The Associated Press
Update at 2:42 p.m.: Five people have been arrested after demonstrators blocked railroad tracks at a Burlington Northern Santa Fe yard in Everett.
Railroad spokesman Gus Melonas says two women and three men were taken to the Snohomish County Jail after refusing to leave a protest of train shipments of oil and coal and proposed export terminals in the Northwest.
Melonas expects they will be charged with trespassing.
The protest, which involved about a dozen demonstrators, blocked some railroad tracks from 6 a.m. until about 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Melonas says three trains were delayed and others were diverted around the blocked tracks. No railroad property was damaged.
The group Rising Tide Seattle erected a tripod of poles over the tracks with a woman perched on top. Melonas says railroad police used a motorized lift, also known as a cherry picker, to bring her down.
Update at 1:50 p.m.: Burlington Northern Santa Fe police have moved in to clear oil train protesters clogging tracks at a rail yard in Everett.
Spokesman Gus Melonas says eight demonstrators left during the noon hour Tuesday at the request of police. Officers are in the process of arresting five others who refused to move.
One is sitting on a 20-foot tripod over the tracks and four are tied to the tripod legs with wire cables.
Melonas says the five will be taken to the Snohomish County Jail to face trespassing charges.
Original post: EVERETT — About a dozen demonstrators blocked railroad tracks Tuesday morning at a Burlington Northern Santa Fe yard to protest train shipments of oil and coal and proposed export terminals in the Northwest.
Protesters included one person sitting atop a tripod over the tracks, according to organizers with the group Rising Tide Seattle. Others are locked to the legs of the tripod.
“People in the Pacific Northwest are forming a thin green line that will keep oil, coal and gas in the ground,” spokeswoman Abby Brockway said in a statement. “Just one of these proposed terminals would process enough carbon to push us past the global warming tipping point — we won’t let that happen.”
The demonstration started about 6 a.m. and blocked an oil train and freight trains at the yard near Interstate 5, said railroad spokesman Gus Melonas. The main line remained open at the scene, about 30 miles north of Seattle.
Everett police were standing by and letting Burlington Northern Santa Fe police handle the situation because it’s a trespassing issue, said Officer Aaron Snell. BNSF police are commissioned officers with authority to issue citations or make arrests for trespassing or other criminal activity on railroad property, Melonas said.
Rising Tide Seattle says it’s an all-volunteer collective dedicated to taking direct action to confront the causes of climate change.
About two-dozen demonstrators on a nearby overpass carried signs that said, “Coal-oil-gas. None shall pass” and “Cut oil trains, not conductors.”
Trains carrying coal from northern Plains states as well as oil trains from the Bakken Fields of North Dakota have drawn increasing opposition from environmentalists because of plans for terminals in Washington, Oregon and along the Columbia River to export fossil fuels to Asia. Oil trains already are serving refineries at Tacoma, Anacortes and Ferndale.
Coal terminals have been proposed at Longview and Bellingham and oil terminals at Vancouver, Wash. and Grays Harbor.
In Washington, crude oil shipments went from zero in 2011 to 17 million barrels in 2013, according to rough state estimates.
More than 20 new or expanded coal, oil and gas terminals are proposed between British Columbia, Washington and Oregon, said Rising Tide Seattle. The protesters feel fossil fuel shipments are dangerous and that their concerns aren’t being given enough weight.
“All the people in the blockade have brought concerns in many other avenues,” said spokeswoman Delaney Piper. “We feel we have used political venues, advocacy — all of those tools — and this is the tool most necessary right now, because the situation is so dire that direct action is necessary.”
BNSF has broken a record this year for capital and safety improvements — $5 billion systemwide, which in Washington includes new track in the Everett area, Melonas said. With the attention on oil trains, the railroad has focused on crew compliance with speed requirements, advanced detection systems and enhanced inspections.
“There has not been one fatality on the BNSF Northern Tier from the Great Lakes, across the Plains, through the Rockies to the Pacific Northwest ports — not one fatality — as a result of a hazardous material release since 1981,” Melonas said.
Trains have moved oil for decades, although the 100-car oil trains are new in the past couple of years.
“There’s a demand for this product, and as a common carrier we’re obligated by law to move it,” he said.