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Vancouver Protest Marks Continued Resistance To Northwest Oil Projects

June 18, 2016

Mike Matheny’s daughter stood on tiptoes while hoisting a sign in the air behind a group of protesters blocking train tracks in Vancouver, Washington, on Saturday.

Police arrested 21 people who refused to vacate the tracks as they protested oil train activity in the Pacific Northwest.

This comes after a Union Pacific train carrying Bakken crude derailed in Mosier, Oregon, in early June, spilling about 42,000 gallons of oil. Some of that oil ended up in the Columbia River.

Matheny, who lives in Portland, said it was important for him to bring his two children to the protest.

“[My children] will realize the consequences of inaction or not making changes,” he said, “and so the urgency of giving them some exposure to the sense of public voice, the sense of community … is very important to me.”

Matheny and his children were three of more than 100 people who planted themselves on the BNSF tracks on 11th Street and Industrial Way in Vancouver.

The protest carried an added sense of frustration following the incident in Mosier. Puns aside, protesters said the Columbia River Gorge derailment added fuel to their argument against current and future oil projects in the Northwest and elsewhere.

“We have been involved in a fossil fuel system that is clearly and completely unsustainable,” said Julian Voss-Andreae, a sculpture artist living in Portland.

The Mosier derailment has led the Oregon Department of Transportation to request the federal government issue a moratorium on oil trains in the Gorge and elsewhere throughout the state.

However, Washington state has yet to follow suit.

Officials there say they will wait out an investigation of the Mosier derailment before requesting anything further of the federal government. Mosier is directly across the Columbia River from White Salmon, Washington.

Saturday’s protest was one of many public critiques of oil-related activity in the region of late.

Regulators have denied projects like Oregon LNG on the north coast and Jordan Cove in Coos Bay. That has left many to wonder if the Vancouver Energy Project — a proposed oil-by-rail terminal that would become the world’s largest if built — and others will survive.

[series: oil-trains-in-the-northwest,right,5751fccfa34b2f003216606f]

Like Matheny, Voss-Andreae also came to Saturday’s protest with his family. He hopes the sustained public outcry continually contributes to the defeat of oil projects.

“It’s a moral necessity,” he said. “There will be no change if people don’t start standing up. It’s just absolutely essential to do this, even though it’s not fun.”

Saturday’s protest started in downtown Vancouver, where protesters began a march to the BNSF tracks. The blockade lasted more than three hours.

Those arrested are charged with second-degree criminal trespassing and were taken to the Clark County Jail, according to the Vancouver Police Department.


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Police move on a group of protesters blocking the tracks at the BNSF Railway station in Vancouver, Washington, on Saturday, June 18, 2016.

Bradley W. Parks

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