Protesters block train tracks to 2 Washington refineries
SEATTLE (AP) — Hundreds of climate activists on Saturday marched to the site of two refineries in northwest Washington state to call for a break from fossil fuels, while a smaller group continued to block railroad tracks leading to the facilities for a second day.
Protesters in kayaks, canoes, on bikes and on foot took part in a massive demonstration near Anacortes, about 70 miles north of Seattle, to demand action on climate and an equitable transition away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal.
A day before, about 150 activists had pitched tents and set up camp on nearby railroad tracks to block the flow of oil flowing to the nearby Shell and Tesoro oil refineries.
“We can’t wait anymore. We’ve got to do things now,” Clara Cleve, 76, of Edmonds, said Saturday. “Direct action is very effective. My grandchildren are not going to have a place to live unless we move quickly now.”
Cleve said she plans to spend another night in a tent on the tracks and is prepared to be arrested for trespassing if necessary.
The protests are part of a series of global actions calling on people to “break free” from dependence on fossil fuels. Similar demonstrations are taking place in Los Angeles and Albany, New York, on Saturday and in Washington, D.C., on Sunday.
In upstate New York, climate activists gathered at a crude-oil shipment hub on the Hudson River in an action targeting crude-by-rail trains and oil barges at the Port of Albany. A group of activists sat on tracks used by crude oil trains headed to the port. Police did not report any arrests as of midday Saturday. Albany is a key hub for crude-by-rail shipments from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale region.
In Washington state, organizers are targeting two refineries that are among the top sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Tesoro has started shipping Bakken crude oil to its refinery, and Shell is proposing an expansion project that would similarly bring in Bakken crude oil by train.
Officials with both Shell and Tesoro said in earlier statements that they respect the right of people to demonstrate peacefully, and that safety is their highest priority. A Shell spokesman also noted that the company, which employs about 700 workers at the refinery, is proud to be a part of the community and the refinery is a vital part of the region’s energy infrastructure.
BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas said no trains are scheduled through Saturday but he declined to say whether any are expected to run Sunday.
“We had anticipated this and therefore adjusted scheduling with customers,” Melonas said. “At this point, we’re allowing the protest on our property.”
There had been no word of any arrests during the day, Given Kutz, a spokesman for the Skagit County Emergency Coordination Center, said late Saturday night.
The tracks, which connect BNSF’s mainline to Anacortes, serve the two refineries, as well as other customers who ship animal feed, steel and lumber by rail, Melonas said.
Skagit County spokeswoman Bronlea Mishler said authorities are monitoring the situation. Crowd estimates of the march range from several hundred to about 1,000 people, she said.
Bud Ullman, 67, who lives on Guemes Island, participated in the march, which he described as good-spirited, peaceful.
“The scientists are right. We have to get away from our dependence on fossil fuels, and it has to be done in a way that takes into serious consideration the impact on workers, families and communities,” he said.
The three-day event ends Sunday and has included “kayaktivists” demonstrating on water, community workshops and an indigenous ceremony.
“I’m here because there’s nothing more important to me than protecting the Earth,” said Elizabeth Claydon, 24, who lives in Seattle. “This is an urgent matter, and traditional ways are not working.”
Many of the nearly 40 groups involved in organizing the event were also involved in large on-water kayak protests against Shell’s Arctic oil drilling rig when it parked last year at a Seattle port.