At about 11:30 pm on Sunday night, May 20, a dozen activists from Occupy Spokane and Wild Idaho Rising Tide converged in Spokane, Washington, to protest megaloads of oversized equipment bound for Alberta tar sands operations from the Port of Pasco. ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil has been using Highway 395, Interstate 90, and city streets in Spokane and Spokane Valley since mid-October to transport road damaging shipments weighing up to 400,000 pounds and stretching over 200 feet long. Diverted in Idaho from
their originally intended Highway 12 route by court challenges and from their alternative Highway 95 path by Moscow area protests, these pieces of a tar sands/bitumen processing plant will expand Canadian carbon fuel extraction, American dependence on oil, and continental greenhouse gas emissions, while reaping hefty profits for one of the wealthiest corporations on Earth.
From the pedestrian walkway over East Third Avenue near South Regal Street, Spokane climate justice activists draped banners asserting “No Dirty Energy,” “Occupy 99%,” “Climate Killers,” “Highway to Hell,” and other statements. While waiting for the megaload convoys’ arrival, they observed flaggers and warning signs posted along Third Avenue, support vehicles cruising the area, and up to six Spokane city police cars parked near the demonstrators. Between midnight and 1:00 am on Monday, four megaloads traversed Third Avenue, narrowly fitting under the pedestrian overpass and between parked cars and activists with protest signs lining both sides of the street. Convoys consisting of Washington state trooper escorts, flagger vehicles, and pilot trucks displaying illuminated “oversized load” signs accompanied a silver, cylindrical module, two large, blue, trailer-like boxes, and a frame structure full of pipes and parts. A protester later saw another megaload among a cluster of vehicles similarly leaving the interstate at the Altamont Street exit in Spokane and the Barker Road off-ramp in Spokane Valley.
Recognizing the international impacts of these transports, citizens throughout the Northwest will continue to coordinate and organize demonstrations to oppose and impede tar sands megaload traffic, to prevent increasing carbon emissions causing global climate change and to dissuade investors in such dirty energy schemes. The mostly foreign-owned corporations who have mined only two or three percent of the Alberta tar sands are advancing the second fastest rate of deforestation in the world, as they consume more energy, mostly derived from natural gas, than tar sands fuels ultimately yield. Their largest industrial project on Earth pollutes exorbitant volumes of fresh water and deposits heavy metals, carcinogens, and oil across vast swaths of Canadian boreal forests and wetlands. Resident First Nations villages practicing subsistence lifestyles suffer rare cancers and disproportionate deaths, as the single greatest contributor of atmospheric carbon in North America bodes “game over” for the Earth’s climate.
People interested in upcoming expressions of First Amendment rights through anti-megaload assemblies in the Spokane area can contact Occupy Spokane and/or Wild Idaho Rising Tide for more information about the time and location of protests.