Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Port Responds to Olympia Rail Protesters

By Janine Gates

As the blockade of a Union Pacific train carrying ceramic proppants in downtown Olympia continues into its sixth evening, Port of Olympia executive director Ed Galligan issued a brief press release written and released late Wednesday evening:

“The Port of Olympia is continuing to monitor a blockage located on a privately-owned rail line outside of Port facilities, where protestors have essentially halted interstate commerce for Port and other local business customers (e.g. Mottman Business Park). 

“Given the location and nature of these impacts, any future response or resolution will be coordinated by appropriate local, state and federal authorities.  The Port’s top priority is to see this situation resolved peacefully and ensure the safety of all involved, including Port staff who have also been subject to intimidation via recent vandalism at the Port’s administrative offices.  

“The Olympian has reported that the Port’s involvement in the shipping of fracking sands is one of the stated reasons behind the current protest. While the Port respects differing opinions, it is important to note that Port Districts are regulated by the Shipping Act of 1984.  The act requires ports to move all cargos deemed safe and legal.”

It is unclear why Galligan would single out The Olympian newspaper as the sole source for his information. The protesters and other community members have made it abundantly clear to the Port that the shipping of ceramic proppants is one of the reasons for their protest. 

At least two commissioners have been in direct communication with the protesters, and all, including Galligan, have received letters from community members about the issue. 

Many concerned individuals were present and spoke at the port commission meeting on Monday night during public comment, and an autonomous group at the rail blockade issued a public letter to the port that was sent to the port and reprinted in a Little Hollywood article Wednesday morning. 

Commissioner Downing’s View

Little Hollywood asked the three Port Commissioners over the past weekend about the rail blockade. E.J. Zita’s statement was published in a previous article. Commissioner Bill McGregor has not yet responded.

Received on Wednesday, here is Port Commissioner Joe Downing’s statement about port cargoes:

As a Port Commissioner, I am bound by two things: the Shipping Act of 1984, and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, both of which prohibit states or local agencies from interfering with interstate (and international) commerce.  On a more personal level, I will not act in conflict with the law of the land: 48 out of 50 states allow fracking, as does the federal government. Fracking in general has allowed the United States two very big dividends:

1)      We have less greenhouse gases from energy production, due to more reliance on natural gas, and less on coal;

2)      We are less reliant on Middle East oil, and that makes going to war over oil that much less likely – the last oil war in Iraq and Afghanistan cost 4,400 American, and 500,000 Afghan and Iraqi lives.

Not only that, but the public has implored the Port to improve its bottom line by making the Marine Terminal more profitable.  So, how can we decline cargo when we are uniquely positioned to accept proppant cargo from China, and to export logs grown from many different private land tracts?

I appreciate the citizens who come to Port meetings to voice their concerns.  I continue to believe that the great majority of people who live in Thurston County want me to a) use my best judgement in Port matters, and b) diversify, not divest, the cargoes of the Port.

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

Olympia Rail Protesters Issue Public Letter to Port

By Janine Gates

An autonomous group of protesters at the rail blockade on Union Pacific tracks in downtown Olympia has worked on a public letter to the Port of Olympia and issued it early this morning to Little Hollywood.

The communication is not from Olympia Stand.

The blockade has garnered the support and efforts of a revolving group of activists exhibiting different strengths and styles of communication and organizing efforts.

Under contract with Rainbow Ceramics, the Union Pacific train was leaving the Port of Olympia on Friday for North Dakota, where the ceramic proppants are used in the process of hydraulic fracking to allow for oil extraction from the earth.

While some are concerned and wondering whether or not the action is or is not expressed as an effort in solidarity with the water protectors in Standing Rock, there is no doubt they are working collectively for one purpose: to stop the shipment of proppants from leaving Olympia.

The letter is as follows:

Public Letter to the Port

“We, the residents of Thurston County, demand the Olympia Port Commission no longer allow oil fracking sand or any cargo related to the extraction of fossil fuels to enter our Port.”

1.     Institute genuine public involvement in all Port operations and policies based on the understanding that the Port serves all of the interests of  the residents of Thurston County

-         create a transparent operations environment
-         open all operations, policies, communications to public inspection to the extent allowed by the law
-         build respect and trust in the community as an institution by being honest in all internal dealings and in all interactions with the public and other governmental bodies.

2.     Improve the Port’s environmental record

-         create a vibrant waterfront with substantial public space and enhanced access to the waterfront
-         shift to operations based on environmentally-sustainable products and actions
-         engage in thorough environmental cleanup and restoration prior to development
-         develop a sea-level rise adaptation plan that does not place an economic burden on the taxpayers

3.     Improve the Port’s economic development capability

-         concentrate on economically benefitting the larger community and small businesses by focusing on manufacturing, production and alternative energy and energy efficient projects
-         openly evaluate projects to determine their economic effectiveness before committing public funds

-         enhance a recreation-based and restoration-based economy

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