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Stop Oil Trains Week of Action

25 million Americans live in the blast zone.

Looking back on the Lac-Mégantic tragedy or the fiery June 3rd oil train derailment in the Columbia River Gorge — we know the blast zone is a dangerous place to be. There has been more damage done by oil trains in the past three years than the previous four decades combined.

July 6 to 12th, we’re going to do something about it. Together, we’ll #StopOilTrains in the Columbia River Gorge, your town and everywhere. Because we know every oil train battle is part of a bigger movement to protect public health, safety, and the climate.

If you want to organize, it’s easy! Some gatherings only have a handful of people, but every gathering is part of a national movement to come together to stop oil trains.

Join or host an event now!

STAND website here.

Chicago action here.

Mosier Fire Chief Calls Shipping Bakken Crude Oil By Rail ‘Insane’

[They say it could happen to you. Here’s someone it happened to.]

Jim Appleton, the fire chief in Mosier, Ore., said in the past, he’s tried to reassure his town that the Union Pacific Railroad has a great safety record and that rail accidents are rare.

He’s changed his mind.

After a long night working with hazardous material teams and firefighters from across the Northwest to extinguish a fire that started when a train carrying Bakken crude derailed in his town, Appleton no longer believes shipping oil by rail is safe.

“I hope that this becomes death knell for this mode of shipping this cargo. I think it’s insane,” he said. “I’ve been very hesitant to take a side up to now, but with this incident, and with all due respect to the wonderful people that I’ve met at Union Pacific, shareholder value doesn’t outweigh the lives and happiness of our community.”

Federal regulators say oil from the Bakken region is more flammable and more dangerous than other types of crude. It’s been involved in a string of rail disasters, including a tragedy that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

Shipments through the Columbia River Gorge have dramatically increased in recent years and oil companies have proposed building the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country 70 miles downstream from Mosier, at the the Port of Vancouver.

Emergency responders in communities along rail lines in the Northwest have struggled to prepare for a possible disaster. Much of the focus has been on stockpiling critical equipment needed to fight oil spills and fires, including a special type of fire suppression foam.

But Appleton said that foam was of relatively little use for the first 10 hours after the spill in Mosier.  It couldn’t be directly applied to the main rail car that was on fire.

“The rationale that was explained to me by the Union Pacific fire personnel is that the metal is too hot, and the foam will land on the white-hot metal and evaporate without any suppression effect,” he said. “That was kind of an eye-opener for me.”

Appleton said crews spent 8 to 10 hours cooling down the adjacent rail cars with water before the final burning car was cool enough to be extinguished using the firefighting foam. Fire tending trucks drew water from the Columbia River using a nearby orchard supply line, and applied roughly 1,500 gallons of water per minute to the white-hot rail cars.

Other first responders described a chaotic scene, and difficulty getting to the site of the accident due to a massive snarl of traffic on Interstate 84.

“It looked like the apocalypse,” said Elizabeth Sanchey, the Yakima Nation’s environmental manager and the head of its hazmat crew. “You get into town, and there is just exhausted firefighters everywhere you look. It was quite scary.”
Emergency crews on June 4, 2016, found an oil sheen on the bank of the Columbia River near the site of an oil train derailment and spill in Mosier, Oregon, the day prior.

Emergency crews on June 4, 2016, found an oil sheen on the bank of the Columbia River near the site of an oil train derailment and spill in Mosier, Oregon, the day prior.

No lives were lost in the fire, and reports so far of property damage have been minimal, but an oil slick has appeared in the Columbia River, and officials said they haven’t determined for sure how oil is reaching the water. Yellow oil containment booms were stretched across the river to contain the oil.

Sanchey and several other Yakama Nation first responders were monitoring the containment effort through binoculars from a nearby overpass.

“It’s unknown how much oil is in the river, but it is in containment now, and we believe it to be relatively safe,” she said. “We currently have a sockeye run that is just starting, and lamprey live in the sediment, so that’s definitely a concern. We have endangered species at risk.”

Jim Appleton said Friday was a horrible day for his town, and he feels like he narrowly avoided a catastrophe.

“If the same derailment had happened just 24 hours earlier, there would have been 35 mph gusts blowing the length of the train,” he said. “The fire very easily could have spread to some or all of the 96 cars behind, because they were in the line of the prevailing wind. That would have been the catastrophe.”

In a press conference Saturday, the Union Pacific Railroad apologized for the incident.

“We apologize to the residents of Mosier, the state of Oregon, and the Pacific Northwest Region,” said spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza.

Espinoza said the railroad company will pay for the cost of fighting the fire. She said it has to wait for the area to cool down before it can extract the cars that remain and remove them by flatbed truck.

The company said crude oil represents less than 1 percent of its cargo, and said it has trained more than 2,300 emergency responders across Oregon since 2010.


Source: Oregon Public Broadcasting


Break Free From Fossil Fuels

Push back against the power of the oil companies!

March on BP Whiting on May 15!

“We are the People of the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi Region and we reflect the many colors of the People of the Earth. Our ancestors came from many lands and together with the indigenous First Nations we all live on this land, drink this water and breathe this air.

We are marching because we the people have a Right to clean water, air and land that is greater than any corporate need to make money!”

Resolution from the organizers here.

Documents from the action here.


No More Oil Train Secrets

Join ForestEthics in telling U.S. safety officials and railroad execs: No More Oil Train Secrets. For the sake of all those who live by the tracks — and first of all, the kids — it’s time to release critical documents that the rail companies are hiding from the public.

Sign the petition here:

5.7 Million K-12 age children attend U.S. schools in the oil train blast zone–the area that must be evacuated in case of a derailment or fire from an oil train.

Massive growth of oil train traffic–over 5,000% since 2008 in the U.S.–means more derailments, oil spills into waterways, and massive explosions. 2015 alone has seen five explosive derailments in the U.S. and Canada. We now know that oil trains threaten 5,728,044 million children in 15,848 schools every day in the U.S. Our children deserve better.

But we don’t even know the details on the dangers of these trains–and neither do our first responders or our elected leaders. We don’t know because oil train companies like BNSF, Union Pacific, CSX, Norfolk Southern, Canadian Pacific and Canadian National are keeping four critical types of information hidden:

1. The routing choices they make through cities, towns and sensitive areas;
2. The worst case scenario models they create for your town;
3. The insurance amount they have to cover themselves; and
4. Their emergency response plans when the unthinkable happens.


Big cities scramble to be prepared for an oil train disaster

(WHY NOT GET READY FOR A PREDICTABLE CATASTROPHE?) While railroads long have carried hazardous materials through congested urban areas, cities are now scrambling to formulate emergency plans and to train firefighters amid the latest safety threat: a 50-fold increase in crude shipments that critics say has put millions of people living or working near the tracks at heightened risk of derailment, fire and explosion.

After a series of fiery crashes, The Associated Press conducted a survey of nearly a dozen big cities that, collectively, see thousands of tank cars each week, revealing a patchwork of preparedness. Some have plans specifically for oil trains; others do not. Some fire departments have trained for an oil train disaster; others say they’re planning on it. Some cities are sitting on huge quantities of fire-suppressing foam, others report much smaller stockpiles.

The AP surveyed emergency management departments in Chicago; Philadelphia; Seattle; Cleveland; Minneapolis; Milwaukee; Pittsburgh; New Orleans; Sacramento, California; Newark, New Jersey; and Buffalo, New York. The responses show emergency planning remains a work in progress even as crude has become one of the nation’s most common hazardous materials transported by rail. (…)

With several trains rumbling past his Chicago home each day, Tony Phillips is keenly aware of the threat.

“If it happened here, we would be toast,” said the 77-year-old painter, who lives with his wife in a converted 19th-century factory in the Pilsen neighborhood that shudders when one of the mile-long trains rattles past.

Phillips knows the chances of a crash right outside his bedroom window are remote. Nevertheless, when he hears the trains go by, “it gives me a little shiver,” he said. “It’s like a ghost coming along with this tremendous potential for destruction.” (…)

Cities have responded with varying levels of urgency. Milwaukee, for example, provided basic training in crude-by-rail shipments and accidents to more than 800 firefighters, sent its hazmat team to Colorado for advanced training on oil-train accident response and meets regularly with railroad officials. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, says it has not yet conducted training exercises or met with railroad officials but will do so once its oil-train emergency plan is complete.

On the federal level, new rules aim to reduce the chances of a catastrophic derailment by lowering speed limits in cities, ordering railroads to install electronic braking systems and requiring a phase-in of stronger tank cars beginning in 2018.

The oil industry has challenged some rules in court while critics say the standards don’t go far enough, lamenting that tens of thousands of older, rupture-prone tank cars will remain on the tracks for years to come.

Some residents and activists also complain about a lack of transparency from the railroads, which have fought to keep details about oil-train routing and frequency from the public, citing competitive and security concerns. The federal government agreed in May to end its requirement that railroads notify states about large shipments of crude, but quickly reversed course amid a public backlash.

(read more) from AP / Northwest Indiana Times

Safety deadline may exempt U.S. railroads from freight obligations

(STRIKE THREATS FROM THE BOSSES?) U.S. railroads may not be obligated under federal law to carry freight including crude oil and hazardous materials from Jan. 1 if they fail to meet a year-end deadline for implementing new train safety technology, according to a top federal regulator.

In a Sept. 3 letter to the Senate Commerce Committee, U.S. Surface Transportation Board Chairman Daniel Elliott says the common carrier obligation requiring freight railroads to honor reasonable requests for service from shippers “is not absolute, and railroads can suspend service for various reasons, including safety.”

The letter, reviewed by Reuters, presents the most tangible sign yet of what could lie ahead for rail carriers and their customers, if Congress fails to extend its Dec. 31 deadline for railroads to implement positive train control, or PTC.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which has been calling on railroads to adopt PTC since the late 1960s, says the technology would prevent major rail accidents such as the May 12 Amtrak derailment that killed eight people and injured more than 200 others.

The approaching deadline has prompted at least one major railroad company to look seriously at suspending service: billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s BNSF Railway Co (BRKa.N), the No. 2 freight railroad operator and the leading carrier in the $2.8 billion U.S. crude-by-rail market.

“BNSF confirmed that it will not meet the deadline and offered the possibility that neither passenger nor freight traffic would operate on BNSF lines,” Elliott said in the letter, which was addressed to the committee’s Republican chairman, Senator John Thune of South Dakota.

In a July 24 letter provided to Reuters by BNSF, railroad president and chief executive Carl Ice informed Elliott that BNSF is analyzing the possibility of a service shutdown and actively consulting with customers.

CSX Corp (CSX.N), the No. 3 U.S. freight handler, also told the board that it would not meet the PTC deadline but did not discuss possible decisions on whether to continue service, Elliott said. (…)

(Read more) from Reuters

August 27: Flood the System Info-Session

In Chicago, we are working to bring together groups and individuals committed to the flood the system principals: 1) commitment to anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-patriarchal and anti-colonial organizing, 2) prioritizing the leadership of grassroots, frontline communities, 3) valuing community-based alternatives to extreme energy as the true solutions and 4) committing to internal accountability in our organizing around anti-oppressive practices.

These groups and individuals would share information about their work and look for opportunities to engage in intersectional organizing and action.

Our hope is that the relationships built this fall will help us work together in the future to build safe communities that work for us.

When: Thursday August 27th, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Powell’s Bookstore Community Room (1218 S. Halsted St. Chicago, IL)

For more information visit,

Flood the System Details:

Fall 2015 – Flood, blockade, occupy and shut down the systems that jeopardize our future!

Starting this September, Rising Tide North America is calling for mass actions to shut down the economic and political systems threatening our survival.

Already, hundreds of thousands are streaming into the streets to fight back against climate chaos, capitalism and white supremacy.

This wave of resistance couldn’t be more urgent. To stop climate chaos we need a phenomenal escalation in organizing, participation and tactical courage. We need a profound social transformation to uproot the institutions of capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, and white supremacy, the systems that created the climate crisis. And we need to link arms with allies fighting for migrant justice, dignified work and pay, and an end to the criminalization and brutal policing of black and brown bodies.

We need to #FloodTheSystem.

In the lead up to the United Nations climate talks in Paris, in December, we will escalate local and regional resistance against systems that threaten our collective survival. Together, we will open alternative paths to the failing negotiations of political elites.

To do this, we are calling for individuals and groups to plan their own direct actions, attend trainings and convene Action Councils to stream smaller efforts into a massive flood of resistance.

ChiOilByRail: Rally to Stop the Bomb Trains

Friday, August 28, 6:30PM-8PM
United Baptist Church, 4242 West Roosevelt Road, Chicago 60624
facebook event page

Congressman Danny Davis has the power to STOP bomb trains from skimming past our homes. He says he’s against bomb trains and may be with us on banning fracking on public lands. However, “maybe” is not the strong response we need. Until he says “yes” to co-sponsoring the Protect Our Public Lands Act, bomb trains will have free reign. We must CONTINUE to show that we are concerned about residents in his district being in danger.

JOIN US to bring Mr. Davis the message #BanFrackingNow to stop bomb trains in our neighborhoods! It’s predictable that less affluent communities and people of color are disproportionately exposed to risk and pollution in Chicago. It’s time to hold our representatives accountable!  Let’s work TOGETHER toward climate and racial justice.

For more information see the facebook page of the ChiOilByRail coalition

July 29-Aug3: Rooting Resistance, MICATS Action Camp


Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 9.22.20 AMInjustice and environmental exploitation is occurring on a massive, global scale, and in so many different ways. Frontline communities are facing rights violations, health problems, increased cancer rates, and death. While being systematically removed from the political dialogue. We wish we could just file a complaint or march in the streets. But the companies destroying the planet will not stop. So neither will we.

MI CATS has been organizing action and campaigns against Enbridge and tar sands since 2013. Together, we work towards uniting people towards the common goal of stopping all transportation and refining of tar sands oil in the Great Lakes Basin and surrounding bioregions.

Join us in creating a safe(r) space this summer to collectively learn about resistance and community building. Learn more about campaigns going on around you, and connect with other like-minded folks so that our collective efforts are greater than each of us acting alone.

We’ll be teaching and learning lots of cool things from each other. We’ll explore issues like environmental exploitation in the form of tar sands, fracking, strip mining, refinery pollution, and climate change overall. We’ll also discuss other overlapping issues that affect us all like patriarchy, racism, capitalism, imperialism, police brutality, etc. And we’ll learn various forms of expression and resistance, like direct action, paper wrenching, community organizing, art in activism, media, protesters’ rights, etc.

In addition to these general topics, we’ll explore a few specific issues in more depth.

Enbridge is gushing crude oil through the 62-year-old “Line 5″ pipelines running directly under the Straits of Mackinac. In response to mounting public pressure against these pipelines, instead of assuring the public that Enbridge is concerned about public safety, Enbridge has pushed for legislation to prevent the public from finding out about the safety–or lack thereof of–its pipelines in the form of the “Pipeline Secrecy Bill”, HB4540.

Enbridge is held afloat by many investors, among them, some well-known banks like Bank of America and Chase. So we think we’ll do some protesting in an effort to push for divestment from Enbridge.

We recognize the intersectionality of our collective struggle. If you feel passionate about other issues, get in touch with us asap so we can talk about incorporating them into the action camp in the form of skillshares, workshops, teach-ins, or other activities.

This summer, we also want to be more intentional about being more family-friendly and inclusive to kids! We’ll have kids’ programming and activities tailored to those who sign up… things like skits, arts and crafts, and kid-friendly workshops!

Sign up here! We’ll contact you privately with the location, but we can say it will be in southeast Michigan. We’re camping out! So bring your sleeping bag, tent, toothpaste, and bug spray. We’ll be taking care of food. If you have any special needs, let us know. We’ll have vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and omnivore options available.

If you’d like to come but are intimidated by camping, get in touch with us! Accommodations of various sorts are possible.

We’re excited to help build a community of resistance with you this summer! We hope to see you there!

For more information:
This Website:
Facebook event:
Registration form:
Contact email:

BNSF President Greeted by Bomb Train Protestors in Chicago

(PUTTING THE BRAKES ON RUNAWAY PROFIT?) Today at the annual North American Rail Shippers Association, Carl Ice, president of rail company Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) had his keynote address interrupted by members of Rising Tide Chicago. The activists carried banners reading, “BNSF: Profits over Safety” and “BNSF: Bomb Trains Kill.”

BNSF moves significantly more oil by rail than any other rail company and much of that oil passes through the Chicago area.

In March, a BNSF oil train derailed and caught fire in Galena, Illinois. In May, another BNSF oil train derailed and caught fire in North Dakota.

“BNSF makes billions of dollars putting our communities and climate at risk,” said protester Kevin Oliver. “So we took this action to take a stand against the obscene wealth that is being generated at the expense of our safety.”

Oliver was correct about BNSF making billions of dollars for its parent company Berkshire Hathaway, run by famed investor Warren Buffett. Berkshire Hathaway purchased BNSF in 2009 and it has turned out to be an amazing investment, if you don’t mind the occasionally exploding oil train.

The success of the investment was summed up best by Jeff Mathews who has written books about Berkshire Hathaway.

“He [Buffett] stole it,” Matthews told Bloomberg. “He’s got to feel really good that he bought it when he did, because it’s a wonderful asset, and it’s done nothing but get more valuable in the time that he’s owned it.”

And that increase in value is directly related to the huge increase in moving Bakken crude oil in BNSF unit trains in the past several years. Trains that do not have modern braking systems, which is one of the issues raised by Rising Tide Chicago. And BNSF is certainly in no hurry to part with any of their profits to install modern braking systems.

As reported on DeSmog, BNSF and the rail and oil industries have lobbied extensively against requirements that the industry upgrade the oil trains to use a modern electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking system.

And while the new regulations released earlier this month will require some oil trains to use ECP brakes by 2021 and all of them by 2023, the American Petroleum Institute has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Transportation challenging this requirement, which is likely to delay even that long timetable.

The length of time the oil and rail industries have been allowed by the new regulations to implement safer technologies even surprised the former chair of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Cynthia Quarterman. PHMSA is the agency responsible for the new regulations and Quarterman led that agency for most of the time the regulations were being developed.

“That was the biggest surprise, by far,” Quarterman said in an interview with Argus after the regulations were released. “The push-back for five years for most things, I thought it was a substantial push-back in terms of dates.”

Extending the timeline for the regulations has been a top priority of the oil and rail lobbyists and their partners in congress in their efforts to weaken the new regulations and protect profits.

Prior to release of the new regulations Quarterman told USAToday that she thought ECP brakes were a top priority when it came to improving oil-by-rail safety.

“The more I think about it, the more I think that the ECP brakes may be more important than the tank car itself,” Quarterman said. “Because it would stop the pileup of the cars when there’s a derailment or when there’s a need to brake in a very quick fashion.”

(read more) from DeSmog Blog