Methanol Refinery & BC Pipeline Alerts, Fossil Fuels Train Increases & Threats, Climate Wildfires, Strikes, & More

WIRT as Perceived Rail Industry Threat

Thanks to a Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activist and board member for noticing an investigative piece in the esteemed online journal The Intercept, and alerting comrades of its mention of WIRT as, along with environmental reporter Justin Mikulka, “one of a range of fossil fuel industry critics framed by the rail industry as a potential threat.  Another Railway Awareness Daily Analytic Report (RADAR) raised alarms about the creation of the philanthropic Climate Emergency Fund, noting that its board includes environmental journalists Bill McKibben and David Wallace-Wells.  Other documents detailed the activities of fossil fuel opponents like Extinction Rebellion, the Sunrise Movement, Wild Idaho Rising Tide, and the anti-Bayou Bridge pipeline L’eau Est La Vie camp in Louisiana” [1].

Grateful to leverage railroad and fossil fuels industries’ perceptions of growing citizen coalition threats to their ongoing pollution and looming derailments, WIRT will not relent in requesting, broadening, and normalizing community resistance to oil, gas, tar sands, and coal extraction, transportation, and infrastructure systems.  Undiscouraged by surveillance, criminalization, and isolation of peaceful, protective, civic duties predictably abandoned by industry-friendly government agencies and conservation groups, we will continue to engage opportunities to gather evidence, research, and disseminate information and encourage public opposition to fossil fuels pipelines-on-rails and production operations and expansions in Idaho and throughout the Northwest, such as Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s Sandpoint Junction Connector project (#No2ndBridge!) and Snake River Oil and Gas’ Payette riverside gas wells and processing plants.  Please support and work with a doubted, small group of thoughtful, committed activists, by participating physically as a volunteer and/or fiscally as a contributor, to together accomplish persistent and planned activities that are changing the world or, at least, the practices of climate change perpetrators [2].

Increased North Idaho Fossil Fuels Trains

Fossil fuels transportation fiascos, including the Keystone XL, Trans Mountain, and Coastal GasLink pipelines in the western U.S. and Canada, have continued 2020 build-out, despite and bolstered by the global COVID-19 pandemic, worldwide economic depression, and wildfires and extreme weather exacerbated by climate change.  Likewise, BNSF’s pipeline-on-rails has been hauling the same or greater amounts of westbound, Powder River Basin coal, Bakken shale oil, and Canadian tar sands, unit trains through downtown Sandpoint and the Idaho Panhandle [3].  Even under ideal, summer and fall weather conditions, these daily trains seem to travel more dangerously in clusters at night, further polluting and risking the lives and livelihoods of local, tourism and recreation economies.  During September 2020, watchful, frontline, WIRT activists observed, documented, and/or publicly reported 81 fossil fuels trains, second in number only to the 92 coal and oil trains of August 2018.  Although July, August, and September 2019 witnessed the third, fourth, and fifth highest numbers of such trains (respectively 74, 73, and 73), summer 2020 months experienced similar or greater amounts (68, 71, 81), compared to healthier, more prosperous times.

These numbers indicate some of the strongest motivations for BNSF’s also pandemic-undeterred construction of the 2.2-mile Sandpoint Junction Connector project, consisting of doubled tracks, temporary work spans, and second rail bridges beside a historic, active, passenger train station, over Bridge Street and Sand Creek, and almost one mile across Idaho’s largest, deepest lake, Pend Oreille (#No2ndBridge!).  This industrial invasion expects to accommodate not only one third more trains (an increase to 80, from 60 trains per day) but also more derailment-vulnerable, bi-directional train traffic over waterways and the extended, two-mile-long trains seen by WIRT and allies since April 2020.  BNSF’s expansion scheme additionally facilitates more trains spewing toxic coal dust, carcinogenic diesel emissions, and hazardous materials like crude oil, locomotive fuel, liquefied natural gas (LNG), chlorine, and other chemicals into water and air sheds.  And by driving 1000-plus piles into railroad pollution accumulated in creek and lake beds, the project further jeopardizes regional drinking water and the critical, endangered species habitat of threatened bull trout.

Sandpoint Climate Strikes & Sign Returns

WIRT activists did not crash the rainy, 2020, Sandpoint climate strike, although taunted by BNSF #No2ndBridge photos headlining the description of the event hosted by someone who questioned the circumstances of environmental groups dropping railroad expansion resistance [4].  Although we could have brought banners and signs addressing local climate concerns (BNSF and Union Pacific fossil fuels pipelines-on-rails, LNG train permits in exchange for a dismissed Trump loan, Forest Service collaborative (collusive) lakeside deforestation, silicon smelter proposals and transactions, etc.), waving a sign about climate change, without confronting its corporate perpetrators, seems an exercise in (purposeful?) Big Green bandwagon futility and public humiliation.  We could not bear another posing (but not radically imposing!) “privileged polluters’ parade” this year, after all of the event-no-show neglect and essential worker abuse of diligent, frugal antifascists and dissenters of the capitalist status quo.  So we struck against a climate strike, not against our daily work as climate activists, thus upholding our fossil fuels frontline labor.

But if anyone at last year’s (2019) climate strike has protest signs lent to them at the start of the march, WIRT activists are asking for their return at future, north Idaho protests and gatherings.  Some of these signs have great historical significance to the group and region, as parts of dozens of four-state demonstrations since 2011.  Unaccustomed to such one-use losses that rarely occurred at other locations, we are missing about a dozen signs with wording like Stop Tar Sands, End Fossil Fuels Foolishness, No Oil Train Terminals, Coal Changes Idaho Climate, etc.  We also invite you to return them to the downtown Sandpoint, WIRT office address listed on our facebook and website pages.  Thanks!

Culture Wars in Sandpoint

A newspaper of Sandpoint’s sister city since 2013, Nelson, British Columbia, featured a requested and credited, WIRT photo, drawn from our facebook description of confrontations with “groups of armed people [who] spent the day on June 2, ostensibly protecting Sandpoint businesses from rioters,” in its August 10 article about the north Idaho, “COVID-19 culture war” [5, 6].  “The two small cities are similar: on a lake surrounded by mountains, with a mix of historic downtown, lively arts scene, varied outdoor recreation, and tourism…But the difference in the number of COVID-19 cases in both regions could not be starker.  And the contrast in the public discourse about the pandemic is equally striking…In Sandpoint, it has become inseparable from debates about gun rights and Black Lives Matter.  In Nelson, there is some debate about mask wearing, and perhaps some growing complacency about social distancing.  But it is not a culture war” [6].

Oppose Northwest Methanol Export Refinery

As part of the information considered in its final decision about a Columbia River shoreline conditional use permit for the world’s largest fracked gas-to-methanol production and export terminal, proposed for Kalama, southwest Washington, the Washington Department of Ecology is accepting public input on the second, draft, supplemental environmental impact statement (SSEIS), through a comment period extended by one week, until October 9, 2020 [7-10].  Besides supporting the health and safety of Kalama and nearby communities and regional resistance to new and expanded fossil fuels infrastructure, WIRT activists are concerned that construction and operation of the facility would enable rail transportation of natural gas through north Idaho trackside towns.  With its draft SSEIS on the climate impacts of the refinery, Northwest Innovation Works (NWIW) attempts to deceive the state agency and public about the purposes and consequences of this dangerous, dirty energy project that increases plastics manufacturing and debris and counters state climate goals, as potentially one of Washington’s biggest greenhouse gas polluters.  Ask “Ecology” to “dismiss NWIW’s misleading claims and accurately account for the project’s upstream and downstream climate pollution,” with a more rigorous analysis [7].  Learn more about the proposal, explore testimony at recent hearings, and send one or multiple remarks expressing your concerns, through the Ecology website or via mail to Olympia [8].

Liquefied Natural Gas-by-Rail & Trump Debts

On August 18, Earthjustice filed a legal challenge in the U.S. District Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, on behalf of six groups against a recent, reckless, U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration rule that would allow “bomb trains” to dangerously transport explosive, liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail through communities across the country [11].  Besides promoting this new, fossil fuels fiasco, the Trump administration and railroad industry have continued to discard critical, long-standing, rail safety measures that protect the public from increasingly more hazardous cargo.  One derailed tank car of LNG could destroy a city, like the LNG that escaped from a Cleveland, Ohio, tank farm, flowed into the sewer system, and ignited in 1944, killing 131 people and cratering a square mile of infrastructure [12].  Twenty two tank cars of LNG hold the equivalent energy of the Hiroshima bomb, as the highly flammable and chemically reactive gas rapidly expands by 600 times its volume.

Why are federal agencies with Trump-appointed directors enabling the predictable derailment disasters of explosive hazardous materials on rail lines throughout the nation?  “A multi-billion-dollar private equity firm, whose subsidiary was awarded two special permits by the Trump administration, to haul hazardous liquefied natural gas, including by rail,…apparently forgave more than $100 million in debt owed by President Trump” [13].  Who else owns Trump’s outlandish, mysterious debts, and how much secret power may they be wielding over this country?  Donald Trump, not his businesses, is “personally responsible for $421 million worth of loans coming due in the next few years…He has no means of repaying them…This [untenable, unprecedented crisis] has frightening implications for public policy and national security.  Even minor debts are a frequent reason for the government to deny security clearances, for the obvious reason that indebted and financially desperate public servants make easy marks for bribery, blackmail, and potential treason” [14].

“The potentially destructive power of that sort of hold on a president of the United States is beyond comprehension…Imagine if a president owed millions to the mob or to those with close ties to a foreign government, and those individuals both controlled the president’s financial future and knew of corrupt criminal activity.  The president might act with otherwise strange deference to said mobsters and those connected to them, and bend public policy on their behalf.  If they were tied to fossil fuel interests, the president might set the globe on fire rather than cross them.  If his creditors were simply a wealthy set of Wall Street tycoons, he might rig all financial policy on their direct behalf…Whoever they are, they have the capacity to be directly dictating to Donald Trump, and he would be in no position to say no…Trump has already proven himself temperamentally and morally unfit for the job.  But now, whether he wins or loses re-election, no responsible member of Congress should allow him to be re-inaugurated…Trump must be impeached and removed, because the country faces grave risks every day he remains in power” [14].

Defund the Coastal GasLink Pipeline

Join the KKR communications blockade on and after Monday, September 28, and rise up for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, against the Coast GasLink pipeline funded by KKR [15, 16].  Ongoing, aggressive pipeline construction ignores significant impacts to the global climate and Wet’suwet’en concerns about their sovereign rights and governance over their traditional, unceded lands, water, and air.  Drawing from linked, messaging prompts and ideas, email, call, and/or tweet KKR and its managing director Johannes Huth.  This campaign is apparently forcing change: Facebook launched a “climate information center” during the week before #ClimateWeek, when it blocked “by accident” hundreds of climate activists and groups involved in Wet’suwet’en solidarity actions [17].

Climate-Changed Western U.S. Wildfires

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Every year, millions of acres of land are consumed by fire in the United States.  By raising temperatures, melting snow sooner, and drying soils and forests, climate change is fueling the problem…In the long-term, climate action is the best tool we have.  When we reduce global warming emissions, we slow the growth of climate risks, including wildfire.  Until then, summers will continue getting hotter, forests will get drier, and more and more people will face the threat of wildfire” [18].

[1] Amid Terror Warnings, Railroad Industry Group Passed Intel on Environmental Journalist to Cops, September 13, 2020 The Intercept

[2] Donate to WIRT, Wild Idaho Rising Tide Everbutton

[3] Fossil fuels transportation fiascos…, October 1, 2020 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[4] Global Day of Climate Action/Fridays for Future Climate Strike, Sandpoint, Idaho, September 2020 Cassie Price

[5] Gun Invasion of Sandpoint and Black Lives Matter Protest, June 4, 2020 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[6] Nelson’s American Sister City Faces COVID-19 Culture War, August 10, 2020 Nelson Star

[7] Stand Up for Kalama, Oppose Methanol Refinery, September 2020 Columbia Riverkeeper

[8] Northwest Innovation Works — Kalama Manufacturing and Marine Export Facility, Washington State Department of Ecology

[9] Kalama Methanol “Benefits” Assume Catastrophic Climate Failure, September 23, 2020 Sightline Institute

[10] New Analysis Proves Kalama Methanol Project is a Climate Disaster, September 3, 2020 Sightline Institute

[11] Groups File Legal Challenge to Stop “Bomb Trains”, August 18, 2020 Earthjustice

[12] What You Should Know about Liquefied Natural Gas and Rail Cars, August 18, 2020 Earthjustice

[13] Fortress Forgave Huge Trump Loan, Got Federal Permits to Transport LNG by Rail, September 17, 2020 Florida Bulldog

[14] Whoever Owns Trump’s Enormous Debts Could Be Running the Country, September 28, 2020 Washington Monthly

[15] #ShutDownKKR Day of Action #WetsuwetenStrong, September 2020 Rising Tide North America

[16] Tell KKR: Don’t Invest in the Coastal GasLink Pipeline and Respect Indigenous Rights Now! September 2020 Rising Tide North America

[17] Anger and Confusion after Facebook Suspends Environmental and Indigenous Groups’ Accounts Ahead of Pipeline Protest, September 22, 2020 Common Dreams

[18] Infographic: Wildfires and Climate Change, September 8, 2020 Union of Concerned Scientists

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