March 18, 2013 • Portland, Oregon
Today’s Tar Sands Blockade solidarity action consisted of some 60 cyclists touring the offices and headquarters of Portland’s worst polluters. While often lauded by the likes of the New York Times as being a bastion of sustainability and forward thinking green politics, Portland houses some of the most ecologically destructive corporations on the planet.
The riders met at Holladay park adjacent to one of the busiest MAX stations in the city. Instructions were given on what the ride would look like, how to stay safe by corking intersections when necessary, and various other logistical details. Once all were comfortable, the music was kicked on and the armada of riders sailed out into the streets.
The first stop was the ESCO Corp factory. Located just blocks from several elementary schools in NW Portland, it remains the single largest source of air pollution in this part of the city. While the steel manufacturing company was recently honored for “100 years of innovation” with an exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society, the truth is that ESCO has invested heavily in manufacturing the drill bits and dragline buckets needed for ecologically devastating tar sands extraction, strip mining, and hydraulic fracking.
Upon approaching the massive factory compound, the smell of chemicals in the air was overwhelming. Machinery droned as smokestacks emitted curls of toxic gas into the sky. The swarm of riders came to stop in front of ESCO’s nearby world headquarters building. Climbing the steps of the entrance way, several speakers addressed the crowd as to the role this local company plays in accelerating the climate crisis. A letter of condemnation was delivered to an ESCO representative inside their lobby.
Next stop, oil giant Chevron, who has taken the lead in trying to ram petroleum and gas pipelines through sovereign Wet’suwet’en territory. The corporation has repeatedly sent their prospectors in to illegally trespass on tribal land. Today, bicycles filled their NW 21st avenue gas station, preventing any motorized vehicles from filling up on carbon-rich fuel for the duration of the brief teach-in.
The ride continued to the offices of the Portland Business Alliance (PBA), whose support of auto-centric infrastructure like the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) freeway mega-expansion and NAFTA-style export economies has harmed the localism initiatives that Portland is more known for. Ecologically responsible safety enhancement projects such as adding more bike lanes downtown have been stymied by the PBA’s 1950′s car-only rhetoric.
Speakers informed the cycling crowd of an upcoming private business luncheon for congressman Earl Blumenauer sponsored by tar sands oil extractors TransCanada and the Portland Business Alliance. Hearing this info, the crowd replied with boos of disapproval. The crowd was then instructed to call Mr. Blumenauer on the spot, and suddenly dozens of cell phones were being dialed, the crowd voicing it’s displeasure directly to the much beloved congressman from beneath the windows of the PBA’s office.
From here, the mass of riders moved on to the offices of Gard Communications, a public relations firm being paid to shill for Ambre Energy, the Australian corporation pushing to build our region’s first coal export terminal. Ambre suffered a major setback last week, as the Oregon Department of State Lands delayed reviewing their permit to begin dredging the site by an additional five months.
This will force Ambre into spending more money, and undermines their appearance as a lucrative partner to current and potential investors. Firm president Brian Gard in particular has done a dismal job of selling Ambre’s carbon polluting plans to the public.
Upon arriving at their offices, a small contingent of riders entered to return a bag of coal left at a prospected site to Brian personally. He emerged from his office to demand the cyclists leave. One rider even confronted Gard directly, saying, “You know you’re killing children, right?” To which Gard twitched, “That’s ridiculous!”
Brian Gard in person, demanding we not return his precious coal to him.
Next stop, David Evans and Associates. The planning firm has been contracted to receive over $100 million dollars for it’s work pushing the CRC freeway mega-expansion slated to cost taxpayers anywhere from $4 billion to $10 billion dollars. David Evans’ paid consultant Patricia McCaig has recently come under heavy fire for lobbying without a license, failure to pay taxes, several filed ethics complaints, and most notedly over the serious conflict of interest for her dual role as governor Kitzhaber’s advisor on the CRC.
Like Ambre energy, the CRC suffered an embarrassing blunder last week as their permit application to the US Coast Guard was returned to them for being so poorly crafted that it failed to meet the most basic qualifications for review. When a letter for Patricia McCaig was delivered to the David Evans and Associates lobby receptionist, they pretended to have never heard of their most famous unlicensed lobbyist.
David Evans staff playing dumb.
The final stop for the tour was the Umqua bank building, home to a satellite office of Alberta tar sands oil extracting, KXL pipeline builders TransCanada. The riders dismounted and proceeded to occupy a small plaza on the bank’s private property.
Speakers who had engaged in direct action in the Texas KXL blockade spoke about what it was like to occupy the insides of tar sands oil pipes that were buried underground shortly after their arrest. The crowd present was then instructed to call TransCanada’s line to the office phone located several stories above. Shockingly, nobody answered.
The action complete, the mass swarm of cyclists crossed the Willamette river and made their way to Base Camp Brewing Company for some much deserved local pints. In all, this was a highly successful action – it is clear that these companies are not comfortable being badgered in such a manner. If corporate polluters in our city think they can rape the planet while hiding behind the stale Brand Portland ‘green’ reputation, they are dead wrong.
The Columbia River Crossing, toxic coal exports, and the Keystone XL pipeline will each be stopped by any and all means necessary. The only question is how.
See you in the streets.
All photographs copyright Hart Noecker, and may be used with credit.