Statewide Gas Lease Auction Protests 10-15-14


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Statewide Gas Lease Auction Protests 10-15-14 (October 15, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

On Wednesday, October 15, 2014, beginning at 8:30 am MDT, Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE), Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), and allies converged and protested for a second time another auction of oil and gas leases of state lands and sub-surface mineral rights conducted by the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) for the Idaho Board of Land Commissioners [1]. Held in the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Trophy Conference Room in Boise, Idaho, the public meeting offered 11 tracts totaling 5,250 acres in Cassia, Gem, and Owyhee Counties, including 600 acres in Cassia County and 160 acres in Gem County of state lands and 4,479 acres in Owyhee County of split estates with private landowners and state mineral holders.

Although citizens at the auction observed four bidders, only the drilling companies Alta Mesa Idaho of Houston, Texas, and Trendwell West of Rockford, Michigan, paid an average of $46 per acre on purportedly competitive, oral bids for subsequent ten-year leases [2, 3]. Increasing the current tally to nearly 98,000 leased state acres (besides thousands of leased private acres in six southwestern counties), IDL raised $263,000 from the auction of state public trust and endowment trust lands and minerals for oil and gas exploitation, “benefitting” the general fund, state wildlife and transportation departments, and specific educational and beneficiary institutions.  The state will receive a 12.5 percent royalty on any resulting oil and gas extracted from producing wells impacting lands, resources, and waterways at bargain prices.

At the successful, three-woman Statewide Gas Lease Auction Protest in Boise, which delayed the auction for a half-hour, the Idaho Department of Lands leased 160 acres of state lands in Gem County for only one dollar per acre. The first ever Cassia County acres went for only $10 per acre, but the other nine parcels in Owyhee County elicited $40 to $55 per acre, with one at $105 [4].  These discrepancies infer (at least to WIRT) that oil and gas industry representatives are leery to invest in Gem County drilling, due to the County Commissioners’ recent decision to establish a committee guiding and (hopefully soon) implementing independent, legally defensible, baseline, water quality sampling and testing of water bodies and wells prior to potentially harmful oil and gas activities.  Congratulations, Gem County activists! Continue reading

Global Frackdown Idaho 10-11-14


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In conjunction with the Global Frackdown worldwide day of action on Saturday, October 11, Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, Wild Idaho Rising Tide, and other groups and individuals arranged and supported Global Frackdown Idaho for a third year in Boise and for the first time in Moscow.  To publicly oppose fracking, concerned citizens and climate justice activists from across Idaho converged and staged demonstrations, calling for a ban on looming first fracking in Idaho and around the Earth.  In response to state and local policy makers and administrators and in solidarity with harmed communities and wrongfully jailed and hunger-striking Idaho fractivist Alma Hasse, protesters gathered with family, friends, neighbors, signs, and banners at the Boise and Moscow farmers markets.  Event coordinators provided verbal descriptions and printed information about the current state of oil and gas development and resistance in Idaho, as they circulated and signed a petition to state officials and considered a ballot measure, to ban fracking, waste injection wells, and all toxic oil and gas practices statewide.  At both events, participants expressed their outrage over government complicity with industrial harms to shared air, water, climate, and community, as they demanded that Idaho officials secure a future powered by clean, renewable energy, not by dirty, polluting fossil fuels that poison people and the planet. Continue reading

Report on Three Actions: Northwest Communities Oppose Coal Exports


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Northwest Communities Oppose Coal Exports 8-16-14 (August 16, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

During the week of August 10, grassroots groups and peaceful protesters coordinated and staged regional actions against increased coal train traffic in interior Northwest communities and West Coast coal exports [1-3].  Sponsored by several climate and tribal organizations, including 350-Missoula, Blue Skies Campaign, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), Indian People’s Action, and Wild Idaho Rising Tide, activists held gatherings, speeches, rallies, marches, and train blockades in eastern Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.  Together, they catalyzed growing inland Northwest opposition largely dismissed by federal and state regulatory processes determining the fate of Powder River Basin coal mines and three proposed coal export facilities at Cherry Point and Longview, Washington, and Boardman, Oregon.

Boardman, Oregon

On Tuesday, August 12, over 40 dedicated people from western Oregon and about a dozen folks from eastern Oregon traveled up to 12 hours via bus and passenger vehicles, through summer storms with wind gusts, heavy rain, and lightning, to the Port of Morrow conference center in Boardman, Oregon [4].  At the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) public hearing on a 401 water quality certification for Ambre Energy’s Morrow Pacific coal train terminal, coal export opponents convened a lovely pre-hearing picnic, packed the room, and voiced resistance through about 75 percent of the amazing citizen testimony and inquiries during a DEQ question-and-(un)answer session.  Among health professionals, longshore and warehouse union workers, and eastern Oregon residents, Umatilla tribal representatives spoke powerfully against coal export impacts, offering many compelling reasons to deny state permit approval.  Chief Carl Sampson of the Wallulapum Tribe of the CTUIR welcomed coal export opponents and offered strong words, as did his daughter Cathy Sampson-Kruse, his granddaughter Mariah, and Umatilla Board of Trustees Chairman Gary Burke.

Missoula, Montana

Saturday, August 16, brought nonviolent civil disobedience to a Missoula, Montana, rail line for the second time this year, as Montana writer Rick Bass and three concerned Missoula community members stood on both sides of train tracks and temporarily delayed a coal train [5].  While 50 supporters cheered from the sidelines and forced an inbound coal train to crawl through Hellgate Canyon, police arrested and removed the four brave protesters from the path of the oncoming train in the railroad right-of-way, citing them for trespass and releasing them for appearances in court next week.  In April 2014, police similarly arrested seven people during civil disobedience that delayed an outbound train carrying coal.  Author of nonfiction novels and books, Rick Bass read from his current work to the gathering of coal export opponents and asserted that uncovered, dirty coal shipments by rail through Montana towns, moving all the time through all kinds of weather, violate the Montana constitution and contribute toward still correctable climate change.

Sandpoint, Idaho

In the midst of an intensive week of tar sands refinery megaload protests in northern Idaho, Wild Idaho Rising Tide and allied activists gathered in Sandpoint, Idaho, on Saturday, August 16, for a rally, march, and protest of coal export trains traversing and polluting Lake Pend Oreille, the fifth deepest lake in the U.S. [6]  Meeting in Farmin Park, friends and family members brought their protest signs, voices, and chants, and walked through the various parts of the Farmers’ Market at Sandpoint, distributing WIRT brochures and urging convergence and participation in the upcoming march.  Activists walked and chanted “Save Our Lake, No Coal Trains!” for a mile on downtown sidewalks and along the paved, lakeside Sagle-to-Sandpoint community trail that merges into the pedestrian bridge paralleling the two-mile vehicular span of the U.S. Highway 95 Long Bridge.  Among human and canine visitors and swimmers at the sandy, public Dog Beach between the highway and the mile-long, railroad trestle bridge, on which dusty coal trains cross Lake Pend Oreille, participants stood in solidarity with regional action partners and 75 Northwest activists arrested during coal export protests over the last few years.  They supported and immediately shared news of Missoula rail line blockaders arrested concurrently and of the Confederated Umatilla Tribes’ honorable rejection of Morrow Pacific bribes to build and benefit from the Coyote Island Terminal in Boardman.  Local protesters noted that the nearby train tracks remained eerily but thankfully vacant during the hours-long Sandpoint action. Continue reading

Bigge Stages the Last Calumet Megaload


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Bigge Stages the Last Calumet Megaload 7-24-14 (Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

On Thursday, July 24, two Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activists scouted the Port of Wilma, across the Snake River from Clarkston, Washington, to document with photos and ascertain any changes at the fenced compound where Bigge Crane and Rigging stores the last of three rusty, cylindrical, hydrocracker sections stranded since mid-December 2013.  Participants in the Nez Perce Environmental Summit on Saturday, July 19, discovered the two other, larger, megaload parts vanished, with crews still in the port lot leased by Omega Morgan in late 2013, for its two massive evaporator cargoes [1].  Last observed on short, 12-axle trailers at the port on Tuesday, July 15, the two heavier, missing loads, 573,000 and 661,000 pounds each, likely departed by barge downriver or by train on the Watco Companies Great Northwest Railroad to the Tri-Cities, Washington [2].  According to late-May newspaper articles that suggested megaload rail travel, haulers could have transported the shipments on Schnabel train cars as oncoming traffic to potentially explosive, West Coast-bound, unit “bomb trains” of fracked Bakken shale oil.  The behemoths could currently be moving across eastern Washington and northern Idaho on either Union Pacific or Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail lines to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, then eastward on the BNSF railroad to a spur line heading south from Shelby to the Montana Refining Company in Great Falls.  The hydrocracker column formed by stacking the three purportedly irreducible components upright constitutes equipment essential to tripling Calumet Specialty Products Partners’ refinery production of Alberta tar sands, Bow River crude, and Bakken shale oil.

Activists noticed on July 19 that heavy hauler Bigge had left a white and red crane, a heavy-duty, white semi-truck, a small, orange truck, several flatbed trailers, and some white trailer pieces resembling the steel suspension systems seen around other, huge, fossil fuel contraptions in the region since February 2011.  The San Leandro, California-based company also abandoned the 504,000-pound, lightest, bottom part of the hydrocracker.  Its largest diameter of the three modules may have deterred its passage by train through tunnels, close, two-way tracks, or other rail line impediments, while its weight and length, when combined with interlocked trailers and trucks, could forebode the heaviest and longest megaload to ever traverse rural northern Idaho highway routes.  On Thursday evening, July 24, WIRT comrades saw additional Bigge gear that alerted them to imminent megaload movement, perhaps within a week.  A second, white semi-truck occupied the southwestern corner of the lot, while the orange truck, previously parked next to the hydrocracker piece, sat behind it, attached to the white trailer.  Absent during prior scouting forays, long, dark-blue, trailer sections loomed in front of the module, and a colossal, dark-blue, metal bar on a specialized semi-trailer, like the top of megaload lifts seen at the Ports of Pasco and Umatilla, crowded the eastern pavement outside the fence, along with a uniformed security guard in an older, white and red pickup truck. Continue reading

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


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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

Idaho Gas Lease Auction Protest & Petition Report


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Idaho Gas Lease Auction Protest & Petition 4-17-14 (April 17, 2014, Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

On Thursday, April 17, 2014, twenty members of Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE), the Muse Project, and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) staged a successful protest of the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) auction of oil and gas leases of state rivers, lands, and mineral rights to the highest bidders among two drilling companies [1-4].  Converging at 8:30 am MDT outside the IDL main office in Boise, Idaho, participants arrived with their protest signs, friends, and family members, including an infant and toddler, and their spirit of solidarity with communities devastated by fossil fuels.  Together they sang multiple rounds of the climate activism song Do It Now near the IDL entrance, as five or more news agencies interviewed and filmed the demonstrators, and as bidders, government officials, and their associates hurried inside.

When protesters filed into the building only minutes before the auction began, the receptionist insisted that they could not bring their posters or voices to the auction.  One organizer asked to see the Idaho code that disallowed this practice, and the crowd soon occupied and packed the back of the conference room.  As bids on 150 public tracts started at $1 per acre and ended as high as $505 per acre, some defaulting to Alta Mesa without competitive bidding, the demonstrators held their protest signs, placed them on tables surrounded by bidders, and scrutinized, videotaped, and photographed the proceedings among irritated oil and gas industry representatives.  Immediately after the auction concluded, two activists asked how the public can comment before state auctions on parcels of their lands and minerals planned for fossil fuel development leases.  To expand Idaho citizens’ right to knowledge of these lands as well as more stringent water protections for leased rivers and increased public engagement in leasing processes, they also requested comprehensive maps of the leased parcels and the auction’s list of tracts, leasees, and bids.

As described in a petition addressed to Idaho Governor Butch Otter and signed by hundreds of Idaho citizens, the auction protesters plan to discuss and democratize these processes with the Idaho Board of Land Commissioners at their next regular meeting on May 22, 2014 [5].  They also request independent baseline testing of all bodies of water near state lands and minerals, prior to their inclusion in future state lease auctions, and the open availability of this water quality data to the public.  Additionally, IRAGE, Muse Project, and WIRT activists assert that: Continue reading

Highway 95 Damage South of Moscow 4-2-12


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Highway 95 Damage South of Moscow 4-2-12 (Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

Between April 11, 2011, and March 6, 2012, Mammoet hauled over 70 transports weighing up to 500,000 pounds on U.S. Highways 12 and 95 and Interstate 90 through northern Idaho, between the Port of Lewiston and Lolo or Lookout Pass and into western Montana.  Expensively and dangerously facilitated by the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), state police, and private contractors, its risky Imperial Oil megaloads imperiled the safety and schedules of travelers, while delaying, confusing, and blocking public highway access and traffic with their 16- to 24-foot, two-lane widths and lengthy, glaring cargoes and convoys.  Transport operations caused personal injury and property damage through numerous accidents and collisions with vehicles, tree branches, and power lines, as they degraded highways with washboard ruts in lane centers, and pummeled saturated road beds, crumbling shoulders, and outdated bridges [1-3].  Concurrent, colossal transportation ventures through the region, imposed by other haulers, crashed into cliffs and impeded public and private emergency services [4, 5].

As Mammoet again targets Highway 95 with the heaviest (1.6-million-pound), longest (474-foot), and widest (27-foot) tar sands megaloads ever to traverse Idaho, perhaps in February 2014, Wild Idaho Rising Tide releases these photos taken heading north like transports on the seven-mile stretch of the highway south of Moscow, Idaho, on April  2, 2012.  They depict washboard grooves in the middle of lanes, rippled center lines and areas, and cracked and stripped pavement layers on Highway 95, all inflicted by Mammoet’s Imperial Oil transports between July 2011 and March 2012.  Most recently – and significantly for water quality along the proposed Mammoet Coeur d’Alene lakeside megaload route – ITD authorized application of 1000 gallons of de-icing fluid of unknown chemical composition, to assist the re-start and passage of an Omega Morgan shipment hindered for weeks by weather and permit complications on the Idaho side of Lost Trail Pass [6]. Continue reading

Idaho & Montana Tar Sands Megaload Protests! Missoula 1-23-14


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A smaller and faster mystery megaload, transported by Action Specialized of Lynden, Washington, on the same route as the Omega Morgan-hauled loads, moved on Wednesday night, January 22-23, from Lolo through Missoula to the Bonner Town Pump Truck Plaza by early Thursday morning.*  Because it is also headed to Alberta to expand tar sands mining, eight brave protesters, including three drummers and two children, staged an action to temporarily halt the destruction of boreal forests and bogs and indigenous life ways and health that this ‘mini-megaload’ will impose.  With only one Missoula police car in sight and both lanes of Reserve Street open to regular traffic, the tribal and climate activists stopped vehicles with the street light for the Reserve Street crosswalk between Central and Kent Streets, near C.S. Porter Middle School.  At about 12:30 am, the megaload convoy was traveling slightly slower than the normal speed of about 40 miles per hour, as the front pilot vehicles paused and the following oversize transport without highway patrol escorts slowed down almost to a stop.  Instead of dangerously spreading across the five-lane street to block all traffic, the eight protesters prepared to round dance on one side of the road.  Suddenly, the evaporator, about a third of the size of the Omega Morgan cargoes, drove around the blockade into the oncoming traffic lanes!  Police cars with flashing lights passed after the overlegal load and support vehicles, skirting the swiftly unfolding scene where no one was injured or arrested.

* Missoula Woman Arrested for Blocking Megaload; Equipment Reaches Bonner (January 22 Missoulian)

Tuesday to Thursday Missoula Megaload Blockades, Round Dances, and Arrests


Idaho & Montana Tar Sands Megaload Protests! Missoula 1-22-14 (January 22 Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

Montana, Idaho, and Washington tribal and climate activists are meeting again for two more Missoula tar sands megaload protests at the Rosauers at Reserve and South Streets, at 12 midnight on Wednesday/Thursday, January 22-23, and Thursday/Friday, January 23-24!

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Montana Indian Peoples Action, along with Blue Skies Campaign, Northern Rockies Rising Tide, Spokane Rising Tide, and Wild Idaho Rising Tide, protested, prayed, and round-danced against a “megaload,” a colossal piece of tar sands processing equipment that Omega Morgan hauled on Reserve Street through Missoula, Montana, on Wednesday morning, January 22 [1-4].  Bringing together residents of Missoula and other communities in Montana, Idaho, and Washington affected by tar sands transportation projects, the approximately 50 protesters stood in solidarity with the Nez Perce and Shoshone-Bannock tribes in Idaho, the Confederated Umatilla and Warm Springs tribes in Oregon, and especially the First Nations people in Canada, who oppose tar sands mining and its pollution and devastation of their ancestral homelands in present-day Alberta.

Exploitation of bitumen oil deposits drives the largest, most environmentally destructive, industrial operation on Earth.  The groups involved in Wednesday’s protest of Omega Morgan-hauled evaporators and heat exchangers, used in-situ/steam assisted gravity drainage extraction of tar sands, expressed their deep concerns about the impacts of tar sands development on global climate, air and water quality, and human, wildlife, and ecosystem health.  Like ordinary citizens throughout North America who prefer clean, sustainable energy, not dirty fossil fuel production, they can no longer ignore the irreversible harms imposed by the oil, gas, coal, and tar sands industries. Continue reading

City of Moscow Mammoet Megaload Meeting 1-15-13


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City of Moscow Mammoet Megaload Meeting 1-15-13 (January 16 Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

On Wednesday, January 15, from 3 to 5 pm, during most people’s working hours, the City of Moscow, Idaho, held an “open” public meeting about three Mammoet-hauled oversize loads proposed for Highway 95 and Interstate 90 passage.  Moscow, Latah County, Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), local and state law enforcement, Mammoet, and other officials participated in the information-sharing session in the downtown Moscow City Hall Council Chambers.  New Mayor Bill Lambert facilitated the discussion that primarily posed questions to ITD, Mammoet, and police representatives and viewed a brief Mammoet slide show about the venture.

Although the city sought written community input prior to the “hearing,” it disallowed opportunities for direct engagement through verbal public testimony and queries.  Two Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activists re-asserted some direct democracy among the corporate lackeys, decrying this instance of lack of public involvement by occupying the front row near the chambers door, with mouths covered with tape reading “No Tar Sands” and with protest signs declaring “Stop Tar Sands,” “Idaho Says No! to Dirty Energy,” and “Wild Idaho Rising Tide Stands in Solidarity with ACFN” (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation). Continue reading