Activists Shut Down Port to Stop Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion

Vancouver, WA – Work was halted on Thursday October 17 for 6 hours at the Port of Vancouver, Washington, by community members blockading a rail line that is transporting pipe for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project. In early September, activists broke the news that pipe for the project’s construction is being imported by ship to the Port of Vancouver. Yesterday’s action at the gates of Terminal 5 caused a major delay as pipe was being loaded onto trains destined for British Columbia. If constructed, the Trans Mountain Expansion would transport an additional 590,000 barrels of toxic, heavy crude every day from the Alberta Tar Sands to the shores of British Columbia. This boost in export shipments would cause a 700% increase in oil tankers in the Salish Sea, threaten endangered Orca whales, and violate Indigenous rights. Moreover, the emissions from such an expansion of tar sands oil production could spell game over for our climate. This mega project, which is larger than the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, is opposed by Indigenous communities throughout the region, whose local waters, lands, and way of life would be directly threatened by project construction and the risk of an oil spill. “Trans Mountain poses a grave threat, not only to communities throughout the Salish Sea and interior Canada,” said activist Nick Haas, “but to the very stability of our global climate. We’re taking action today to keep tar sands in the ground!” The protest, organized by Portland Rising Tide and Mosquito Fleet, included concerned Oregonians and Washingtonians, who are continuing the fight against this project which has been ongoing since

By blockading the rail line in two spots, activists effectively shut down Terminal 5 for the entire business day. “We are standing in solidarity with the Indigenous tribes whose unceeded territory is directly threatened by this pipeline route. We refuse to stand idly by and watch this machinery of destruction roll through our community unchallenged,” said activist Madeline Cowen. Both organizations are working with other groups across the west coast in the U.S. and Canada to pressure Prime Minister Trudeau, Governor Inslee and the Port of Vancouver, WA, who are all supporting this project. We demand they stop the Trans Mountain Expansion project immediately, respect the rights of Indigenous groups, and halt any further fossil fuel expansion.

It was a cold cloudy morning in Vancouver, Washington. Fifteen or twenty of us were huddled in a parking lot next to a U-Haul truck, chatting nervously. We were moments away from risking our freedom to fight a massive fossil fuel infrastructure project. On October 17, our ragtag crew from around the state was preparing to erect a barricade in the rail yard of Terminal 5 at the Port of Vancouver.

A few minutes before deployment, I got a ride to the site to scout the area. I walked for about ten minutes onto Port property, to a vantage point from a bridge of the yard. From there, I could see that many of the staff were working about a mile down the line. I gave the all clear through on Signal (an encrypted text-messaging services), and in moments the U haul was pulling into the open gate of the yard, and within fifteen minutes, we were fully set up. On one set of tracks, one of our comrades was on top of a 16 ft metal tripod, with three more people locked to the legs, and on the other, two older activists had locked in to a Sleeping Dragon lock down barrel. At 3pm, we unlocked, knowing that we had halted all work at the yard that day.

Earlier this year, we learned through the work of the Mosquito Fleet, a climate action group that focuses on kayactivism and on-the-water action, that pipe for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) Project was being shipped by from India through our local port in Vancouver, Washington, and then onto rail for its final destination in British Columbia. Through our direct action, we were able to shut down the rail-line that is being used to transport pipe for TMX for an entire day, and further delay its construction and the flow of tar sands oil to global markets. If built, TMX would transport an additional 590,000 barrels of toxic, heavy crude oil every day from the Alberta Tar Sands to the shores of British Columbia. This boost in export shipments would cause a 700% increase in oil tankers in the Salish Sea, threaten endangered Orca whales, and violate the rights and sovereignty of First Nations across Canada. As such, this pipe, which is larger than the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, is opposed by Indigenous communities throughout the region, whose local waters, lands, and way of life stands to be directly impacted by project construction and the risk of an oil spill. Moreover, the pipeline poses a grave threat, not only to communities throughout the Salish Sea and interior Canada, but to the very stability of our global climate.

That is why we will fight to stop the shipment of this pipeline by any means necessary. That is why we stand in solidarity with the Indigenous tribes whose unceded territory is directly threatened by this pipeline. That is why we stand in solidarity with the marginalized demographics the world over that are already experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis first-hand. That is why we stand in solidarity with the Port of Vancouver workers and the Vancouver Longshoreman’s Union who have fought against fossil fuel infrastructure in their port for decades. That is why we refuse to stand idly by and watch this machinery of destruction roll through our community unchallenged.

We cannot rely on our elected officials to stop these projects. Many of decisionmakers involved frame themselves as ‘climate leaders’; from the Port of Vancouver Commissioners, two which campaigned on anti-fossil fuel platforms, and whom recently banned all new fossil fuel terminals in the port, to the Washington Governor and former ‘climate candidate’, Jay Inslee who ran for President on climate action — we see the hypocrisy that we have grown accustomed to from our politicians. We cannot wait for
them to save us, and so we must take matters into our own hands to fight climate chaos, and TMX. This blockade is just the beginning of our efforts to stop this pipeline. We will continue to organize both on the land and on the water, until we win.

Portland Rising Tide is a local group that is part of a global grassroots network that uses education and direct action to address the root causes of climate change.portlandrisingtide.org
Mosquito Fleet is a local group that organizes on-water direct action to halt the export of oil, gas and coal
through the Salish Sea. Additional photos of the action can be found here. mosquitofleet.us

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