WIRT Comments on Uinta Basin Railway Draft EIS


…In conclusion, WIRT activists offer our perspectives and experiences of the constant pollution, noise, and terror that fossil fuels and hazardous materials trains violently and unilaterally impose on small, trackside communities: trauma that residents and businesses along all of the proposed Uinta Basin Railway routes will likely suffer if STB approves this project.  In downtown Sandpoint, Idaho, the WIRT office overlooks the BNSF tracks only 700 feet away, well within the deadly, 2,640-foot blast zone of fiery, exploding, derailed, oil trains.  This lakeside city endures about 60 trains per day on the rail line that BNSF is expanding to increase its traffic capacity up to 100 trains per day, including coal, oil, and other freight from converging Montana Rail Link (MRL) tracks, and in addition to cargo on the dangerously at-grade, bisecting, Union Pacific (UP) Railroad line.

As the largest, freight railroad network in North America, BNSF carries intermodal and manifest containers and bulk cargo, such as grain, coal, and crude oil, and burns the second largest volume of diesel fuel in the country, behind the U.S. Navy, spewing carcinogenic diesel emissions and toxic coal dust into the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille air and water sheds that contribute over 40 percent of the water to the Columbia Basin drainage.  As WIRT and other Northwesterners have directly experienced, railroad accidents will predictably and profusely happen on Utah’s heedless, needless, oil train bridge to nowhere.  Within much less than the length of the proposed Uinta Basin Railway, BNSF, MRL, and UP wrecked nine trains in four years, within a 50-mile radius of Sandpoint in north Idaho and western Montana.  Major derailments and collisions included: 1) a fatal, UP crash into a vehicle with two teenagers in a Post Falls, Idaho, on February 7, 2017, 2) a mountainside slide toward a river dam of a UP, grain train above Moyie Springs, Idaho, on March 15, 2017, 3) a derailment over a washout into Lake Pend Oreille of an empty, BNSF-MRL, coal train in Ponderay, Idaho, on March 17, 2017, 4) another, injurious, UP encounter with teenagers in a vehicle in Rathdrum, Idaho, on April 13, 2017, 5) a BNSF, grain train wreck near a historic, Cocolalla, Idaho, barn on May 1, 2017, 6) a derailment and dump of 7,000 pounds of coal into a Heron, Montana, river reservoir with endangered fish on August 13, 2017, 7) the submersion, 2,000-gallon diesel spill, and cross-river removal of two BNSF, mixed freight train locomotives in the Kootenai River, upstream of an indigenous fish hatchery and Bonners Ferry, Idaho, on January  1, 2020, 8) a fire under a combustible, coal car in Sandpoint, on June 4, 2020, and 9) an empty, grain train collision with a loaded log truck near Samuels, Idaho, on Election Day, November 3, 2020 [23].

The January 1, $3.55 million, BNSF locomotive disaster, arguably the worst of all these accidents, may have caused downstream, drinking water contamination that has emerged during the last month.  It also underscores the potential for all fossil-fueled trains, no matter their cargo, to inflict seemingly endless, reckless risks, endangerment, and damages on trackside communities, especially in river and lake valleys of the mountainous West prone to rock falls, mudslides, floods, and wildfires.  But the February 13, 2020, CSX, ethanol/sand train crash into an eastern Kentucky landslide and river serves as a horrific omen of similarly possible, but more destructive, regional incidents involving oil trains moving through eastern Utah and crossing north Idaho [24].  Every day, BNSF hauls about three fully loaded, mile-long, volatile, Bakken crude oil trains along the remote, Highway 2 corridor, beside mountainous Glacier National Park and the Flathead River, and through rugged, Kootenai River canyons in Montana and north Idaho.  If the January 2020, rockslide-caused, BNSF locomotives derailment, diesel fuel spill, and cross-river removal in endangered fish habitat had ignited and engulfed oil or ethanol tank cars, it could have trapped crew members in a flammable locomotive submerged in a fiery river, like the CSX crash.  A similar scenario could arise instantaneously on the Uinta Basin Railway, among its more numerous oil trains.

Despite all of these railroad snafus, BNSF is risking additional, community harms with its construction since September 2019 of the 2.2-mile Sandpoint Junction Connector project in and near downtown Sandpoint, doubling tracks and building three parallel rail bridges beside a historic, active, passenger train station, over Sand Creek and Bridge Street to popular City Beach Park, and almost one mile across Lake Pend Oreille.  Driving 1000-plus piles into lake and creek beds for temporary work barges and second railroad bridges, BNSF is accommodating passage of more derailment-vulnerable, bi-directional, and double-long trains through threatened bull trout critical habitat, regional drinking water, and accumulated railroad pollution.  As with the Uinta Basin Railway proposal, grassroots, WIRT, #No2ndBridge, and allied activists continue to denounce, observe, photograph, and document this infrastructure expansion and increasing numbers of westbound, BNSF, unit coal and oil trains and derailments that jeopardize environmental and public health and safety, as these climate disrupters rampage otherwise idyllic, Northwest enclaves, toward West Coast export terminals and refineries. (excerpt)

WIRT Comments on Uinta Basin Railway Draft EIS 2-12-21

WIRT Comments on BNSF Plans for Montana Grizzly Deaths & Habitat Conservation


…WIRT Demands Better Prevention of BNSF Grizzly Kills

On January 12, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) opened a 30-day, public comment period on Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s application for an “incidental take permit” (ITP) allowing the company to lawfully kill up to 18 federally protected grizzly bears during the next seven years [1, 2].  BNSF operates 206 miles of tracks through significant grizzly habitat in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, composed of multiple national forests and Glacier National Park in northern Montana.  Trains paralleling Highway 2 have killed or contributed to the deaths of approximately 52 grizzlies since 1980.  The Endangered Species Act requires an ITP, which BNSF has never before sought, for killing even one individual of a threatened species like grizzlies.

At an average speed of 35 miles per hour between Whitefish and East Glacier Park, BNSF runs about 1.2 to 1.5 trains per hour, slightly increasing this frequency during the twilight hours when grizzlies feed.  Cubs and adult bears have died from direct collisions and/or railroad activities like grain spills and train-killed animals attracting grizzlies to the tracks.  But BNSF’s standard, business-as-usual application, including a habitat conservation plan, fails to propose any common-sense, substantially changed, business practices, like reduced train speeds or different train schedules that could potentially prevent unnecessary grizzly deaths.  Instead, BNSF’s application addresses minor mitigation measures and programs to offset predicable, train-caused, grizzly deaths, such as grain spillage cleanup, livestock fencing around tracks, off-site waste management funding, and public and hunter education and fairs.

Moreover, USFWS aims to grant BNSF continued, decades-long impunity to favor profits over wildlife, by considering this grizzly slaughter permit application through a categorical exclusion to the National Environmental Policy Act, which absolves USFWS legal obligations to consider the proposal’s environmental impacts, offers minimal environmental analysis, and limits public input and participation in this decision. (excerpt)

WIRT Comments on BNSF Plans for Montana Grizzly Deaths & Habitat Conservation 2-11-21

 

Comment on Oil Movement Reports, Coal Mine Expansion, & Dakota Access Pipeline


October 15: Oregon Coal Plant Closure

On October 15, Portland General Electric (PGE) shut down the 40-year-old Boardman Generating Station in eastern Oregon, the only, coal-fired, power plant in the state and one of three in the four-state Northwest [1].  In 2009, Columbia Riverkeeper, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Sierra Club, and other green groups filed a lawsuit that forced PGE to permanently close the Boardman facility by the end of 2020.  Boardman stood as one of four destinations for the average three daily, Powder River Basin, unit coal trains that traverse and pollute north Idaho, besides the TransAlta coal plant in Centralia, Washington, the Customs District of Seattle, Washington (the largest, U.S. West Coast, and fifth-biggest, American, coal export center), and Westshore Terminals coal export facilities in Delta, west of Vancouver, British Columbia [2-4].  As Washington’s third-largest electricity generator, Centralia’s two coal burners will each retire in 2020 and 2025, with energy offset by natural gas or renewable resources [3].  Two of four units of the coal power plant in Colstrip, eastern Montana, owned by several utility companies, remain the last, uncertain source of coal-fired electricity in the Northwest [5].

November 1: Washington Oil Train & Pipeline Reports

The Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) is proactively inviting tribes, citizens, organizations, and agencies to participate in public hearings and a comment period on its rulemaking and proposed, draft revisions of Chapter 173-185 WAC, Oil Movement by Rail and Pipeline Notification, the Washington law that requires weekly, facility and quarterly, state reports on crude oil transportation [6].  The third and last of three webinars on this rulemaking occurred on October 20.  DOE offered opportunities to view a brief, basic presentation, ask questions afterwards, and give testimony, through an hour-long, online meeting that participants could join from a computer, tablet, or smartphone, or toll-free by phone.

WIRT activists attended and appreciate and support expansion of this Washington rule, to include receiving facility reporting of type and vapor pressure of crude oil-by-rail and type and gravity of pipeline oil.  But we recommend: 1) disclosure of ALL unit hydrocarbon trains traversing the state to receiving destinations outside Washington, including possible liquefied natural gas and petroleum liquids, 2) quarterly instead of current, biannual (twice yearly) reporting of pipeline oil volumes and descriptions, 3) required, not optional, updating of advance reports by facilities on actually received, oil-by-rail shipments, and 4) increased data to local, emergency planning groups and better notices to emergency personnel, in advance of oil and other hazardous materials trains crossing Washington, which, although not covered by this law, north Idaho first responders say they are not receiving.

Please express your interests and concerns in these important decisions that impact the health, safety, and lives of north Idaho trackside communities!  See the linked DOE announcement for further information about webinar agendas, proposed rule changes, and instructions for providing written comments by 11:59 pm on November 1 [6].  Contact Kim Morley of DOE (kim.morley@ecy.wa.gov, kmor461@ecy.wa.gov, 360-701-2398) with your questions about this rulemaking. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Sixth Panhandle Paddle


Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allied activists, friends, and supporters heartily welcome your participation in the upcoming, Sixth Panhandle Paddle weekend of opportunities to discuss, train for, and stage resistance to the fossil fuels and railroad industry degraders of human rights, environmental health, and the global climate.  Interior Northwest residents are coordinating and co-hosting annual activities in Sandpoint, Idaho, to unite in opposition to regional coal, oil, and tar sands trains, terminals, and derailments and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s commenced, #No2ndBridge, track and bridge construction across downtown Sandpoint, Sand Creek, and Lake Pend Oreille.  Amid the intensifying situations of north Idaho railroad expansion, federal and media criminalization of dissenters, private militia invasions of Black Lives Matter protests, and COVID-19 health and economic disasters during the last year, we are reaching out to you, our regional network comrades, to share direct action skills and invite you to join with rail line communities, to protest fossil-fueled climate change via these free events on Friday through Sunday, September 18 to 20.  We would appreciate your involvement in the talk, workshop, and paddle, your RSVP of your intentions for spots in kayaks, canoes, and carpools, and your assistance with distributing this event description and printing and posting the color, PDF version of the WIRT website-linked Sixth Panhandle Paddle Flyer 2.

#No2ndBridge Talk

4 to 6 pm Friday, September 18

Gardenia Center, Sandpoint

At this informal discussion, participants can exchange issue information, expand knowledge, and brainstorm strategies and tactics for creatively engaging and catalyzing further community resistance and regulatory and legal recourse to BNSF’s Sandpoint Junction Connector project and railroad infrastructure, pollution, and risks in the Lake Pend Oreille area and beyond, which activists have denounced and challenged during each of the Panhandle Paddles [1-5].  Please bring ideas about campaign organizing and railroad monitoring and protesting, and gather at 4 pm on Friday, September 18, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint.  After the Friday and Saturday meetings, we plan to broaden coalitions and camaraderie among activists, while continuing conversations and enjoying music outside nearby pubs.

Direct Action Training

2 to 5 pm Saturday, September 19

Gardenia Center, Sandpoint

Regional climate and environmental activists and water protectors will provide several, interactive, training workshops, through talks and videos sharing frontline skills, stories, and insights.  Advocating grassroots, direct actions at the sites of environmental destruction, more than participation in expensive, ineffective, legal systems and other government processes, trainers will offer their expertise through three one-hour presentation and practice sessions on topics such as knowing your rights, strategizing and tactical thinking, affinity group dynamics, target selection and scouting, action design, roles, and documentation, media communications, police interactions, de-escalation, security, safety, and self-defense,  and jail solidarity.  The number, topics, and lengths of training sessions have varied over the years, chosen by and adapted to rural participants and supporting various ecological and social justice movements within current, U.S., political contexts.  Prior speakers have given advice on road and railroad actions, digital security, pipeline blockades, grand jury resistance, know-your-rights, and the previously mentioned subjects.  Organizers holding these trainings anticipate reciprocally learning and strengthening the volunteer activism gaining momentum in the Idaho Panhandle.  We encourage everyone who plans to attend to RSVP in advance and request particular topics and further logistical information.  Join WIRT and guests anytime between 2 and 5 pm on Saturday, September 19, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint.

Panhandle Paddle

11 am to 1 pm Sunday, September 20

City and Dog Beach Parks, Sandpoint

For a sixth year, WIRT and allied activists are bringing their boats, bodies, and bravery to two locations, for on- and off-shore protests of Northwest coal, oil, and tar sands trains, terminals, and derailments and north Idaho, railroad bridge and track expansion.  To accommodate participants who are renting single or double kayaks, paddleboards, or other manual watercraft from Sandpoint businesses that open at 10 am, activists are meeting an hour later, at 11 am on Sunday, September 20.  Near the south boat ramp at City Beach Park in Sandpoint, we will launch a flotilla on Lake Pend Oreille, departing after participants arrive by land and water, to voyage around present and proposed railroad bridge sites.  By about 12 noon on Sunday, another rally will converge after paddlers reach Dog Beach Park south of Sandpoint.  Bring large, attractive banners and signs, visible to observers at great distances, and respond to WIRT with your boat rental intentions and mobility needs, so we can reserve and cover the costs of watercraft, and arrange transportation for folks who cannot walk to Dog Beach Park.

Event & #No2ndBridge Support

Can you contribute toward kayak rental fees or offer boats or supplies for this event?  Could you drive enthusiastic, Panhandle Paddle participants to Sandpoint, or help with event publicity and travel expenses?  Can your group or organization endorse and/or co-sponsor this demonstration of people power?  To bolster this collective event, please offer assistance and materials in-person, online, by mail, or through the Donate to WIRT button [6].  Visit the WIRT facebook and website pages, and contact WIRT via phone, text, email, facebook, or website, with your questions and suggestions and for further background and event information.  We eagerly anticipate sharing these actions with you and your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers, on Friday through Sunday, September 18 to 20, grateful that regional community members are actively opposing massive, corporate, dirty energy infrastructure and transportation projects.

Issue Background Continue reading

Stop Oil Trains 2020


Thursday, June 25 to July 2, regional actions remember Lac-Mégantic and Mosier disasters

North Idaho and eastern Washington activists invite everyone to participate in the seventh annual, Stop Oil Trains week of training workshops and direct actions on Thursday, June 25, through Thursday, July 2.  Six events honor and commemorate the 47 lives lost and downtowns devastated by oil train derailments, spills, explosions, and fires in the lakeside village of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013, the Columbia River Gorge town of Mosier, Oregon, on June 3, 2016, and all rail corridor communities threatened and degraded by crude oil pipelines-on-rails.

During the seven years since the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, dozens of similar accidents have wrecked public and environmental health and safety and the global climate – more than in the previous four decades.  Nonetheless, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway moves 22 volatile, Bakken crude oil trains every week, while Union Pacific hauls one to two trains of equally explosive and irretrievably sinkable tar sands per week, along and over rivers, lakes, and tributaries throughout north Idaho and the Northwest, such as the Kootenai, Clark Fork, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Columbia, and other water bodies.  Over 90 percent of these shipments must cross rail bridges above downtown Sandpoint and Spokane and almost one mile over Idaho’s largest, deepest lake, Pend Oreille, where BNSF plans to drive 1000-plus piles into train-spewed, lake and stream bed, coal deposits, threatened bull trout critical habitat, and regional lake and aquifer drinking water, to construct three permanent, parallel, second (and later third) railroad bridges, two temporary, work spans, and two miles of doubled tracks west of the current rail line, for riskier, more derailment-vulnerable, bi-directional, oil and other train traffic.

Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and inland Northwest communities in the crosshairs of the coal, oil, and railroad industries continue to actively oppose BNSF’s fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails expansion, through public vigilance, education, protests, and lawsuits, as we monitor project activities and prepare litigation challenging environmental and socioeconomic reviews and permit decisions by federal and state agencies.  With #No2ndBridge construction intensifying and extending into the lake, we are coordinating and requesting your involvement in these yearly, regional, Stop Oil Train actions.  Sandpoint, Spokane, Moscow, and Missoula activists of 350, Direct Action, Occupy, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, WIRT, and allied, conservation and climate groups have hosted and participated with thousands of people around the Northwest and North America, in multiple, public, Stop Oil Trains demonstrations, climate strikes, #No2ndBridge and derailment spill protests, and the one-year anniversary convergence supporting Mosier [1-6].

Please join concerned citizens in these upcoming outreach, training, and demonstration events, to demand an immediate ban of Alberta tar sands and Bakken shale oil extraction and train and pipeline transportation, refusing to let Big Oil jeopardize our air, waters, lands, families, friends, homes, and businesses.  Together, in appreciation and solidarity with grassroots and indigenous, environmental and social justice activists across Canada and the U.S., we are organizing various tactics and resources to stage powerful, effective actions defending and protecting frontline communities and the global climate impacted by oil-by-rail pollution and accidents.  Thanks to everyone who has provided invaluable, relevant information, connections, and on-the-ground support for these summer events and ongoing, regional, fossil fuels opposition.  We welcome your ideas, questions, suggestions, and assistance at these upcoming actions.  Reply through WIRT contact channels or on-site, and expect further, issue descriptions and updates, via WIRT facebook posts and website pages. Continue reading

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: WildIdahoRisingTide.org”) 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

Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest


On Saturday, February 1, please join Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) climate activists, members, friends, supporters, and allies for rallies and marches in Bonner and Boundary counties, objecting to fossil fuels and hazardous materials train pollution and risks to public and environmental health and safety, and to railroad infrastructure expansions and ongoing incidents increasing these threats, such as the rockslide derailment of two Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway, mixed freight train locomotives onto the banks and submerged and leaking at least 2,100 gallons of diesel fuel and engine oil into the Kootenai River near Moyie Springs, north Idaho, since January 1, 2020.

To commemorate the one-month anniversary of this major environmental disaster, which prompted multiple, emergency response agencies to rescue both a two-person, BNSF crew and a remote, forested, international river, we are gathering at 10 am around the City Beach Park pavilion in Sandpoint, Idaho, for a brief, information sharing rally.  Carpooling to the Gateway Visitors Center in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, near the city parking lot off U.S. Highway 2 and 95, we are marching at 11 am and returning to Sandpoint by 1 pm, to accommodate participants attending a later event.

Respond early with your intentions to participate in this protest, bring your friends, family, relevant signs and banners, and warm, winter and rain gear, and contact us if you can assist with sign creation, event transportation, #No2ndBridge petition signatures, and attorney recruitment for a legal challenge insisting on a full, #No2ndBridge, environmental impact study and statement.  We are demanding that government agencies enforce the remedial and preventative measures described in this announcement, as we express our resistance to further ecosystem and economic devastation imposed on rural communities, either through disaster or design, by the private profiteers of inherently perilous, fossil fuels pipelines-on-rails.  Frontline, WIRT activists and allies will not relent in opposing BNSF bridge and track expansion across Sandpoint, Sand Creek, and almost one mile over Lake Pend Oreille.

Sign the Petition to Deny and Revoke Permits for the BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector Project, and see the BNSF Kootenai River Wreck and Spill facebook album for almost 70 photos, links to nine previously posted, WIRT articles, and forthcoming updates on fisheries impacts, spill “cleanup,” and engine removal, describing the Kootenai River derailment situation closely scrutinized by WIRT  [1, 2].  Local and industry news outlets printed some of the last WIRT newsletter, and we are working on media releases and comments to agencies, offering the dissenting side of this catastrophe story [3, 4].

Regional Fossil Fuels & Hazardous Materials Trains

Across the Idaho Panhandle, BNSF hauls about six each, loaded and residually empty, Powder River Basin coal and Bakken crude oil unit trains every day; Union Pacific carries three-plus Canadian tar sands and Bakken oil unit trains per week; and both pull numerous, fossil fuels and hazardous materials tank cars, intermixed with other freight, daily between interior, hydrocarbon extraction fields and West Coast refineries, power plants, and crude export terminals.  Just one derailment of any of these trains could devastate entire communities and watersheds with deadly, explosive, fiery, and inhalation hazard chemicals and toxic cargo spills in the rugged river canyons of north Idaho and western Montana, vulnerable to floods, avalanches, landslides, and wildfires.  First responders trained and funded by the perpetrators of anticipated derailments attempt to protect rail line communities from the harms of such tragedies, but they cannot prevent them with emergency preparation.  Despite litigation to enforce better railroad procedures, hundreds of pounds of coal dust fly off uncovered coal cars every day, into the regional river sources of socioeconomic vitality.

A Decade of Idaho & Montana Derailments Continue reading

BNSF Locomotives in River, USCAN & WIRT Meetings, #No2ndBridge Petition, Frontline Support


January 1 to 13, Moyie Springs: BNSF Locomotives in Kootenai River

Since late on Wednesday, New Year’s Day, north Idahoans and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) have been enduring a major environmental disaster: Two rockslide-derailed, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway locomotives in the Kootenai River, one nose-down on the bank and one submerged and leaking at least 2,100 gallons of diesel fuel toward a Kootenai Tribe fish restoration hatchery, 2.5 miles downstream, and into the critical habitat of three endangered species (sturgeon, burbot, and bull trout) and private and municipal water sources.  Industry-friendly, mainstream media have been repeating and embellishing hero stories about multiple emergency response agencies rescuing the trapped, almost drowned, two-person, BNSF crew with a county sheriff boat, two hours after a BNSF co-worker climbed down the now fully sunk, front engine and sledge-hammered and kicked its window open.  But is potential and proven emergency preparedness truly heroic when its enables the further ecosystem and economic devastation imposed on rural communities by private profiteers’ inherently perilous, fossil-fueled railroads?

Early on January 2, hazardous materials and other crews placed oil containment booms and shut down water intake pipes, as precautionary measures at the Kootenai Tribe’s Twin Rivers Hatchery on the Moyie-Kootenai rivers confluence.  On Friday, January 3, Boundary County declared a state of emergency and closed the Kootenai River for a week, and then extended the emergency order until February 8 on Monday, January 6, banning all motorized, public boat traffic from the Montana border eight miles upstream of the derailment, to Bonners Ferry eight miles down-current.  Belatedly on January 4, Boundary County issued a water quality advisory cautioning residents against direct, river water use during derailment “clean-up” operations.  Officials say that the diesel-polluted water is not flammable and does not endanger public health, safety, and drinking water supplies.

Regulating and documenting derailment impacts, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded its incident oversight, calling the spill “minor,” although divers recovered only water from the BNSF locomotive fuel tank and crank case in the river last week, which together held between 2,100 and 5,200 gallons.  Spokane television news reporters earlier noticed and videoed oily sheens on the river in Bonners Ferry, among 6,200-plus feet of containment boom placed in the waterway.  But the EPA, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, and Boundary County are testing water every 24 hours in six places, and allowing BNSF employees and contractors to conduct river water sampling for pollution, an activity obviously conflicted by railroad avoidance of fines and legal challenges, not to mention its operation and profit motives that risk further catastrophes.

Do you remember regional citizens’ concerns, during the initial, 2010-11 years of resistance to tar sands mining and refining megaloads on U.S. Highway 12, about a megaload tumbling into the wild and scenic Lochsa and Clearwater rivers and Nez Perce Reservation waters?  Predictably, it has happened (again!) in north Idaho, except the megaload is one of hundreds of diesel-spewing, half-million-pound locomotives that daily rampage the shores of three Columbia River basin watersheds — the Kootenai, Pend Oreille, and Spokane — hauling loads as benign as lumber and grain and as deadly as Bakken crude, Canadian tar sands, and other hazardous substances.  The same fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails perpetrator that WIRT and #No2ndBridge activists and recently issue-mute, bigger green allies have opposed for its bridge and track expansion over Lake Pend Oreille and Sandpoint, BNSF still has not and perhaps cannot carefully remove its submerged locomotive from the Kootenai River.  Without contingency plans for similar, future predicaments, the corporate interloper may abandon its megaload until spring and drag it across the river to sand bars, to dismantle and float it downstream for scrap.  Potentially culpable for worker endangerment, river contamination, and indigenous, rare fisheries ruin, BNSF could have prevented or alerted the derailed train operators of the rockslide that caused the wreck, if it had replaced a rock barrier and warning fence in the derailment area, which it removed during rail corridor maintenance several years earlier.

While reviewing, writing, and sharing daily media and WIRT activist articles, insights, and site visit photos during the last few weeks, WIRT has been overwhelmed by grief, outrage, and the voluminous but fact-vacuous, media information about this Kootenai River derailment.  BNSF assumes that the mostly complicit Panhandle inhabitants who bear the ongoing pollution and disaster risks of this multi-billion-dollar business will not ask questions or challenge its false narratives or remember its snafus that increasingly offer evidence unfavorable to its Northwest infrastructure and operations expansions.  But WIRT is determined to continue our investigation of this instance of inevitable derailments, and to insist that local, state, and federal agencies protect the public trust and watersheds by collecting and analyzing independent data on water quality degraded by the railroad industry.  Please contact us if you can assist with ground-truthing the environmental impacts of this corporate crime scene in a canyon constrained by steep cliffs, forested private lands, and the BNSF-requested, extended river closure.  We also intend to gather and condense our continuing facebook posts about this situation into an emailed and website-shared newsletter.  For now, we have linked those posts and their embedded news articles through this ever-expanding photo compilation:

BNSF Kootenai River Wreck and Spill 1-1-20, Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook album Continue reading

Winter Solstice Thanks & Requests, Sandpoint Meeting, #No2ndBridge Attorney & Petition, Climate Strike Report, & More


Winter Solstice Thanks & Requests

As Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activists, board members, friends, contributors, and allies celebrate later sunsets since December 11, Winter Solstice at 8:19 pm PST on Saturday, December 21, and daylight growing another eight hours by Summer Solstice, we offer our gratitude for your participation and support during 2019, and share our hopes, dreams, and plans for the emerging, solar, new year [1, 2]. During the last nine years, volunteer, WIRT activists have urgently and actively worked to counter the current climate crisis, always asking everyone to engage their courage and dedication, and refusing to lose faith in the proven potential of local communities and governments to advance Northwest climate solutions.  Continuing vigilant resistance on the north Idaho, fossil fuels, pipeline-on-rails, and #No2ndBridge frontlines for a tenth year, we request your assistance with planning actions at WIRT meetings (1), participating in protests and demonstrations (2, 3), monitoring and documenting coal, oil, and tar sands trains and railroad infrastructure construction  (4), signing and delivering the #No2ndBridge petition (5), writing letters to regional editors and industries (6), recruiting an attorney (7), and contributing toward group expenses (8).

1) Sandpoint Action Planning Meeting

Grassroots, WIRT organizers invite your involvement in arranging upcoming presentations, training workshops, demonstrations, outreach, and #No2ndBridge litigation. We urge you to participate in WIRT, potluck gatherings, enjoy climate action documentaries, discuss tactics and strategies, and offer your unique advice and assistance, as we together relentlessly confront the fossil fuel causes of climate chaos, through direct actions and frontline solutions [3].  The WIRT climate activist collective welcomes opportunities to talk with you and the regional, environmental and indigenous community about critical issues.  Join activity planning conversations on the first and third Thursdays (now instead of Wednesdays) of every month, starting at 6 pm (not the usual 7 pm) on Thursday, December 19, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint.  Due to winter conditions, WIRT will probably not hold monthly, Moscow meetings during January and February 2020, at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street.  Meanwhile, please check WIRT website and especially facebook pages for informative posts and articles, and listen to WIRT’s soon resumed, weekly, Climate Justice Forum radio program, for updates about ongoing and emerging, Northwest and continent-wide, fossil fuels invasions and protests.

2) Climate Strike & #No2ndBridge Protest Report

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Climate Strike and Army Corps Permit Protest on Friday, December 6, at Serenity Lee Trail and Dog Beach Park in Sandpoint, Idaho [4, 5]! WIRT volunteers also offer our appreciation to the Sandpoint Reader and Sandpoint Online, for their editing and posting of public announcements of the demonstration, listed in print and website events calendars [6].  The community event protested Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s proposed Sandpoint Junction Connector project that has begun constructing doubled tracks and three additional railroad bridges transporting coal, oil, and hazardous materials across Lake Pend Oreille, Sand Creek, and downtown Sandpoint.  This industrial invasion has received all of its required approvals, except perhaps one each from Bonner County and the City of Sandpoint, including federal permits for bridge building, from the U.S. Coast Guard on September 5, and for dredging and filling wetlands and shorelines, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on November 20.  Please see the WIRT facebook page for a full description and photos of WIRT activists registering the rally without response on the U.S. Climate Strike website and map, resisting BNSF’s ongoing, regional pollution, derailment, and climate risks and impacts to Idaho panhandle towns, awaiting participant input among noisy heavy equipment in the dusty construction zone, and encountering and documenting a westbound, unit, “bomb” train of black, oil tanker cars with one rear, BNSF locomotive 6668, near the outlet of the large, formerly forested wetland below the present, Sand Creek rail bridge [7, 8].

3) Spotlighting Demonstrations

WIRT launched its first, public spotlighting on Saturday evening, November 30, while crowds gathered outside the Panida Theater in downtown Sandpoint, for the annual Giving Thanks concert headlined by native north Idahoans the Shook Twins [9, 10]. From Spokane activists of the Occupy movement, with years of projecting experience and fondly remembered forays in Spokane, Boise, Moscow, Sandpoint, and throughout the inland Northwest, we acquired one of two sets of spotlighting equipment on August 30: a theater light, sawhorse, wagon, generator, and especially 13 gobos (graphic object before optics), mostly pertaining to coal and oil train and other fossil fuels resistance and related topics and group logos [11].  WIRT plans to continue to honor their amazing legacy with spotlighting across north Idaho and the region.  Although the equipment is heavy and cumbersome, and requires two people to transport and set up the tubular light on its stand, we welcome invitations from the activist community to shine messages and images about environmental, social justice, human rights, and diverse issues, to assist your outreach in a highly visible, targeted, fun way.  Passersby, who see the displays on tall buildings and other places (even on megaloads!) during weekend and special event nights, generally respond curiously and positively.  WIRT spotlight organizers would also gratefully accept donations supporting our purchases of the $300 spotlight equipment and the $40 ordered or handmade gobos on any topics you choose.

4) Train & #No2ndBridge Watches

Please consider joining the active, north Idaho, Portland-Vancouver, Seattle, and Northwest network of trainspotting partners, who benefit from WIRT’s monitoring, photographing, and public facebook-posting of westbound, BNSF, unit coal and oil trains, for the #IDoiltrainwatch and #WAoiltrainwatch and down-track co-workers. Mid-December 2019 marks four years of continuous, WIRT presence and reports from the downtown Sandpoint and north Idaho, fossil fuels frontline.  We especially encourage detailed documentation of BNSF, #No2ndBridge construction sites near the Bridge Street, Sand Creek, and Lake Pend Oreille rail bridges.  Winds and precipitation around the railroad easement and the almost mile-long bridge over Idaho’s largest, deepest lake push bulldozed sand, gravel, and train-spewed coal dust into creek and lake bed, pollution deposits, threatened bull trout critical habitat, and regional drinking water, into which BNSF plans to drive 1000-plus piles for two temporary, construction spans and three permanent, parallel, second (and likely later third) rail bridges, accommodating riskier, more derailment-vulnerable, bi-directional train traffic. Continue reading