Days after a lease was approved for the largest crude oil terminal in the Northwest, the Port of Vancouver on the Columbia River became a hot spot to stop it. “Summer Heat Climate Action,” a project of 350.org and local organizations, is committed to keep fossil fuels in the ground and out of the export and domestic markets.
If the Tesoro/ Savage Services terminal goes through, the Port of Vancouver would become the largest oil-by-rail hub in the region. As Sightline Institute reports, 11 refineries and terminals in Washington and Oregon are "planning, building or already operating oil-by-rail shipments." Three are already in place, including a Tesoro/Shell project in Anacortes, a Phillips66/ U.S. Oil project in Tacoma and a U.S. Development/ Westward/ Imperium project in Gray’s Harbor. If all are built, the amount of crude piped by rail into the Northwest would be on par with the Keystone XL pipeline — more than 800,000 barrels a day, according to Sightline's report, "The Northwest's Pipelines on Rails."
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Similar to climate actions against Keystone XL, organizers say that the Columbia River action was held to "draw the line" against the Northwest becoming a fossil fuel corridor for tar sands, coal and — the most recent proposal — crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields. Three hundred and eighty thousand barrels a day will be shipped from the new Port of Vancouver terminal on trains as long as a hundred cars. It will take as many as ten trains per day to handle the job.
On Saturday, more than 800 marchers — including longshoremen from the ILWU — formed a human chain across the I-5 Bridge that spans the 3,500 feet in length over the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon.
“No gas, no coal, no compromise," they chanted. "No oil trains in our lives.” Several wore HazMat containment suits as a reminder of the Lac-Megantic, Quebec train disaster that killed 50 people and incinerated a large portion of the town in early July.
”The suit says greenwash containment on the back to contain the lies that keep being perpetrated in our communities,” explains Tripp Jenkins, an organizer with Portland Rising Tide.
Kayakers were also a part of the action, forming a symbolic line of kayak pods on the Columbia River.
Three activists rappelled over the 258-foot-high bridge to hang a banner with the words “None Shall Pass.” No one was arrested.
“Tesoro Savage people said the cars were not explosive about two weeks before that, which has been proven to be untrue," says ILWU Local 7's Jared Smith. "These explosive cars will come by the same areas where we work and I live in this community, have for ten years, I don’t want that.”
Port of Vancouver commissioners who approved the terminal said safety and environmental protocols would be dealt with before the terminal begins operating.
Paul Sansone, a clean energy advocate and founder of several clean energy companies, was also a part of the climate action. "After Quebec, it was discovered that oil from the Bakken oil fields is highly flammable," he says. “And we’re putting it across railroads that were designed to carry grain. For God’s sake, these are not rolling pipelines. We need to slow down, look at what’s happening and protect ourselves.”
Of the nearly dozen refineries and port terminals in Washington and Oregon being planned or built, three are already up and running. "If the Port of Vancouver terminal is built, it would be as large as all of them combined," says Dan Serres, Conservation Director with the Columbia Riverkeeper. The driving force behind the push for big terminals on the Columbia and elsewhere in the region, he says, is a boom in fracking of shale oil in North Dakota and the center of the continental U.S.
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