continue reading