City Council Vote

ffp-hearing-30November 4th – Portland City Council voted 4-0* in favor of the “Oil Train” resolution to prohibit any additional oil trains to travel through the city. The vote, taken after persuasive and extensive public testimony strongly in favor, supports the recent Vancouver City Council resolution passed in an effort to stop the Vancouver Energy/Tesoro proposal to build the largest oil terminal in North America along the Columbia River in Vancouver. A vote on the “Fossil Fuels” resolution to prohibit construction of new infrastructures whose primary purpose is the transportation of fossil fuels has been postponed until November 12, with the hearing beginning at 2 pm.

Red-clad supporters of both resolutions filled the hearing room and balcony beyond capacity. So many people attended the hearing that three overflow rooms were opened. Commissioner Fritz commented that the City Council hadn’t expected so many people on a Wednesday afternoon. They should have known better given the strong public response to both Pembina and Shell. Over 100 people signed up to testify, most in favor of both resolutions, and many more attended the hearing.

Commissioner Fritz, Mayor Hales and their staff introduced the two resolutions, speaking of the urgent need to support the Vancouver City Council and persuade Washington Governor Insley to oppose the proposed Vancouver terminal as well.   Representatives from Friends of the Gorge, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Intertribal Fisheries Commission and others spoke about safety concerns. Dan Sears of Columbia River Keepers noted that we are playing Russian roulette every time an oil train comes through the Columbia Gorge National Scenic area and we need to make sure that we add no more bullets.

ffp-hearing-33After Commissioners Novick and Fish offered amendments to both resolutions, public testimony was led off by eloquent testimony from students at two Portland schools. The Raging Grannies sang “Oh give us a home where the oil trains can’t roam….” and 350 PDX’s Mia Reback spoke of the need to stop the 28 new fossil fuel projects proposed in the Pacific Northwest region. Only by stopping support of fossil fuel infrastructures will we be able to turn our attention to developing jobs related to upgrading to a cleaner power grid. Mia then introduced 350 founder Bill McKibben, connecting by Skype from Washington, DC, where Senator Merkley has introduced a bill to prohibit fossil fuel extraction on public lands.

Several times Commissioner Fish expressed concern about how the fossil fuel resolution would interact with the state’s position urging that propane be used as a bridge fuel. A spokesman from Northwest Citizen Science noted that this is an opportunity for the city to guide the state in a better direction, saying, “Propane is not a clean fuel; it is not a safe fuel. If you go down that track, it will blow you up.” This is part of the battle yet to be fought, and we need to be there to fight it.

As one of the students said, “Humans are not the only ones affected by climate change, but we are the only ones who can do anything about it.”

*Commissioner Saltzman was absent.

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