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Environmental groups host rally against oil terminal project

The Columbian
Published: January 5, 2016, 10:14pm

Inside the hospitality room set up by oil terminal advocates, a small crowd quietly dined on antipasto skewers and tiny ciabatta bun sandwiches. In an outbuilding across the walkway, throngs of people munched on Oreos and cheered when a man on stage held high a big dead fish.

“This fish right here swam down the Clackamas River out the Willamette River possibly out to Japan. … We caught it today in the Clackamas River and it is something to behold,” Northwest Steelhead Association executive director Bob Rees said, pointing to the steelhead in his colleague’s hands.

Rees was one of several speakers from a number of environmentally focused groups at a dinner-hour demonstration during the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council hearing on the proposed Port of Vancouver oil transfer terminal.

During the hearing, held at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds, administrative law judge for EFSEC, Cassandra Noble, had to repeatedly remind both supporters and opponents not to wave signs, their fingers or cheer after speakers finished. But demonstrators carried their pent-up energy and released it at the rally next door, which was put together by the environmental coalition Stand Up to Oil.

A rock band played as people came in. Groups of individuals milled about in the chilly building; most wore the color red as a sign of solidarity against the terminal. Large yellow flags depicted black tanker cars with the words “too risky” painted over them in red letters. The environmental organizations signed people up for mailing lists and preached the potentially disastrous consequences of the terminal.

“Who’s been arrested? Raise your hands,” Cathy Sampson Krusie, an elder with the Wallulapum Band of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, asked. After the crowd’s cheering response, she asked: “Who’s willing to be arrested?”

The crowd cheered again.

Vancouver resident Randy Kessel came to the hearing and attended the demonstration to learn more.

“I have mixed feelings. We need more jobs, but I’m aware of what’s going on in the world,” he said, referencing climate change. “I haven’t made up my mind yet.”

Carlos Smith, a tribal councilor from the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon and a member of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, told the sympathetic crowd that, if approved, the oil terminal could directly affect his people’s heritage.

“Our tribe has been fighting for our way of life since before the state of Oregon and the U.S. government,” he said. “To see something like this oil terminal threaten recovering salmon populations … would be a shame.”