Wednesday, March 22, 2023
March 22, 2023

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Trans Mountain protesters block train tracks at Port of Vancouver

By , Columbian business reporter, and
, Columbian Innovation Editor

Activists with the environmental group Portland Rising Tide staged a protest Thursday at the Port of Vancouver, blocking train tracks to disrupt the transport of pipe segments bound for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project in Canada.

The group began posting photos on social media at about 10:30 a.m., showing people standing on a rail crossing at Terminal 5 near the port’s western truck entrance. They held signs with messages calling for climate justice and accusing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Gov. Jay Inslee of allowing the project despite their stances on climate change.

“Inslee and Trudeau have billed themselves as climate-change advocates,” protester Jesse Hannon said. “We are doing their work for them.”

The Trans Mountain Pipeline carries crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to the British Columbia coast for export. The expansion project would add a second parallel line that would nearly triple the system’s capacity.

The piping is being imported by ship and loaded onto train cars at the port to be taken to Alberta. The activists said their goal was to disrupt that process by blocking the port’s internal rail loop.

In a press release, the activist group argued that the increased oil exports would threaten orca whales in the Salish Sea and violate the rights of the area’s indigenous people. The expansion would also increase the risk of an oil spill and further accelerate the pace of global climate change, the group said.

“We are aware of the protests and have our security monitoring the situation, along with Vancouver (Police Department). Safety and security are our top priorities,” Port spokeswoman Heather Stebbings said in an email partway through the protest. “One of our primary responsibilities as a port is to move cargo for our customers and tenants. The port handles a range of commodities from wind turbines and steel slabs to autos and grains.”

Thursday’s protest was the second at the Port of Vancouver in recent weeks. In early September, about 30 kayakers from the Pacific Northwest activist group Mosquito Fleet paddled from Kelley Point Park in Portland to the port to protest a cargo ship that was carrying piping for the expansion project.

The Portland Rising Tide press release said Mosquito Fleet helped organize the Thursday protest, although the protesters appeared to be exclusively on land this time.

About 17 people participated in Thursday’s protest, according to Rising Tide organizer Kelsey Baker. She said police officers arrived afterward but did not arrest anyone.

“This will be the dirtiest fossil fuel project in the world,” Baker said. “It would basically be game over with the climate.”

Baker said the protesters are also in solidarity with Canada’s indigenous groups whose land is under threat from the project.

As part of the protest, Portland Rising Tide members constructed three poles and suspended protester Madeline Cowen from a chair dangling from the top. A sign that stated “Your hypocrisy is embarrassing! #Trudeau #govinslee #stoptmx” hung from the structure.

Protesters also handcuffed themselves to each leg of the structure to make law enforcement’s efforts to remove them more difficult.

The group spent about a month planning the protest, Hannon said, and members will continue to protest on future dates.

“This is not the last time they’re going to see us,” Hannon said.

At about 3 p.m., protesters negotiated with law enforcement and Port security to end the demonstration without any arrests, Baker said.

Columbian business reporter