Friday, November 11, 2016

Protesters Stop Port of Olympia Proppant Train

Above: Environmental activists stopped a train hauling ten cars of ceramic proppants from leaving the Port of Olympia marine terminal in downtown Olympia on Friday afternoon. The train was forced to back up and detach its load. As of Friday evening, about 25 protesters remained on the tracks. 

By Janine Gates

A train hauling ten 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 on Friday afternoon in downtown Olympia.

Local activists began the blockade about noon, and moved onto the tracks to resist the movement of ceramic proppants through Olympia. 

At about 6:30 p.m. Friday evening, about 25 people were making themselves comfortable, having brought a couch and two chairs to the tracks, saying they were ready to spend the night on the tracks to make sure the shipment does not happen.

“It went really well. We were all sitting and standing here for two hours, and brought a couch out, put it on the tracks, and told them they’re not allowed to leave with the proppants, but if they drop off the cars back in the port, then the train can leave. After that, they went back with the train, detached the cars, and left in a car,” said an activist named Katie. 

“We’re not at the point that we’re building a tent city but we’re going to be blocking the tracks as long as we need to. We want the (train and port) workers on our side as environmental activists,” she said.

Above: Bags of ceramic proppants from China sit at the Port of Olympia's marine terminal in late October. Photo taken October 29, 2016. 

The Port of Olympia has had a contract for several years with Rainbow Ceramics of Texas and China to receive proppants, which are delivered from China in bags. For the purpose of hauling by train, the bag's contents are emptied into train hoppers.

In the process of fracking, the ceramic proppants, little beads made of sand with a ceramic shell, are hydraulically forced into the ground in order to prop open shale and allow for oil extraction. This process results in the environmental contamination of groundwater, induces earthquakes, and produces toxic waste. Oil extracted from the Bakken Oil Field is destined to travel through the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Organizers said the action was inspired by the water protectors at Standing Rock.

“We reject the Port of Olympia’s complicity in the occupation and desecration of indigenous lands. We demand the Port of Olympia permanently cease fossil fuel infrastructure shipments through the marine terminal. In lieu of acceptance of this demand, we will continue to oppose any transportation of fossil fuels through the marine terminal of Olympia,” said a press release.

Above: Idle train hoppers at the Port of Olympia marine terminal on Friday night.