FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tribal Members & Activists block Tar Sands megaload shipment in Umatilla, OR
Umatilla, OR – Sunday: Two arrested as Tribal Members and Climate Justice Activists blocked a megaload bound for the Alberta Tar Sands. The action Sunday night prevented the megaload from leaving the Port of Umatilla. Organizers from Portland Rising Tide urge supporters to join a planned protest Monday night to continue blocking the equipment passage.
The equipment, a 901,000 lb. water purifier 22 feet wide, 18 feet tall and 376 feet in length. It had planned to leave the Port of Umatilla, head south on 395, then east on 26 on Sunday night. This route would pass through Umatilla Warm Springs Tribal Lands, and Tribal Members and Elders had a strong presence at the demonstration.
This week’s protest was larger than a similar protest last week as news of the shipment has spread throughout the region. An estimated 70 people greeted the megaload with signs and lockdown devices. Before it could depart, two participants locked themselves to the trucks. This was the first time this type of shipment have been blockaded in this way. This is the first of three megaloads the Hillsboro, OR based shipping company Omega Morgan has scheduled to move through the region in December and January. Similar loads sparked major protests moving through Idaho and Montana including a blockade by the Nez Pierce tribe in August.
Groups organizing the protest, including chapters of Rising Tide and 350.org, oppose the shipments due to the end use of the equipment in the expansion of the Alberta tar sands. This expansion would supply oil for the controversial Keystone XL and other pipelines. Many have called the tar sands most destructive industrial project on earth. Umatilla Tribal Member Shana Radford said, “We have responsibility for what happens on our lands, but there are no boundaries for air, the carbon dioxide this equipment would create affects us all. The Nez Pierce tribe said no to megaloads, and so should we.”
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) oppose the shipments due to the lack of consultation about the project headed through their ceded territory as required by law.
Warm Springs tribal member Kayla Godowa said, “It’s our duty to protect the native salmon runs in this area. They want to make this a permanent heavy haul route without even consulting our tribes. Loads like this are unprecedented here. What if a bridge collapses? And what about the impact to native communities being destroyed by the tar sands where this equipment will end up? We can’t just look the other way while native lands and the climate are being destroyed. We have to stand up.”
Photo by Portland Rising Tide