Category Archives: Extinction Rebellion

Portland Police Arrest Protesters Blocking Oil Train Tracks With a Garden

The arrests came on Earth Day

By Allison Place, Willamette Week, April 22 at 5:19 PM
Portland police arrest an environmental protester at Zenith Energy on 4/22/19. (Allison Place)

Portland Police officers arrested 11 protesters this afternoon who were sitting on railroad tracks to protest Zenith Energy’s rapidly expanding import of Alberta tar sands oil.

Two dozen officers arrived around 3:30 pm today—Earth Day—to remove protesters from the train tracks at Zenith’s facility in Industrial Northwest Portland.

Before that, protestors spent much of the day sitting on the railroad tracks, chatting and munching on Ritz crackers. Yesterday, they had dumped a load of topsoil and planted a garden over the tracks.

“This is our second day. We came here to launch Extinction Rebellion, which is part of an international movement,” said protestor Ken Ward, who became famous in 2016 for turning off a valve to shut off the crude-oil pipeline that runs from the Alberta tar sands to Washington State for refining.

“[Zenith] is a poster child for government being unable to take effective steps on climate,” Ward added. “We have a company trying to triple the [amount] of Canadian tar sands oil sent through Portland when Portland doesn’t want to be expanding it’s fossil fuel infrastructure—and yet nobody seems to be able to do anything about it.”

City Council voted in 2015 to block further expansion of fossil fuels in Portland. Zenith’s oil shipments have grown rapidly since then, calling into question what the city will do about the energy plant.

Ward has been arrested 3 times previously for his activism, and he was among those arrested today.

Leah Francis, an organizer with Extinction Rebellion PDX, said she’d only slept two hours over the last two days while protesting Zenith.

“We need to move on to tactics that actually demand something of power,” said Francis. “If you’re an environmentalist in Mexico, you can end up with your head cut off in a ditch. Getting arrested in Multnomah County where we’ll be released without bail with a minor misdemeanor charge seems like a non-issue to me.”

Protestors sang “Let it Be” by John Lennon while awaiting arrest.

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    Portland activists block rail line at Zenith oil terminal

    Extinction Rebellion plants ‘Victory over fossil fuels Garden’ at crude oil exporter on Sunday.

    Repost from the Portland Tribune, by Zane Sparling, April 21, 2019

    PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Activists planted a 'Victory over fossil fuels Garden' along a BNSF rail line leading to the Zenith Energy oil terminal in Northwest Portland on Sunday, April 21.
    PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING – Activists planted a ‘Victory over fossil fuels Garden’ along a BNSF rail line leading to the Zenith Energy oil terminal in Northwest Portland on Sunday, April 21.

    Operations at Oregon’s only crude oil export terminal went off the rails on Earth Day weekend — after activists blocked all train traffic leading to the Northwest Portland facility.

    Extinction Rebellion protesters dumped topsoil and planted a “Victory over fossil fuels Garden” on and adjacent to the train tracks as early as 6 a.m. on Sunday, April 21. By mid-day, a tiny house, large globe and a crowd of at least 100 had sprouted outside the Zenith Energy terminal, 5501 N.W. Front Ave.

    A BNSF oil train was turned back from the rail spur around 9 a.m. Activists say they plan to occupy the site indefinitely.

    PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING – Prominent activists and East Multnomah County resident Ken Ward speaks to a crowd during an occupation of a Zenith Energy terminal rail line on Sunday, April 21 in Portland.

    “We are here to demand from our political leadership, at the city and county level, that they take effective action to end Zenith terminals,” said Corbett resident Ken Ward, whose well-known exploits include a 2016 arrest for activating the Trans Mountain pipeline emergency shutoff valve.

    “What we have to do to preserve liveable conditions on the planet, and what seems to be politically feasible now — there’s a gap there, and we have to close it,” Ward continued.

    Long used as an asphalt and oil storage center, operations ballooned after Zenith purchased the terminal from Arc Logistics in December, 2017. Permits approved in 2014 allow Zenith to unload as many as 44 train cars at a time — though the swarm of tanker cars activists say they usually see were less visible on Easter Sunday.

    Demonstration organizer Mia Reback led the crowd on a sidewalk tour of the area, highlighting the construction of new unloading platforms, an additional rail spur and a cinder block fence topped with barbed wire.

    She said the 18 full-time workers on site use Naphtha diluent to flow the thick tar sands off the rail cars and into massive storage tanks. From there, the crude oil is pumped across the street to a Chevron dock and onto sea-going vessels destined for U.S. and foreign refineries.

    PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - A demonstrator peaks over the newly-constructed cinder block fence surrounding unloading platforms at a Zenith Energy terminal on Front Street in Northwest Portland.
    PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING – A demonstrator peaks over the newly-constructed cinder block fence surrounding unloading platforms at a Zenith Energy terminal on Front Street in Northwest Portland.

    “Zenith is doubling down on the fossil fuel industry at a time when we know we have to get off fossil fuels to stop catastrophic climate change.” Reback said.

    The 11 terminal companies located on Front Avenue store natural gas, asphalt and about 90 percent of the fuel sold at gas stations in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Zenith, however, has unique status as an exporter, and activists say the fire suppression equipment installed by the company isn’t adequate.

    “All of these tanks along here are built on fill,” said David Scharf, a Scappoose resident. “If we get the big earthquake… the assumption is pretty much all of these tanks could burst.”

    “It’s just an accident waiting to happen,” added Jane Heldmann of Portland.

    In March, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler told the Tribune that he does not support the infrastructure expansion due to its location in an earthquake liquefaction zone. In a lettersent on Sunday, the occupiers called on the full City Council to rezone the land as open space.

    Representatives with the Portland Police Bureau and Zenith Energy did not immediately return requests for comment.

    PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Zenith Energy's facility in Northwest Portland on Front Avenue is shown here.
    PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING – Zenith Energy’s facility in Northwest Portland on Front Avenue is shown here.
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