Blockade the Bomb Trains! Lockdown at Kinder Morgan 4 Sept 2014
from Peter Menchini, September 5, 2014
Do bomb trains run through your neighborhood? Oil companies are illegally shipping highly toxic and explosive tar sands oil through residential areas, and try to keep them secret. On September 4th, 2014, activists entered Kinder Morgan rail yard in Richmond, CA and blocked the trains. The city’s mayor came and spoke to them.
Protesters Against Fracked Oil Deliveries Chain Themselves At Richmond Yard
By Christin Ayers, September 5, 2014
RICHMOND (KPIX 5) — A dramatic showdown at a rail yard in Richmond on Thursday as protesters locked themselves to a gate to disrupt operations at the facility.
The yard is the only one in California that is bringing in 100-car trains full of potentially explosive fracked crude oil. Earlier this year, KPIX 5 was the first to uncover the operation.
A group of protesters chained themselves by the neck with bicycle locks to the gates of the Kinder Morgan rail terminal in Richmond.
“We are here to stop Kinder Morgan’s illegal activity here in Richmond, said Evan Buckner.
Their goal: To block tanker trucks from carrying explosive crude oil through their communities. It’s the same kind of shale oil from North Dakota that has caused deadly explosions in derailments in Canada and across the country.
“I will do everything I can to prevent that from happening,” said Katy Polony.
KPIX 5 discovered back in March that trains a hundred cars long are delivering the volatile loads to the rail yard every month, where it’s transferred onto trucks and driven to local refineries.
But nobody knew the trains were coming in because the operation never had to go through any kind of environmental review.
“They were granted a permit to bring in oil into this facility by the air district without any public process,” said Buckner, who belongs to an environmental group called ForestEthics.
Even Richmond’s Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said she was kept in the dark. “We hadn’t been aware of it in Richmond, but I am very grateful to Channel 5 for bringing this forward,” she said.
McLaughlin came by to show her support. “This has been a big issue in Richmond. I brought a resolution to the city council stating that we need to do whatever we can to stop these trucks from rolling on our streets,” the mayor said.
Police showed up in force, but did not move to make any arrests.
For three hours, the protesters blocked tanker trucks from leaving, then finally unchained themselves and left peacefully.
Because of our reporting, the environmental group Earth Justice has filed a lawsuit against Kinder Morgan and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to try to force an environmental review. Kinder Morgan and the air district would like to see the suit dismissed. The first hearing in that case is Friday.
Activists form human barricade to protest crude-by-rail facility
09.04.14 | Rebecca Bowe
This morning [Thu/4], at 7am in Richmond, Calif., four environmental activists used U-locks to fasten themselves by the neck to the fence of an oil shipping facility operated by Kinder Morgan.
They were interlocked with another four activists, who had their arms secured with handmade lock-boxes. “I’m locked to a lock box connected to my partner, Ann, who is locked with a U-lock to the fence,” Andre Soto, of Richmond-based Communities for a Better Environment, explained by phone a little after 8am.
At that time, Soto said several Richmond police officers had been dispatched to the scene and were calmly surveying the human barricade. He wondered out loud if they would be arrested.
The environmentalists risked arrest to prevent trucks from leaving the Kinder Morgan facility for area refineries with offloaded oil shipped in by train.
Crude-by-rail transport at Kinder Morgan’s bulk rail terminal, located in the Burlington Northern / Santa Fe railyard in Richmond, is the subject of a lawsuit filed in March by Earthjustice on behalf of the Sierra Club, Communities for a Better Environment, the National Resources Defense Council, and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.
The suit, targeting Kinder Morgan as well as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), charges that Kinder Morgan was illegally awarded a permit for crude-by-rail operations without going through a formal environmental review process, which would have necessitated public hearings and community feedback. The case asks for operations to be halted while the project undergoes review under the California Environmental Quality Act. A hearing will be held in San Francisco Superior Court at 1:30pm tomorrow.
Ethan Buckner of Forest Ethics, who was also locked to the fence, said activists were especially concerned that the crude oil being shipped into Richmond, much of which originates in North Dakota, was volatile, presenting safety concerns.
“The oil trains are … very old tank cars that are subject to puncture, and have been known to fail over and over again while carrying oil,” Buckner said. Much of the oil shipped into the Richmond transfer point by rail originates from the Bakken shale region, which has been dramatically transformed by the controversial extraction method known as fracking.
“Nobody was notified that these oil trains were going to be rolling in,” Buckner said. That morning’s protest, he added, was meant to “send a clear message to Kinder Morgan and the Air District that if we can’t count on our public agencies to protect our communities, we’re going to do it ourselves.”
In the end, none of the activists were arrested. They voluntarily unlocked themselves from the fence and left the railyard around 10am. “After three hours we decided thsat we had made our point,” Eddie Scher of Forest Ethics said afterward, speaking by phone.
Along with a group of around ten others participating in the civil disobedience action, the activists who locked themselves to the fence were affiliated with Bay Area environmental organizations including 350 Bay Area, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the Sunflower Alliance, the Martinez Environmental Group, and Crocket Rodeo United to Defend the Environment.
Reached by phone, Ralph Borrmann, a spokesperson for BAAQMD, said, “We have no comment on the current litigation, or any actions relating to it.” He added that more information would come out during the Sept. 5 hearing.
When the Bay Guardian asked Kinder Morgan for a comment on the matter, spokesperson Richard Wheatley responded, “You’re not going to get one. We’re not going to comment on it.” Asked for a comment on the lawsuit, Wheatley said, “We’re not going to comment ahead of that hearing. And we’re not going to comment on the protesters.”
Judge denies competing harms defense to couple charged in Auburn train protest
Christopher Williams, Lewiston-Auburn |Saturday, June 28, 2014
AUBURN — Two protesters who said they sat on railroad tracks last year in an effort to stop an approaching train carrying dangerous crude oil won’t be allowed to argue at trial that their actions were justified because those actions would have prevented a more serious harm from occurring.
Justice Joyce Wheeler wrote in a nine-page decision this week that Jessie Dowling of Unity and Douglas Bowen Jr. of Porter are barred from using a so-called “competing harms” defense.
The two had argued at a May hearing in Androscoggin County Superior Court that they considered the act of criminal trespass to be of lesser harm than allowing a train hauling explosive cargo to pass through an urban area.
County prosecutors had filed a motion aimed at blocking that defense tactic.
Wheeler wrote that the defendants failed to show the four elements needed to successfully argue that defense at trial.
The defendants had testified that they feared another explosion in Auburn similar to that which occurred at Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in July 2013. They said they didn’t have time to pursue legal avenues to stop the train from passing through Auburn.
Although they believed that would create a risk of harm to people there, the two defendants were required to show “as fact that such physical harm is imminently threatened,” Wheeler wrote in her court order.
They were unable to show that because “their action was weeks in planning and they had no idea whether the train was even in Maine at the time of their action,” Wheeler wrote.
Bowen had testified that had he “actually believed there was an imminent threat, he would have gone to police and rescue, which he did not do, thereby undermining his claim of an imminent threat,” Wheeler wrote.
Dowling had said in court that she believed there was a high probability that the train would explode that day, but she didn’t call police or rescue, “undermining her concern of catastrophic danger,” Wheeler wrote.
The two defendants “failed to demonstrate that there were no other alternatives” to sitting on the railroad tracks, Wheeler wrote.
The case is expected to be put on the next trial list.
Roughly 70 protesters demonstrated outside the Androscoggin County Courthouse last month before and during the hearing.
Dowling and Bowen were arrested Aug. 28, 2013, by local police when they refused to leave the railroad tracks on which they sat.
With the competing harms defense no longer an option, prosecutors will be tasked at trial with proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants trespassed criminally.
Bowen had testified that he had been told the train was traveling through Auburn on its way to Canada from the Midwest and his group had exhausted all legal means to stop it.