Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest Report

Thanks to everyone who attempted and/or considered participation in the Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest on Saturday, February 1 [1, 2]!  Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), #No2ndBridge, and regional climate activists hosted a brief, information-sharing rally and carpool at 10 am at the City Beach Park pavilion in Sandpoint, and a planned march at 11 am from the Gateway Visitors Center in Bonners Ferry, with a return to Sandpoint by 1 pm.  The gatherings in Bonner and Boundary counties raised resistance to fossil fuels and hazardous materials train pollution and risks to public and environmental health and safety, and to ongoing railroad disasters and infrastructure expansions increasing these threats, such as the rockslide derailment, 2,000-gallon diesel leak, and removal of two Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway locomotives in the Kootenai River, and BNSF proposals to double tracks and rail bridges across Sandpoint, Sand Creek, and almost one mile over Lake Pend Oreille.  On BNSF’s Bakken crude oil pipeline-on-rails route across western Montana and north Idaho, both the Kootenai River wreck and the July 1989, tank cars spill of 20,000-plus gallons of still residual diesel into Whitefish Lake serve as warnings that confirm that ALL trains impose inherent hazards along and over water bodies [3].

WIRT activists appreciate Rising Tide North America friends, who shared the WIRT media release about the event on their website, and Sandpoint Reader staff, who printed the protest alert (without “Info:”) in the event-ful calendar on the center pages of the January 30, 2020 issue [4, 5].  WIRT activists are also grateful for Keokee Publishing administrators, who listed the event among Civic Happenings in Sandpoint, one of the Sandpoint Online calendars, and for Kootenai Valley Times editors, who also published our full event announcement and Kootenai River railroad incident coverage [6, 7].  This online news outlet in Bonners Ferry additionally linked the article through a facebook post that received a handful of shares and over 100 mostly derogatory comments [8].

During the week before the protest, besides posting event flyers and sending notices by email, website, facebook, and radio program, WIRT contacted a few core activists and almost 200 Sandpoint and Spokane friends.  We started conversations with everyone who had expressed interest in the event, to explore responses and ideas and to organize participation and carpools in advance, among activists from the Bonners Ferry, Sandpoint, Spokane, and Moscow areas.  Seeking to ensure that at least a few people, especially those with current, transportation obstacles, show up at both protest locations, we offered to provide gas funds for carpoolers who need them, despite WIRT’s poverty.

On Saturday morning, February 1, Sandpoint experienced intense, southwest winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour (mph) and gusts reaching 45 mph, while Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest participants gathered inside the open, City Beach Park, picnic pavilion beside Lake Pend Oreille [9].  Known as “snow eaters,” these warm, dry, fast-moving, Chinook winds could vaporize a foot of snow within hours, before it had a chance to melt [10].  Under such breezy conditions, WIRT activists could not display the unwieldy signs and large banners that we brought for the event.  Potential participants either chose not to attend, due to the high wind advisory, or may have driven nearby without noticing the rally or getting out of the dozen vehicles that we saw circle past the pavilion.  For an hour, only bicyclists and pedestrians without vehicles braved the weather and waited against the ferocious winds, for others to arrive at the park. Continue reading