Event: Southwest Washington—the Oil Industry’s Sacrifice Zone?

Eric de Place and Vancouver area experts discuss Big Oil's designs on the city.
This post is 59 in the series: The Northwest's Pipeline on Rails
Event Southwest WA as oil industry's sacrifice zone Apr 1 2015

Click image for event flyer.

This April 1st, Eric de Place will join Vancouver, Washington leaders for a forum discussion on the threat of oil trains to southwest Washington communities.

After an introduction by Vancouver City Councilor Bart Hansen, Eric will give an overview of the oil industry’s designs on the Vancouver area and then moderate a panel of local leaders, including Dan Serres, conservation director for Columbia Riverkeeper; Vancouver City Councilor Anne McEnerny-Ogle; Barry Cain of Gramor Development; Cager Clabaugh of ILWU 4; Eric LaBrant of Fruit Valley Neighborhood Association; and a representative from Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The event is free and open to the public, so we recommend that you arrive early in order to assure yourself a seat.

  • What: Presentation and panel discussion on oil trains in southwest Washington
  • Where: Kiggins Theater, 1011 Main St, Vancouver, WA (map)
  • When: Wednesday, April 1, 2015, 6 p.m., Doors open at 5:30
  • Tickets: Open to the public, free admission at door
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Photo Essay: A Family’s Vancouver Bicycle Cruise

The downtown's bikeways, greenways, and separated cycle lanes make for a family-friendly bike ride.
This post is 23 in the series: Family-Friendly Cities

When my husband Jason and I planned a trip to Vancouver, BC, we decided to bring our family’s bikes just in case. With our eight-year-old son Orion in tow, I wasn’t sure we’d have the chance to ride unless we sought out an off-street trail. To my surprise, we were able to ride—and not just on trails we had to drive or take a bus to, but through the heart of downtown Vancouver on a mixture of greenways and separated cycle lanes.

The last time we were able to ride in such an urban environment was when we lived in Copenhagen, Denmark. Then, Orion was nearly 2 years old. We bought a bike with a child seat in the rear and made our way through Copenhagen’s neighborhoods on a daily basis. The city’s network of traffic-calmed neighborhood roads, cycle tracks on main streets, and an off-street greenway network made bicycling with a small child comfortable and easy.

At that time, North American cities were taking a different approach. Bicycling advocates wanted to be treated as equal road users and argued that the safest place for them was to take their rightful place on the road in traffic. While I am all for equality, I definitely didn’t feel safe riding on roads in Seattle with or without my toddler. I kept to Seattle’s buses and sidewalks, not really seeing bicycling as an option for me or my young family.

Fast-forward to today, and Pacific Northwest cities are now embracing the “interested but concerned” bicycle demographic, residents like me who might ride but need better infrastructure. Prominent projects have shifted from sharrows to separated bicycle lanes, local bikeways, and neighborhood greenways. Transportation planners are developing street networks that serve people of “all ages and abilities,” where pedestrian and bicycle traffic is prioritized over cars. Read more »

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Weekend Reading 3/13/15

Worse than Pebble Mine, explaining sexual consent once and for all, and more.
This post is 194 in the series: Weekend Reading
Original illustration by Nina Montenegro of ghosttide.com.

Clark

This is a big deal: the pristine Chuitna River in Alaska—home to a robust run of all five species of salmon—is under threat from a proposed coal strip mine. For context: if you’ve heard of the now-doomed Pebble Mine, this project is its equal, or worse. Opponents of the coal mine have produced a gorgeous video (here’s the trailer) explaining what’s at stake. Says Al Goozmer, president of the Native Village of Tyonek, “We see this coal mine as the Godzilla of development in West Cook Inlet, and that it will destroy…who we are physically, spiritually, and culturally.” If you’re interested, here’s the Save the Chuitna website.

Anna

A woman explains sexual consent with an illustration that is so perfectly simple and clear that for those people—whoever they are—for whom this is still a gray area, this should be required reading. Read more »

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Northwest Democracy and Fossil Fuel Money

Listen to an in-depth conversation on oil money in politics.
This post is 15 in the series: What Democracy Looks Like
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Vote for Democracy by Chris Yakimov used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (Used with permission.)

For those interested in Sightline’s work on the influence of fossil fuel money in Northwest politics, you may enjoy listening to this 45-minute interview I did recently on KBOO, a community radio station in Portland. Host Barbara Bernstein and I explored some of the recent media reporting on the activities of billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, as well as Sightline’s research into Tesoro, key state electoral campaigns, and overall coal, oil, and gas spending in Washington. Read more »

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The Oil Spill That Could Happen Here, Part 1

What's in store for Northwest waters.
This post is 9 in the series: The Risk of Northwest Oil Spills

Spills are an unfortunate reality of moving oil on or near water. Try as we might to avoid them, the record shows that they happen in rivers, along coastlines, and in bays and harbors. They happen in remote areas and in the middle of cities. They happen in fog, in storms, and sometimes during fair weather. They happen around the world and they happen in Northwest waters. (Plus, near-misses and almost-spills happen with frightening regularity too.)

In the next few years, the Northwest will decide whether or not to green-light staggering increases in crude oil facilities. These plans would mean more tankers in the Salish Sea serving an expanded tar sands pipeline in British Columbia, along with oil train-to-vessel sites everywhere from the Columbia River to Grays Harbor to Puget Sound. If these projects go ahead, the best analytical assessment of regional spill risk demonstrates that more oil on the water is a near-certainty for region’s future.

Whether we will minimize that risk—by saying no to crude oil expansion—or multiply it—by agreeing to the industry’s plans—remains to be seen. To better understand that risk, it is helpful to examine oil spills in places similar to the Northwest. These are places with established spill response programs, experience with tanker ship traffic, and serious Coast Guards.

These are the stories of the the danger ahead. Read more »

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Coal, Oil, and Gas Spent $3 Million on Washington Politics in 2014

A look at the fossil fuel industry's methods of buying influence.

Washington state legislators have a lot on their plates. A state Supreme Court mandate to increase education funding dramatically hangs like an ominous black cloud over this year’s session. It’s a problem that is only compounded by dire transportation system maintenance needs—the state transportation commission calls for a mind-boggling $175 billion in transportation funding over the next 20 years.

Governor Inslee’s flagship bill, the Carbon Pollution Accountability Act, aims to address both budgeting issues. By capping emissions statewide and charging polluters for what they release, the law would generate just under a $1 billion the first year. (For a full breakdown of the bill check out Kristin Eberhard’s excellent piece.) The funds would then go directly to transportation and education funding, as well as low income tax relief.

For many, it’s a win-win. But polluting fossil fuel interests are anything but excited about the prospect of paying for the free lunch they’re getting now. They are accustomed to getting their way, and they spend millions each election cycle to specifically influence the state’s political process. In fact, tallying funds from major oil companies like BP and Chevron, from industry associations like the Western State Petroleum Association, and from would-be coal exporters like Pacific International Terminals, we calculate that during the last election cycle, fossil fuel interests injected more than $3 million of political spending into Washington.

It worked out to $3,055,929.28 to be exact. Here’s how it breaks down. Read more »

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portrait

Oregon Legislature Passes New Motor Voter Law

Oregon: treating citizens as if they have a right to vote.
This post is 14 in the series: What Democracy Looks Like

Oregon just passed a law that will cause the state to treat its citizens as if they have a right to vote! Wait, you say, don’t all American citizens already have the right to vote? Well, no. Unlike in Canada, the US Constitution implies, but does not enumerate, the right to vote. And while American courts fiercely protect the right to free speech, scrutinizing and striking down attempts to put any barriers or restrictions on that right, the same is not true of voting. States can and do throw barriers in the paths of citizens trying to vote. In 2011 and 2012, 19 states passed 27 laws placing restrictions on citizens trying to vote. Imagine if states mounted that kind of attack on free speech!

Two main chokepoints can make it easy or difficult for citizens to vote: 1) registering to vote, and 2) actually voting. More than a decade ago, Oregon tackled the second chokepoint: Oregon is one of only 3 states to mail ballots to every registered voter. Vote-by-mail means Oregonians don’t have to choose between voting and losing their jobs, and they don’t have to stand in line for 10 hours (for an iPhone? If that’s your thing. To exercise what should be a basic right? Please!) Now Oregon consistently has the highest or one of the highest voter turnout rates in the country—Oregon turned out almost 70 percent of registered voters in 2014, compared to just 36.4 percent across the United States.

Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

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The Comedy and Tragedy of the Port Mann Bridge

Yet another confident projection of endless traffic growth.
This post is 50 in the series: Dude, Where Are My Cars?

The comedians in the Port Mann Bridge forecasting department are at it again: despite a 29 percent decline in traffic volumes on the Port Mann bridge between 2005 and 2014, the province is still predicting an immediate, sustained increase in traffic across the span:

Port-mann traffic 375

That’s right—despite years and years of being wrong about the direction of future travel trends, they think they’ve finally spotted signs of a turnaround. You see, traffic volumes in December 2014 and January 2015 were a wee bit higher than they were in December 2013 and January 2014. And apparently that was enough for them to declare that..

“Traffic volumes on the Port Mann Bridge are stable and growing.”

and to make a forecast of…

“continual, long-term traffic growth on the Port Mann Bridge at a rate of about 2.5% per year.”

Read more »

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Weekend Reading 3/6/15

Climate change is the ultimate gentrifier, an answer to the hipster fixie, and more.
This post is 193 in the series: Weekend Reading

Kristin E.

Futurist Vivek Wadwha has good news: within two decades we will have almost unlimited energy, food, water, and healthcare. The bad news is: there won’t be any jobs, and there is no “jobs bill” that can fix that. What are we to do? He suggests shorter work weeks, which makes sense. But how do you get shorter work weeks for everyone? Walmart won’t pay a living wage to full-time workers, why would they start paying a living wage to people working only 20 hours a week when robots are doing all the dirty work anyway? I agree with futurist Zoltan Istvan that we need a Universal Basic Income so that people can work as much as they want on the things that are important to them without needing an anachronistic make-work job. Or as Vox puts it: have the federal government just give the money to people, instead of giving it to financial institutions in exchange for bonds and hoping that will evenually help people.

Wadwha’s Singularity University buddy, Peter Diamandis, is also thinking about an exponential future, but in a recent Medium article he unfortunately got caught up in some ideology about government slowing progress, so I wrote this response.

Kristin M.

This article does a pretty good job of laying out the story about the potential for renewable energy to stop coal trains by removing the demand for coal.  And it also illustrates the potentially virtuous circle of people-planet-(and yes)profit, i.e., sustainability. Read more »

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Wyoming Legislature Embraces Socialism for Coal

Lawmakers from the Cowboy State say "yee-haw" to corporate welfare.
This post is 31 in the series: Coal Exports: Caveat Investor

You can’t make this stuff up. The Wyoming state legislature—ostensibly one of the most conservative deliberative bodies in North America—has embraced full-on socialism for the coal industry. From The Branding Iron, the student paper at the University of Wyoming:

A budget amendment making its way through the Wyoming legislature could grant the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority (WIA) the power to pursue projects like coal ports in other states…The bill also provides $1 billion in bonds to the WIA for the express purpose of pursuing infrastructure projects, like coal ports.

So the allegedly die-hard conservatives in the Wyoming legislature want to commit a billion dollars in bonding authority, backed up by financial resources of the state government, specifically to build coal export facilities that the private sector itself won’t fund. And even though they residents of Wyoming would ultimately bear the risk from a failed infrastructure project, they even want to the bond money out of state, to build projects in Oregon or Washington.

If that isn’t a prime example of what conservatives profess to hate, I don’t know what is.

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