‘Raging Grannies’ arrested after oil train protest
By Bre Clark, September 02, 2016 9:36 AM. PDT
SPOKANE, Wash. – Three grandmothers were charged for obstructing a train on Wednesday. The three are known as the “Raging Grannies.” They blocked BNSF train tracks in protest because they want Spokane to stop oil and coal trains from going through downtown.
The grandmothers said they tried to talk to city officials about fossil fuels and fracking but when that did not work, they decided to protest.
“Even one person can stop a train it’s very easy to stop a train,” Raging Grannie Deena Romoff said.
Romoff and the other two “Raging Grannies” wrote letters and tried to get the Spokane City Council to stop oil and coal trains from going through downtown but the measure failed.
“People are getting frustrated that our government is not doing anything, that the world isn’t doing anything,” she said.
Romoff and several others decided to take matters into their own hands.
“When you have one city along the track that says ‘you can’t come through here,’ what happens? It stops,” she said.
BNSF railway officials said the protest group stopped 11 trains, one was fully loaded with coal.
“Even for that short period of time it gives us that much more time on this planet in my looking at it,” Romoff said.
The “Grannies” said their time behind the bars will not be in vain. They said they are joining forces with other environmental protests across the country and will go out every day if they have to.
“You don’t have to get arrested,” Romoff said. “You can be out there. If you believe in having a life for your children and your grandchildren”
BNSF said this in a statement in regards to ordinance to stop oil train operations:
“There are a number of better options to promote safety, including collaboration with industry and federal regulators to further enhance safety. We stand ready to work with federal, state, and local leaders to continue to improve safety while maintaining the efficient flow of commerce to and from Spokane.”
Repost from the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA [Editor: Significant quote: “…California and Minnesota have implemented similar laws for railroads.” – RS]
Washington: Railroads must show they can handle oil spills
By the Associated Press, September 1, 2016 2:16 PM
Washington’s Department of Ecology has adopted a new rule requiring that railroads shipping oil through the state demonstrate that they can immediately respond to any spills.
OLYMPIA, WASH. | Washington’s Department of Ecology has adopted a new rule requiring that railroads shipping oil through the state demonstrate that they can immediately respond to any spills.
The department said Thursday the rule takes effect Oct. 1, and it brings railroads into line with rules for companies moving oil by pipeline and by vessel.
Railroads will have to provide Ecology with contingency plans detailing steps the railroad will take if oil spills or a substantial risk of a spill occurs during transport. Officials say they’ll review each plan and require that they be tested through appropriate drills.
The state says California and Minnesota have implemented similar laws for railroads.
This fall, Washington is also beginning to require that facilities receiving shipments of crude oil by rail notify Ecology, which will share notice of those plans with local first responders.
Oil and its downstream products enable most transportation methods, from the gas in automobile tanks to the rubber in shoes. For oil itself, however, there are only a few methods of movement, and each is controversial. In the U.S., one method that saw a recent boom is now on the decline.
Shale oil pumped in recent years from the Bakken region in North Dakota ramped up production and availability faster than pipelines could be built. Trains filled in the gap in the meantime. At its peak, in October 2014, trains moved more than 29 million barrels.
The most recent data from the Energy Information Administration shows that the amount of oil shipped by rail has fallen dramatically since.
“Within the U.S., we’re moving about 12 million barrels in May, and that compares with last May – the intermovements within the U.S. was 26 million barrels,” said Arup Mallik, an industry economist at the Energy Information Administration.
Several factors have contributed to the more-than-half decline in shipments. One is that the price of U.S. oil has risen to more closely match global prices. That has reduced the amount of oil being purchased and shipped to refineries.
Low global oil prices, meanwhile, have stifled production, thus reducing the amount of oil needing to be moved.
While those factors have led to a temporary reduction in the need for crude-by-rail shipping, the completion of additional pipeline infrastructure around the country has made more of a permanent change.
“New pipelines are still getting built, further pushing down the need for crude-by-rail,” said Adam Bedard, CEO of ARB Midstream, a company that invests in pipelines and rail facilities.
Bedard said the biggest impact to crude-by-rail shipments may come later this year, if construction is completed on the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would move oil east into Chicago.
“Those barrels will have to come from somewhere, and it is our view that a lot of those barrels will come from crude by rail,” Bedard said. “The Dakota Access Pipeline can move up to 450,000 barrels a day.”
In May, the total amount of oil moved by trains in the entire U.S. was 470,000 barrels a day.
The future of that pipeline is being decided. Protests have temporarily halted construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, partly because of concerns for the safety of drinking water.
Safety issues plague perception of crude-by-rail as well. In the past four years, there have been a dozen significant derailments of trains carrying crude oil in the U.S., spilling more than 1.5 million gallons, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.
Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, said his organization is fighting to reduce or eliminate the traffic traveling through the Pacific Northwest. An oil train derailed in Mosier, Oregon, in June, spilling an undetermined amount of crude.
“We think oil trains are dangerous,” said VandenHeuvel. “We’ve seen explosions very close to our homes here on the Columbia River and have watched explosions and derailments all over the nation, and we think it’s not a safe way to transport oil.”
The overall decline of oil train traffic in the U.S. doesn’t extend to his region, as the network of pipelines on the West Coast is largely isolated from the rest of the country. Trains are necessary. Canada, as well, is expected to see an increase in crude-by-rail because it lacks comparable pipeline infrastructure.
VandenHeuvel said his organization will work to keep more terminals from being constructed that would bring in more rail traffic. He said he’s concerned more will come if oil prices rise again.
“You know, that number could ramp back up as production increases,” VandenHeuvel said.
Jed Kim is a reporter for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk. He focuses on issues of climate change, conservation, energy and environmental justice. Prior to joining Marketplace in April 2016, Jed was an environment reporter at KPCC public radio…