Protesters were arrested in Washington after blocking an oil train by erecting a “pop-up garden of sunflowers” and lying down on the train tracks. The group was protesting a proposed oil terminal and all other fossil fuel infrastructure in the state.
Two people were arrested Monday during a protest in downtown Vancouver, Washington held by the activist group Shut Down Fossil Fuels. Protesters locked their arms into large sunflower pots and laid down on train tracks, calling on Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) to reject the proposed Vancouver Tesoro Savage Oil Terminal and “all other proposed fossil fuel infrastructure in the State of Washington,” the group said in a press release.
The protesters were blocking a BNSF train carrying Bakken Crude Oil, a highly volatile oil that caused a train to explode in Mosier, Oregon last June.
Jessie Braverman, the group’s media liaison, told RT that around 25 people showed up at the train tracks to address climate change, and let the governor know that “if he isn’t going to stop the terminal than we will.”
“Our community and our planet are under attack, yet the political response has been amoral and inadequate. We were here on the tracks a year after the Mosier oil train derailment and nothing has changed,” Braverman said in a statement. “The trains are still coming and new fossil fuel projects are still being proposed; we’re in the midst of a worldwide climate emergency and we’re fighting back.”
Braverman confirmed that two people were arrested during the protest and they are still being held in jail. She also said that there had been “no word” from the governor, whom they had been attempting to contact throughout the day.
According to the Associated Press, the tracks were cleared after an hour.
In 2014, the state of Washington passed legislation to increase track and hazardous material inspections, require oil spill contingency plans, increase funding for prevention and cleanup of oil spills, and improve safety at crossings along oil train routes. However, Inslee said that “states are limited in what we can do” in creating regulations for interstate railroads.
“Railroads engage in interstate commerce, which means the buck stops with the federal government. While federal regulators acknowledge the risks of crude-by-rail, they have taken few steps toward increasing safety,” Inslee wrote in an op-ed for the Columbian last year. “The combination of federal preemption and federal inaction is unacceptable.”
Inslee urged Congress and the US Department of Transportation to implement even tougher regulations, including lower speed limits for high-hazard flammable trains and to use safer cars that are “strong enough to protect volatile contents from the heat of a fire or the impact of a collision.”
However, the group said that Inslee has failed to craft an emissions reduction strategy and the state “continues to move towards a dizzying array of new fossil fuel developments.”
“If I can stop an oil train, Governor Jay Inslee can stop an oil terminal,” Chris, one of the protesters, said in a statement.
Ultimately, Shut Down Fossil Fuels is calling for “an end to oil trains, oil terminals, and all fossil fuels.”
“It’s now or never. We’re up against the wire and nobody — no politician, no agency, no industry — is stepping up to resolve the climate crisis,” Mike, one of the protesters locked to a flower pot, said in a statement. “It’s time for the people to step up to resolve this crisis before we run out of time.”
Sophie Scholl, another media liaison for the group, told RT that there has been a second blockade of a train up north following the arrests in downtown Vancouver.