Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Olympia Rail Protesters Given Notice to Vacate, Port Commissioners Respond

Above: Community activists, collectively called Olympia Stand, continues its blockade of Union Pacific Railroad tracks in its effort to halt the transfer of ceramic proppants from the Port of Olympia to North Dakota, where the product will be used in hydraulic fracking process to allow for oil extraction.

Port Commissioners Downing, Zita Make Statements about Blockade at meeting Monday night

By Janine Gates

At about 8:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, two Union Pacific Railroad Company police served notice on blockade participants to vacate the railroad at 7th and Jefferson in downtown Olympia.

The notice of emergency abatement placed on the blockade site states to vacate the property or risk criminal trespass in the second degree.

The notice is partially handwritten, saying that further violations exceeding the notice are subject to violations. The term “ORS.164.255” is crossed out, which would be a first degree violation, and “second degree” is written in.

“The nuisances on this property include illegal camping, debris, scattering of rubbish, harborage for rats, unclean and unsanitary conditions, and therefore violates the property rights of the Union Pacific Railroad,” it states in part.

The notice does not give a time or date that trespassers must vacate the property.

Two members of the National Lawyers Guild arrived about 9:00 a.m. and identified themselves to Little Hollywood as observers.

At the same time, while standing outside the encampment, a white truck with two men inside drove by yelling, “Trump!” “Trump!” “Trump!”

Above: A Union Pacific Railroad notice of emergency abatement placed Tuesday morning at the railroad blockade site at 7th and Jefferson in downtown Olympia. The notice states that it is a notice to vacate the property or risk criminal trespass in the second degree.

Protesters, collectively called Olympia Stand, have maintained its direct action blockade of the railroad tracks since Friday afternoon. 

On Friday, a train hauling several cars of ceramic proppants was forced to return to the Port of Olympia’s marine terminal after being blocked by protesters at the intersection of State and Jefferson Street.

City of Olympia city manager Steve Hall was at the camp Tuesday morning on his way to work and got there just in time to see the railroad police put up the notices.

“I just hope there’s a peaceful end to this – I hope people don’t get in trouble at a higher level while being heard," said Hall. Hall said he spoke to the railroad police, who were vague about whether or not it was a felony to block a train.

“I’m hoping this is handled the Olympia way and people don’t get hurt,” said Hall.

Protesters have visually fortified their barricade at 7th and Jefferson with white plastic sheeting, but blockade activities can clearly be seen from Jefferson Street.

At last night’s Port of Olympia meeting, about 17 activists, in addition to those in the audience, peacefully showed up to make their presence known to the commissioners and stood in the back of the room during the public comment period.

Several spoke directly to the Port’s complicity in the degradation of the environment by accepting the ceramic proppant shipments from China and allowing transport to North Dakota to be used in the process of hydraulic fracking.

Zoltan Grossman, a professor at The Evergreen State College, urged commissioners to be on the right side of history.

A student of The Evergreen State College, Colleen Allen, said that many students care about their future.

“We care about the future – all we ask is that you care about our future too,” she said.

Above, left to right: Port of Olympia commissioners Joe Downing, Bill McGregor, and E.J. Zita at their regular meeting on Monday evening.

The commissioners briefly responded to public concerns, but did not dwell on the topic.

Commissioner Joe Downing responded by saying that he did not vote for Donald Trump and has had a sign on his car in support of Hillary Clinton for a couple months.

“I’m choked up, because things are going to get tough and I’m just seeing the handwriting on the wall….”

How that relates to fracking, he said, is that the community has to continue to have a dialog about energy production and port priorities. He said he has spoken directly with protesters and doesn’t personally see a connection between that conversation and the port's shipping of proppants to North Dakota.

“We need to have rail car safety…I don’t agree with blocking trains.…Make your voices known, and move on to the next issue, frankly,” said Downing.

In a statement provided to Little Hollywood on Monday, Commissioner E.J. Zita said:

“I asked last month to be informed of any movements of fracking proppants at the Port, but was surprised to learn of events last week.  I commend the Olympia Police Department for their hands-off response to peaceful protest.  Public safety and freedom of speech are high priorities. 

“Port Commissioners are responsible for setting port policy, and the executive director is responsible for carrying out that policy.  While the executive director may have played a key role in securing the Rainbow Ceramics contract to move fracking proppants through the Port, future decisions on this matter rest with commissioners.  We must weigh risks and benefits to people and the environment as well as to economics.

“The Port's Environmental Director has recently undertaken an assessment of our direct (Scope 1) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  I recommend that we also evaluate the indirect (Scope 2 and Scope 3) GHG emissions due to fracking proppants moving through the Port,” said Zita.

For more photos and information about the rail blockade, the Port of Olympia, ceramic proppants, and more, go to Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com, and type key words into the search button.

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