Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Who Pays Port Protest Costs?

Above: The City of Olympia incurred about $40,000 in costs associated with the recent 12 day long railroad blockade in downtown Olympia. 

- Squaxin Island Tribe Writes Letter to Port, City

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

A special Port of Olympia work session was initiated by Commissioner E.J. Zita who requested that commissioners consider reimbursing the City of Olympia for law enforcement costs related to the recent blockade of the railroad tracks by activists collectively known as Olympia Stand.

The 12 day rail blockade occurred November 17 – 29 and was in response to the Port of Olympia’s involvement in the acceptance of ceramic proppants and transfer of cargo to trains bound for North Dakota or Wyoming. Ceramic proppants are used in the process of hydraulic fracking for gas and oil extraction.

Zita participated in the meeting via speakerphone.

Precedent for reimbursement was set in 2007 when the Port of Olympia reimbursed the City of Olympia $70,000 for law enforcement related to protests involving the port’s acceptance of military cargo.

Port executive director Ed Galligan said that figure was arrived at through an “amicable discussion” between himself and Olympia city manager Steve Hall. The city had requested $100,000.

At a city council meeting Tuesday evening and again at Wednesday’s port meeting, Hall reported that the city spent about $40,000 - $45,000 related to the rail blockade.

While the numbers are preliminary, $18,000 was in direct cost associated with time spent by employees dealing with the blockade during regular work hours, about $21,000 spent in overtime and $1,800 spent in landfill and other costs associated with removing five tons of debris from the blockade site. There were also costs associated with graffiti removal from nearby buildings.

Costs from other law enforcement entities are currently unknown.

The question of who pays for the actions of protesters was debated by commissioners for nearly an hour.

In the end, Commissioner Downing wanted to wait until the city gives the port an indication of whether or not they want to be reimbursed and wanted Galligan to have that conversation with Hall and communicate the outcome to commissioners.

He said that the port is a lightning rod for a whole host of military, energy, and international trade issues.

“The bigger concern is how do we keep from having another protest? We could have protests against log exports next. Where do we draw the line? Downing asked.

Zita responded that the city has already given the port guidance on how to prevent future protests and referred to the city’s 2014 resolution which asks the port to reconsider its contract with Rainbow Ceramics and transfer of ceramic proppant cargo.

Downing said city resolutions cover a lot of bases, and that one in particular also makes requests of Hoquiam and Grays Harbor.

“That doesn’t mean we have the desire or ability to follow the resolutions coming from other entities,” he said.

Commissioner Bill McGregor said he is all for having a conversation with the city at a future time.

“What we don’t have is a reaction plan (in the event of a protest). Who pays?”

McGregor said a mutual aid agreement is needed between the entities so the “rule of law” is upheld faster than ten to twelve days after the initiation of a protest.

Galligan was tasked with additional research on a number of issues, including the amount of ceramic proppant that has been transported from the port since 2014, when the contract with Rainbow Ceramics was renewed. The contract expires July 14, 2019. 

At its peak in about 2013, the port averaged about 100 rail cars a month loaded with ceramic proppant, said the port at the time.

Downing also said he met informally with City of Olympia police chief Ronnie Roberts earlier on Wednesday for about 45 minutes. He said the two had never met before.

In November 2016, Roberts gave a tersely worded statement in front of Olympia city council members denouncing the Port of Olympia's ceramic proppant shipments. 

Squaxin Island Tribe Letter to Port, City

The chairman of the Squaxin Island Tribe wrote a strongly worded letter this week to Port of Olympia commissioners and City of Olympia council members disassociating the Tribe from recent port-related rail blockade and protesters.

The letter signed by Arnold Cooper, chairman of the Squaxin Island Tribe, is dated December 1 and was distributed to media and members of the public by Port Commissioner Joe Downing just prior to the special work session held by the port commission on Wednesday.

“The Tribe has become aware of protests concerning the transportation of fracking materials through the Port of Olympia. The main group reported by the media to be leading these protests, Olympia Stand, as well as their followers, has repeatedly implied that it is acting on behalf of the Squaxin Island Tribe to protect the Tribe’s ancestral lands.

“Please be aware that Olympia Stand does not represent the interests or agenda of the Squaxin Island Tribe nor is Olympia Stand affiliated with the Tribe. The Squaxin Island Tribe’s Tribal Council and those designated by the Tribal Council are the only entity and individuals with the authority to speak on behalf of the Tribe.

“Additionally, the Squaxin Island Tribe does not associate with advocacy groups that use force, intimidation, or cause damage to personal or public property. The Tribe does not support the blocking of the Port of Olympia by Olympia Stand and other protestors nor does it condone the harassment of police or other government officials as a means to further its purposes.”

The letter also says the Tribe respects the government to government relationship that it has developed with the Port of Olympia and City of Olympia and appreciates the mutually respected protocol developed to work on common interests, resolve disputes, and determine solutions.

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