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

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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

Gas Well Spacing & Lakeside Logging Comments, Tribal Paddle & Oil Train Protest Reports, & More


Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) offers these updates, condensed and compiled in chronological order from posts shared during summer 2020, on the WIRT facebook page and weekly Climate Justice Forum radio program.  Please learn about and comment against fossil fuels and forest exploitation proposals, advanced by Idaho state and federal government agencies at the behest of profiteering companies marauding private and public resources, and support and partake in grassroots and indigenous demonstrations of resistance to these invasions that risk and degrade human and environmental health and safety.

July 2: Stop Oil Trains Report

WIRT organizers appreciate everyone who publicized and/or participated in the seventh annual, regional, Stop Oil Trains 2020 events on June 25 through July 2, honoring the 47 lives lost and downtowns devastated by oil train derailments, spills, fires, and explosions in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013, in Mosier, Oregon, on June 3, 2016, and potentially in all rail corridor, frontline communities threatened by the risks and pollution of crude oil pipelines-on-rails [1, 2].  We are especially grateful for David Perk of 350 Seattle and allied, Northwest activists for an interactive, teleconferenced, train watch training workshop, and for Occupy and WIRT volunteers who hosted an outreach table during Sandpoint Farmers Market, gathered signatures for the Petition to Deny and Revoke Permits for the BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector Project, and displayed spotlighted, environmental and social justice messages within the “bomb train blast zones” of downtown Spokane and Sandpoint.  As WIRT continues to confront up to 30 weekly, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway and Union Pacific Railroad trains, hauling volatile Bakken shale oil and sinkable Alberta tar sands, and to resist Northwest fossil fuels-by-rail export terminals, refineries, and railroad bridge and track expansions, we will update this report and post more photos of the Stop Oil Trains 2020 week of actions [3].

July 30: CAIA Quarterly Newsletter

Thanks to Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability (CAIA), for their quarterly, July to September 2020 newsletter featuring updates on CAIA president Shelley Brock’s bid for an Idaho state representative position, CAIA and Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission meetings, cancellation of the July 2020 auction of state oil and gas leases, and other fossil fuels and public water and lands issues [4].  Please help stop Treasure Valley hydrocarbon extraction and resource exploitation, by answering three CAIA calls to action prompting citizen resistance to proposed, oil and gas well spacing and drilling and resulting, force-pooled leasing in Fruitland, Idaho.

August 1: Fourth Remember the Water Paddle Report

During the mid-summer heat and cool, full moonlit nights of late July and early August 2020, members of the Kalispel, Colville, and Spokane tribes, the River Warrior Society, and canoe families continued the historic and now annual tradition of the Fourth Remember the Water Paddle.  As supporters and equipment drivers watched and talked at 9 am on Thursday morning, July 30, groups of four to seven paddlers prepared and began their journey in three traditional, big, wooden canoes carved from cedar tree trunks and launched on Lake Pend Oreille, from south City Beach Park in downtown Sandpoint, Idaho.  They navigated under the BNSF Railway and U.S. Highway 95 bridges, onto Pend Oreille River currents over the course of 50-plus miles and three days, and arrived without an annual, cancelled powwow deadline this year, at the Kalispel reservation near Usk, Washington, at 7 pm on Saturday, August 1.  Read the WIRT report and view a video and photos of the event, through the enclosed links [5, 6].  Thanks and congratulations to all who shared this creative, successful Fourth Remember the Water Paddle!

August 4: Phyllis Kardos Primary Election Victory

Cheers for District 1 Pend Oreille County commissioner candidate Phyllis Kardos, who has won the Washington primary election [7]!  With faith in Phyllis’s sensible approaches to community responsibility, positive political changes, and environmental protection within a conservative stronghold, especially amid county decisions concerning the proposed Newport silicon smelter, WIRT activists will continue to support Phyllis’s campaign for election on November 3, through endorsement and outreach.  We encourage the western neighbors of the Idaho Panhandle to vote for Phyllis Kardos!

August 5: Idaho Gas Well Drilling Comments

In early August 2020, in response to a Snake River Oil and Gas application to drill the Barlow 2-14 “hydrocarbon well a mere 20 feet from the Barlow 1-14 [well]” and a public comment period on the proposal, Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability president Shelley Brock, attorney James Piotrowski, and Fruitland residents sent letters of objection to the Idaho Department of Lands, stating legal reasons for denial of the drilling permit [8-10].  They described potential harms to resources and violations of Idaho statutes that state approval of the oil and gas well on the floodplain banks of the Payette River would inflict, such as leaking well components and wasting of the hydrocarbon pool by allowing two wells within the same spacing unit and geologic structure [11].

Comment by August 27: Idaho Gas Well Spacing Units

On Thursday, August 13, the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (IOGCC) and Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) oil and gas director Mick Thomas held two hearings on the first of two or more 2020, Snake River Oil and Gas (SROG) applications for Payette County spacing units (docket number CC-2020-OGR-01-001) in and near Fruitland, Idaho.  This application establishes the first step that, if approved by the state within 30 days (by September 13) and followed by an integration order, would “force pool” unwilling citizens into leasing their privately owned oil and gas resources.  The spacing unit encompasses mineral rights holders around the Fallon 1-10 well directionally drilled in 2018, but not yet producing oil and gas, on the floodplain banks across the Payette River and under the city of Fruitland water intake plant, near U.S. Highway 95.  Prompted by Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability (CAIA) partners, WIRT wrote and sent comments on behalf of our 3,200-plus activists, members, and friends, in objection to this water-endangering scheme in mid-June 2020 [12]. Continue reading

UI Online Classes Petition, Gas Well Comments, Anti-Smelter Candidate, Panhandle Paddle, & More


June 22 & Ongoing: WIRT Co-Founder Medical Support

Cass Davis, a “left-neck,” rebel rouser, and native Idahoan of the Silver Valley, has been building north Idaho community resistance in Moscow for decades.  As one of the co-founders of Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), he has tirelessly worked and served as a fellow board member and organizer with KRFP Radio Free Moscow, Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition, and Silver Valley Community Resource Center.  An early, WIRT, video compilation and call to action features Cass at 1:13, before his arrest during 2011-12 tar sands megaload protests and blockades [1].

Cass suffered a heart attack in late May 2020, and needs donations to help him recover and heal over the next year [2].  Please contribute however you can, by donating to this fundraiser for his medical and other basic expenses, and/or by volunteering more actively in social justice and environmental protection issues and participating in community events.  He says that “One of the biggest things that will ease my stress is seeing more people involved, more people civically engaged” [2].  We couldn’t agree more, dear comrade Cass!

July 18: Coalition Defense of Paradise Ridge Wetlands

In a letter to Moscow-Pullman Daily News editors, published on July 18, Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) board members, including representatives of WIRT, one of the PRDC member organizations, responded to inaccurate, Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) District 2 information echoed in a July 3 news article about expansion and relocation of 6.5 miles of U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow, from a two-lane roadway to a four-lane, divided highway [3-5].  Among other contentions addressed by PRDC, the piece states that ITD expects the $53 million project, “slated to start construction this year” but delayed until next spring, to reach completion in 2022 [5].

It dismissively asserts that “legal challenges to the project ended in December 2018, when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling in favor of ITD and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA).  The [Paradise] Ridge Defense Coalition submitted a lawsuit against the FHA and ITD, regarding the project’s Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision in April 2017, which claimed the highway’s expansion would cut through a section of Paradise Ridge and lead to loss of wetlands, remnants of Palouse Prairie, farmland, and conservation reserve.  A federal judge ruled against the motion and in favor of the FHA and ITD in August 2017, but the coalition appealed…[ITD] does not anticipate another appeal or lawsuit” [5].

August 2: University of Idaho Online-Only Classes Petition

By late Sunday, August 2, please read, sign, and share a petition initiated, circulated, and supported by concerned residents of Moscow and the Palouse region [6].  In opposition to the unnecessary risks of performing on-campus, in-person teaching and learning, it requests that the University of Idaho (UI) engage innovative opportunities to hold online classes during fall semester 2020.  Seeking to ensure conditions conducive to the health and safety of UI and community students and employees, organizers will present the petition to UI president Scott Green on Monday, August 3.

With similar goals, UI staff and faculty members delivered a letter to Green, “urging university leaders to allow employees who work closely with students to choose to work remotely, without fear of reprisal or the need to fill out a [disability] waiver.  [It] neared 300 signatures as of Thursday, [July 30,]…including 123 tenured professors, eight of whom are distinguished professors.  …The letter said cases of COVID-19 in Idaho are increasing exponentially, with current case numbers far surpassing those seen in March, when the school canceled in-person instruction for the first time…An increasing number of colleges across the country are choosing to go online for the fall semester, including nearby Washington State University” [7]. Continue reading

President Sanders, Black Snake Killaz, Rescheduled WIRT Meetings, Wet’suwet’en Solidarity


March 10: Vote for Bernie!

If you are an Idaho or Washington resident, please vote for Senator Bernie Sanders in the Tuesday, March 10, presidential primary election from 8 am to 8 pm at Idaho polling places, where you can also register in-person as a voter with identification, or contact your county elections department in Washington in-person to register, update your address, and request a ballot for deposit in an official, election mail, drop box by 8 pm [1, 2].

Although this election decision is your personal choice, voting records on numerous, progressive, environmental and social justice issues, including fossil fueled climate chaos, suggest that Senator Sanders will seek better resolutions than former Vice President Joe Biden or current President Donald Trump.  Consider who will most effectively end worldwide, U.S.-initiated, political and resource wars, institute a Green New Deal and ban fracking, and establish affordable college education, a livable minimum wage, and Medicare for all [3-5].  Senator Sanders is the strongest candidate who can win the Democratic nomination in July and the U.S. presidency in November [6].

During this crucial, transitional time of planetary tragedy, choosing political expediency, moderate candidates, and half-measures risks the lives, health, and safety of millions of Americans [7, 8].  As Ben Franklin warned, during another momentous era, “Those who would give up essential liberty (a better democracy for all), to purchase a little temporary safety (election defeat of Trump), deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  Climate activists encourage you to elect the only viable, progressive candidate remaining from an inspiring field of grassroots leaders and committed to implementing critically necessary plans and policies that can resolve energy systems and climate change [9, 10].  Please show up and cast your ballot in support of climate crisis solutions and Senator Bernie Sanders on March 10, and participate on Saturday, April 4, in selection of county delegates for the Idaho Democratic Convention in Boise, on June 4 to 7.  Idahoans will send 22 delegates to the Democratic National Convention on July 13 to 16 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where small states could swing the nomination.

March 12: Black Snake Killaz #NoDAPL Film

On Thursday, March 12, at 7 pm, KRFP Radio Free Moscow, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, and Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse Environmental Task Force are sponsoring a showing of the documentary Black Snake Killaz at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre, 508 South Main Street in Moscow, Idaho.  For free or donation admissions, hear from Gary Dorr, Al Chidester, and other activists who participated in protests against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), recently proposed for expansion, and created displayed art from their experiences of Standing Rock and indigenous resistance camps in North Dakota in 2016 and 2017.

Produced by the on-site videographers and reporters of Unicorn Riot, Black Snake Killaz highlights the actions of water protectors to stop Bakken oil pipeline construction, and investigates the actions of law enforcement, military, and corporate mercenaries attempting to quell the months-long protest.  This collaborative, creative commons film describes the historical events that unfolded at Standing Rock, and shares the raw, frontline experiences of direct actions.  Although energy companies completed the Dakota Access pipeline, the importance of water protectors’ stories and their resistance movement grows, as fossil fuel extraction projects continue to impact some of the most vulnerable communities throughout the world.

KRFP will host an information table with literature, bumper stickers, a donation jar, and ticket sales for the Real Radio Dinner on Saturday, March 28 [11].  Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) volunteers and other north Idaho groups will also present outreach tables, for participants to learn and engage in Idaho and Northwest struggles against climate-wrecking fossil fuels infrastructure, extraction, and transportation.  Please widely share the two attached event posters, to augment film and dinner attendance.

March 12 & 26: WIRT Meetings & Movies Continue reading

Wet’suwet’en Solidarity Actions & February WIRT & Allied Events


January 29 & Onward: Resumed Climate Justice Forum

After an eleven-week break, the Climate Justice Forum radio program, produced by regional, climate activist collective Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), resumed its eight years of broadcasts on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow, on January 29 [1].  Interspersed with protest songs, the show features conversations with activists and scientists and news and reflections on continent-wide, grassroots resistance to fossil fuel projects, the root causes of climate change, thanks to generous, anonymous listeners who have adopted program host Helen Yost as their KRFP DJ.  Listen every Wednesday between 1:30 and 3 pm Pacific time, on-air at 90.3 FM, online at KRFP, and podcast on Radio Free America [2, 3].

February 1: Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest Report

In Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint of the Idaho Panhandle, dozens more defenders of railroads and the January 1, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway locomotive derailment, 2,000-gallon diesel spill, disassembly, and removal in the Kootenai River showed up than north Idaho water protectors, at the Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest held by WIRT on February 1.  The majority are apparently willing to support railroad operations, wrecks, and infrastructure expansions that spill hazardous materials into rivers, and to counter-protest concerned activists at WIRT demonstrations on the fossil fuels frontlines of air, climate, and water quality sacrifice zones.  See the WIRT website and facebook pages for photos and descriptions of these event outcomes [4, 5].

February 16-29: UN COP25 Indigenous Debriefing

Backbone Campaign community supported organizer, friend, and fellow activist Jacob Johns, who participated in indigenous talks and demonstrations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain, during December 2019, is hosting three public, inland Northwest talks about worldwide, indigenous efforts to protect approximately eighty percent of Earth’s biodiversity.  Only five percent of humanity identifies as indigenous, but as globalization spreads, governments and corporations continue to work together to exploit biodiversity for profit and attack indigenous communities, through genocide, colonization, and greenwashing.  Jacob’s presentation will show compiled photos and videos, and amplify often unheard, frontline voices and stories.  He will also offer an indigenous organizing model, aimed at helping people to act in solidarity and co-create a livable future, and a closing, question-and-answer discussion.  Please join Jacob and WIRT activists for these informative events:

Sunday, February 16, at 1 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane, 4340 West Fort George Wright Drive in Spokane, Washington [6]

Saturday, February 22, at 3 pm at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library, 702 East Front Avenue in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho [7]

Saturday, February 29, at 3 pm at the East Bonner County Library, 1407 Cedar Street in Sandpoint, Idaho [8]

February 20: WIRT Sandpoint Movie & Meeting

The WIRT climate activist collective welcomes opportunities to involve you and the regional, environmental and indigenous community in critical issues, as we together relentlessly confront the fossil fuel causes of climate chaos, through frontline actions and solutions.  WIRT organizers invite you to participate in potluck gatherings that include climate action films and conversations planning tactics, strategies, and activities, starting at 6 pm on the first and third Thursdays of every month, respectively in Moscow and Sandpoint [9].  Due to winter travel conditions, WIRT is not holding Moscow meetings during January and February 2020, at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street.  But at the next Sandpoint meeting on Thursday, February 20, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street, we encourage you to offer your unique advice and assistance in arranging the Ninth Annual WIRT Celebrations in Moscow and Sandpoint at 7 pm on Friday, March 28, and Saturday, April 4, #No2ndBridge attorney search, litigation, and petition signature gathering and delivery at state and federal agency offices,  documentary and panel presentations, direct actions and training workshops, and public outreach.  For updates and articles on ongoing and emerging, Northwest and North American, fossil fuels issues, please check WIRT website and especially facebook pages, listen to WIRT’s weekly radio program, and sign the Petition to Deny and Revoke Permits for the BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector Project [10]. 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

#No2ndBridge Climate Strike, NW Fossil Fuels Talk, Smelter Zoning, WIRT Meetings


COUNTY COMP PLAN ON SMELTER

Tuesday, December 3, 1:30 to 3:30 pm

Pend Oreille County commissioners will deliberate 2018 Comprehensive Plan Amendment CPU-18-001 that changes zoning of the proposed site of a PacWest silicon smelter in Newport, Washington, from public land to industrial uses [1, 2]. Amendment approval essentially allows the smelter project to continue, although the Pend Oreille County Planning Commission has recommended against such a decision.  Northeast Washington and north Idaho citizens, the Kalispel Tribe, Citizens Against Newport Silicon Smelter (CANSS), Responsible Growth Northeast Washington (RG*NEW), and other environmental organizations in the region have overwhelmingly opposed the amendment.

During their regular board meeting on Tuesday, December 3, from 1:30 to 3:30 pm in the county courthouse at 625 West Fourth Street in Newport, the commissioners have set aside most of the afternoon for this agenda item, potentially the biggest event to date for community resistance to the Newport smelter.  CANSS, RG*NEW, and other groups request that everyone who can attend this meeting participate, and they thank area residents for their support of this issue during the last year.  Will the county commissioners listen to their constituents and the people they placed on the Planning Commission, or will they acquiesce to toxic, silicon smelter ambitions and pressures from PacWest and Washington governor Jay Inslee?

INLAND NW FOSSIL FUELS TALK

Wednesday, December 4, 12 to 1 pm

As part of weekly, public, Fall Speaker Series forums, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Moscow every autumn Wednesday, Lands Council executive director Mike Petersen will give a brief, PowerPoint presentation entitled Fossil Fuel Overview in the Inland Northwest [3, 4].  From 12 noon until 1 pm on Wednesday, December 4, in the 1912 Center Arts Workshop Room at 412 East Third Street in Moscow, Mike will discuss the history and current threats of Northwest fossil fuels proposals, covering coal, oil, gas, and tar sands trains and other rail and pipeline transportation in north Idaho and Spokane.  Although Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activists are concerned that Mike’s topic knowledgeable co-worker, Laura Ackerman, is not presenting, we are excited to attend, provide further information, and collect more #No2ndBridge petition signatures.  While WIRT encourages resistance of other fossil fuels pipelines across Turtle Island (Trans Mountain, Pacific Connector, Dakota Access expansion, Keystone and Keystone XL, Line 3, Bayou Bridge, and many more), please do not overlook gas and oil pipelines in and near Idaho, depicted in linked descriptions and maps compiled by WIRT [5, 6].  No more fossil fuel infrastructure in Idaho and the Northwest!

WIRT MOSCOW MEETING

Thursday, December 5, 6 to 8 pm Continue reading

WIRT Meetings, Comments on Keystone XL Pipeline


NOVEMBER & DECEMBER WIRT MEETINGS

Volunteer, grassroots, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) organizers invite and appreciate your assistance in arranging upcoming presentations, training workshops, demonstrations, outreach, and #No2ndBridge litigation.  We urge you to participate in November and December 2019, potluck, WIRT gatherings, enjoy climate action documentaries, talk about tactics and strategies, and offer your unique advice and assistance, as we together relentlessly confront the fossil fuel causes of climate change, through direct resistance and frontline solutions.  The WIRT climate activist collective welcomes opportunities to talk with you about critical issues, and to share images, dispatches, and actions with the regional, environmental and indigenous community, while we continue our opposition and vigil on the north Idaho, fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails, and #No2ndBridge frontline.

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, November 21 and December 19, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint, and on Thursday, December 5, at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street in Moscow [1].  Meanwhile, please check WIRT website and especially facebook pages for posts and pictures, and listen to WIRT’s weekly, Climate Justice Forum radio program, for updates about ongoing, recent, and emerging, Northwest and continent-wide, fossil fuel infrastructure invasions and protests, and share this information among your associates and contacts.

COMMENT ON KEYSTONE XL BY NOVEMBER 18

As activists in Montana, the Great Plains, and around the U.S. continue resistance in the courts and on the land, fossil fuel billionaires and their federal government cronies push for construction of the Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline.  On October 4, 2019, the U.S. Department of State released the project’s new, draft, supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) [2].  Instead of an open, public hearing, the agency held a restrictive, October 29 meeting that only accepted comments via computers or stenographers in isolated rooms, at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center in Montana [3].  A few hundred people attended, and concerned groups hosted a cold rally in a fenced-off “free speech zone” outside the center, with speakers from the Fort Berthold and Fort Peck reservations and BOLD Nebraska, to provide opportunities to hear from communities impacted by the controversial project that threatens water quality, land rights, and climate health across the region.  On the same day as the nation’s only public meeting on the draft SEIS, someone discovered that the previously built Keystone pipeline leaked about 383,000 gallons of tar sands oil in northeastern North Dakota [4].  How many other pipeline spills have gone undetected and unreported, especially in rural and remote locations?

The final SEIS could guide future permitting decisions by the Bureau of Land Management and especially the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for a Clean Water Act section 408 permit, required for the KXL crossing of the Missouri River, located dangerously underneath the Fort Peck Dam spillway, subjecting the buried pipeline to immense volumes and velocities of water discharge and its scour erosion of the riverbed, which could expose it and cause leaks [5-7].  Drinking and agricultural water intake facilities for the 30,000 people of the Fort Peck reservation and northeastern Montana communities lie immediately downstream.  But the State Department’s draft SEIS continues to downplay these and other risks and disruptions to healthy and stable, regional watersheds and global climate.

Please protect the Earth’s precious water and air from the Keystone XL pipeline, by requesting a 90-day, public comment period extension and additional public hearings on this proposal with such immense significance and scope, and by sending your written comments on the draft SEIS to the State Department by 9 pm PST on Monday, November 18.  Pipeline industry groups, unions, and companies have apparently strongly recommended that their members and employees submit pro-pipeline comments.  So raise your voice for the Earth, through this potentially last opportunity to oppose KXL through “the system.”  Montana colleagues Northern Plains Resource Council and 350 Montana have identified problems with this current analysis that does not properly evaluate KXL risks to rivers and climate.  They offer detailed suggestions and guides to help inform your comments [5-7] that we hope you post through the Regulations.gov federal website [2].  Thanks!

MONTANA KXL LAWSUITS

In March 2017, Calgary-based oil and gas developer TransCanada (now TC Energy) had not yet made a final investment decision on the controversial, 1180-mile, $8 billion, Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska.  Nonetheless, U.S. President Trump reversed former President Obama’s 2015 refusal to issue a federal permit for the pipeline desperately needed by Canadian oil producers.  Indigenous Environmental Network, North Coast Rivers Alliance, Northern Plains Resource Council, and other environmental group plaintiffs immediately filed cases in a Great Falls, Montana, federal court, and have successfully challenged the U.S. State Department’s outdated, inadequate, environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed KXL, rejecting EIS flaws, exclusion of climate, water, and other threats, preparers’ conflicts of interest, and the Canada-U.S. cross-border permit [8, 9]. Continue reading