Climate change protesters march on Washington oil refineries
Published 15/05/2016 | 01:46
Hundreds of climate activists have marched to the site of two refineries in north-west Washington state to call for a reduction in reliance on fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, a smaller group continued to block railway tracks leading to the facilities for a second day.
Protesters in kayaks, canoes, on bikes and on foot took part in a massive demonstration near Anacortes, about 70 miles north of Seattle, to demand action on climate change and an equitable transition away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal.
A day before, about 150 activists pitched tents and set up camp on nearby railway tracks to block the flow of oil flowing to the nearby Shell and Tesoro oil refineries.
"We can't wait any more. We've got to do things now," said Clara Cleve, 76, of Edmonds. "Direct action is very effective. My grandchildren are not going to have a place to live unless we move quickly now."
Ms Cleve said she plans to spend another night in a tent on the tracks and is prepared to be arrested for trespassing if necessary.
The protests are part of a series of global actions calling on people to "break free" from dependence on fossil fuels.
Similar demonstrations are taking place in Los Angeles and Albany, New York, and in Washington, DC.
In upstate New York, climate activists gathered at a crude oil shipment hub on the Hudson River in an action targeting crude-by-rail trains and oil barges at the Port of Albany.
A group of activists sat on tracks used by crude oil trains heading to the port. Police did not report any arrests as of midday on Saturday. Albany is a key hub for crude-by-rail shipments from North Dakota's Bakken Shale region.
In Washington state, organisers are targeting two refineries that are among the top sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Tesoro has started shipping Bakken crude oil to its refinery, and Shell is proposing an expansion project that would similarly bring in Bakken crude oil by train.
Officials at both Shell and Tesoro said in earlier statements that they respect the right of people to demonstrate peacefully, and that safety is their highest priority.
A Shell spokesman also noted that the company, which employs about 700 workers at the refinery, is proud to be a part of the community and the refinery is a vital part of the region's energy infrastructure.
BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas said no trains were scheduled on Saturday but he declined to say whether any are expected to run on Sunday.
"We had anticipated this and therefore adjusted scheduling with customers," Mr Melonas said. "At this point, we're allowing the protest on our property."
There were no arrests as of Saturday afternoon, authorities said.
The tracks, which connect BNSF's mainline to Anacortes, serve the two refineries, as well as other customers who ship animal feed, steel and lumber by rail, Mr Melonas said.
Crowd estimates of the march ranged from several hundred to about 1,000 people.
Bud Ullman, 67, who lives on Guemes Island, participated in the march, which he described as good-spirited and peaceful.
"The scientists are right. We have to get away from our dependence on fossil fuels, and it has to be done in a way that takes into serious consideration the impact on workers, families and communities," he said.
The three-day event ends on Sunday and has included "kayaktivists" demonstrating on water, community workshops and an indigenous ceremony.
"I'm here because there's nothing more important to me than protecting the Earth," said Elizabeth Claydon, 24, who lives in Seattle. "This is an urgent matter, and traditional ways are not working."