Leila Tienhaara, 7, holds a sign to protest exporting coal, oil and gas in the Pacific Northwest on the I-5 interstate bridge. Photo by Motoya Nakamura/The Oregonian
Laura Gunderson of the Oregonian newspaper reported that each Wednesday for four years, Jeanne Poirer stood on a corner with a friend in her small hometown of Cashmere, Wash., protesting fossil fuel exports along the Columbia River.
She didn't feel so alone on Saturday, however, as she joined hundreds -- by land and river -- peacefully practicing a blockade of the Interstate-5 bridge and the Columbia River below should exporting begin of coal and other fossil fuels via the river to the rest of the world.
"This just feels like such community," said Poirer, 59, surrounded by between 400 and 500 protestors on the bridge while 150 boats, mostly kayaks floated in the river. "I'll be back for the real thing."
The daylong event was organized by the Portland arm of the international nonprofit Rising Tide, which aims to raise awareness about the climate and risks to it. Supporters from across the Portland metro area were out, along with folks from Eugene, Seattle, Bellingham and Vancouver, B.C.Along with discussing the increased push by several out-of-state companies to export coal along the Columbia River, speakers pointed to the Port of Vancouver commissioners' unanimous approval last week of a lease for the Northwest's largest crude oil terminal. While commissioners said safety issues will be addressed before operations begin, the vote clears the way for Tesoro and Savage Services to begin plans for a terminal capable of shipping up to 360,000 barrels a day. That's nearly half of what runs through the Midwest along the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
"These proposals are dead ends," said Paul Sansone, 61, of the Columbia Clean Energy Coalition, speaking to the crowd before boats hit the water around 1:30 p.m. "I have sat across the table from these 'carbon baggers' and heard them say that we're in the way. This is a funnel," he said pointing up river toward the gorge and rattling off the many ports along the way.
"We're the last stronghold."