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.”
Citizens Risk Arrest to Halt Operations at Richmond Oil Train Terminal: Call on Air Quality Agency to Reverse Illegal Permit, Protect Public Health
By Eddie Scher, risingtidenorthamerica.org, September 4, 2014
[Richmond, CA] Today more than a dozen Bay Area citizens chained themselves to a gate at the Kinder Morgan rail terminal in Richmond to stop operations. The citizens risked arrest to protest mile-long oil trains that threaten the safety of area residents and are a massive new source of air and carbon pollution in the region.
Among the demonstrators were residents of Richmond, Rodeo, Martinez, and Benicia, all towns that currently see dangerous oil trains moving through residential areas. Earlier this year the regional air quality agency, known as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, changed an existing permit to allow oil trains at the rail facility. Demonstrators contend that the agency broke the law when it modified the existing permit without additional environmental and safety review.
On Friday the San Francisco Superior Court will hold a hearing on a lawsuit filed by groups challenging the legality of the permit change and asking for a halt to oil train operations at the facility.
“I work with Richmond residents who already struggle with cancer, asthma and other devastating health impacts of pollution. Now they are living with bomb-trains full of explosive Bakken crude oil driving through their neighborhoods. By allowing this to happen, BAAQMD is failing to protect us and choosing Kinder Morgan’s profits over our safety,” said Megan Zapanta, Asian Pacific Environmental Network Richmond Community Organizer.
“People in Richmond are angry that the Air District, who are supposed to protect us, instead has put our community at catastrophic risk along with all the uprail communities. This irresponsible behavior must be stopped NOW!” said Andres Soto, organizer with Communities for a Better Environment.
“It’s unacceptable and illegal that the Air District allowed Kinder Morgan to bring explosive Bakken oil by rail from North Dakota without going through the processes established by state law to protect air quality and the safety of families in Pittsburg, Martinez, Crockett, Rodeo, Benicia, and Richmond. We demand that all operations related to oil by rail at Kinder Morgan stop immediately,” says Pamela Arauz, on behalf of Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition.
“The law in the State of California requires public agencies like the Air District to inform the public of projects like the Kinder Morgan Bomb Train operation. Not only that, the law requires an environmental review and public input into the process of issuing permits. The Air District broke the law when they secretly approved this dangerous project,” stated Denny Larson of Global Community Monitor.
“As the Bay Area Air District and other government agencies are failing to protect the health and lives of communities from the reckless shipments of crude oil by rail, the people are taking action to protect our communities,” said Bradley Angel, Executive Director of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice.
“The Air District took a reckless, illegal shortcut that puts our families at risk. We’ve seen what happens when one of these trains derails and catches fire, we can’t let that happen here,” said Ethan Buckner, US organizer with ForestEthics.
“Climate disruption is bearing down on us even faster because of the extreme extraction of tar sands and shale oil. With Bomb Trains carrying millions of gallons of that dangerous crude rolling on Bay Area rails, all of our lives are on the line. Instead of the alarming dead-end expansion of the fossil fuel industry we need a rapid transition to renewable energy now,” said Shoshana Wechsler of theSunflower Alliance.
“To be sure, we take the oil refineries’ contempt for fenceline communities for granted. But frankly, it was shocking to see how covertly BAAQMD threw our public health under the bus,” said Nancy Rieser, Co-founder, Crockett-Rodeo United to Defend the Environment (C.R.U.D.E.)