Blocking coal trains in White Rock, BC

On May 5th, NASA climatologist James Hansen and others say they will be blocking BNSF coal trains from passing through White Rock, British Columbia. They say that they will be blocking coal trains only, allowing other freight and passenger trains to pass.

Hansen has posted a letter (PDF) about this on his website, addressed to Warren Buffett, the owner of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad.

University of Victoria climatologist Andrew Weaver is also participating.

15 thoughts on “Blocking coal trains in White Rock, BC

  1. .

    We invite you to join us any time after dawn
    on May 5th at the White Rock Pier.

    We will be there all day unless we are stopped. Bring a book, bring a board game, bring food and water. Prepare for the weather. Meet fellow citizens who share your concerns. Tell stories and make music. Enjoy the view of the ocean. Help us send a strong message about the need for action on climate change and our collective ability to make a difference. It is going to be quite a day.

  2. .

    Economist Mark Jaccard nervous about direct action to stop coal trains

    Long-time SFU professor and environmental economist Mark Jaccard claims he’s “not feeling all that great” about the act of civil disobedience he says he’s been forced to partake in this weekend for the sake of future generations.

    In a statement released today (May 3), Jaccard explained why he will go to White Rock with other protesters at dawn on Saturday (May 5), to block Burlington Northern Santa Fe coal trains from reaching Vancouver’s ports.

    “I’ve worked hard in university to do a masters and a PhD in computer modelling of sustainable-energy policy,” Jaccard told the Straight by phone today. “I’m still an advisor right now to the California Energy Commission, because California is moving ahead. And I do work with people at Stanford University, who work in collaboration with departments of the U.S. government. But basically, North American politicians have backed away on this [climate change], and I just think that this is inexcusable.”

    So after more than a quarter century at SFU, Jaccard is now turning to civil disobedience.

    “All I will say is, I have no idea what will happen on Saturday,” Jaccard said. “But I think everybody should be doing this.”

  3. .

    B.C. activists plan coal train blockade Saturday

    Police are keeping mum about action they may take Saturday against a group planning to impede rail service at the Canadian-U.S. border.

    The group, British Columbians for Climate Action, intends to stop all loaded coal trains travelling to B.C. ports and all outgoing coal trains at the White Rock pier for 24 hours.

    RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen said they have “an operational plan in place to deal with what may occur as a result of this potential blockade,” but declined to give details.

    “At this point it’s not clear the demonstrators may be doing, “ he said. “Our role there is to keep the peace, ensure public safety … if they are blockading the railway, we’ll make the determination then.”

    But group spokesperson Bruce Mohun said they’ve communicated with the RCMP that they will blocking the route should coal trains come. The railway, part of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, which holds its annual general meeting tomorrow.

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  5. .

    White Rock coal train ‘blockade’ peaceful so far Saturday

    A daylong protest against coal exports at the White Rock pier resulted in the arranged arrests of 13 protesters.

    Approximately 50 members of British Columbians for Climate Action and rallied next to the railway all day, threatening to block the route if any coal trains came through.

    Prior to his arrest on Saturday, group spokesman Kevin Westbrook said Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway lawyers claimed six coal trains were scheduled to cross the border Saturday.

    Only one coal train from Wyoming crossed and was stopped by police to facilitate the welcomed arrests.

    “We’ve had an incredibly cordial relationship with the police today and we’ve negotiated a good outcome to this,” said Westbrook. “[RCMP] are going to stop the train there and we’re gonna go on the tracks and they are going to arrest us.”

    Sgt. Peter Thiessen described the group as co-operative, but said demonstrators had been told impeding the train will be in contravention of a court order.

  6. .

    How many climate scientists have we heard couching their message in calm, measured tones, so as to appear credible? How many environmentalists have we heard talking only about light bulbs, so as to appear reasonable?

    This is why it’s such a big deal that Marc Jaccard will be standing in front of the coal trains too. He’s a Simon Fraser University professor used to walking in the hallways of power, consulting to governments and industry alike.

    In his words, he feels “absolutely sick” about taking this kind of action, but says, “I am in a world now where there isn’t any place for sane analysis.” Note the use of words relating to sickness and sanity: a microcosm for the psychology of our society as a whole.

    It is these kinds of actions that begin to break down our ecosystem of denial and instead create a “culture of responsibility” where we are shown the seriousness of our shared predicament through the seemingly dramatic actions of people around us, including those like Jaccard.

  7. .

    White Rock protestors arrested after blocking a coal shipment

    VANCOUVER SUN MAY 6, 2012 10:01 AM

    About a dozen people were arrested Saturday after protesters in White Rock tried to block a coal shipment arriving by rail for export from B.C. ports.

    The arrests were peaceful and all were released after being served with $115 tickets for trespassing on railway property, the RCMP said in a release.

    “The arrests went as well as could be expected,” RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen told Global BC. “They were cooperative.”

    The protesters, from British Columbians for Climate Action, began gathering on Marine Drive near the White Rock pier Saturday morning, with numbers fluctuating between 25 and 40 people, the release says. At about 6 p.m. some walked onto the rail line just east of the pier and erected a banner that said “Stop Coal – Keep It In the Ground.” The Burlington North Santa Fe stopped short of the protest.

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  9. .

    More than $7.1-billion worth of B.C. coal was exported in 2011, according to Statistics Canada. There are 10 coal mines in B.C., which employ more than 4,000 workers, and exploration and permitting is now being done in more than 10 prospective coal mines. Westshore Terminals in Delta has been the busiest coal port in North America over the past 10 years.

    Read more:

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  11. .

    HE MAN accompanying me smiled.

    “Good for you, sir.”

    “Thanks. I appreciate your saying that.”

    “They’re trying to build a coal mine near my parents’ place on Vancouver Island. We’ve got to stop this.”

    “Yes, we do.”

    “Now, watch your head, sir.”

    With his final comment, the young policeman gently guided me into the paddy wagon—a difficult manoeuvre with my hands cuffed behind me. The seven other occupants ranged in age from forty to seventy, but I could only name one. I wondered what had brought each of them to the glistening seaside town of White Rock, British Columbia, to block a train carrying coal headed for Asia via Vancouver’s increasingly busy and expanding port. And I wondered if their stories were as unlikely as mine.

    Two years ago, I could not have pictured myself engaging in such a desperate attempt to stop the country’s growing production and trade of coal, oil, and natural gas. As an academic, I have spent most of my career helping governments here and abroad design policies to reduce carbon pollution, just as I am now a consultant to the California Energy Commission as the state government implements an aggressive climate policy.

    Six years ago, I had hoped to do the same for Stephen Harper’s newly elected government. In October 2006, the then minister of environment, Rona Ambrose, hired me to give policy advice, and a month later the government appointed me to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. The advisory body was helping to produce the blueprint for Harper’s promise to reduce Canadian greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent by 2050.

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