Hundreds Rally in Los Angeles to Stop Oil Trains

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On July 11, Los Angeles joined communities across North America to call for a halt to shipping volatile and toxic crude oil via unsafe rail cars, which has caused numerous derailment explosions during the last six years as the practice has increased 4,000%. In particular, activists called for the City of L.A. to protect their communities and $1.3 billion river revitalization by opposing a crude by rail expansion in San Luis Obispo. In September of 2015, the City passed a unanimous resolution to oppose the Phillips 66 expansion.

Stop Oil Trains, Los Angeles, Steven Storm

Commemorating the death of 47 people and the destruction of the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec two years earlier, SoCal environmentalists are trying to prevent the same type of tragedy from happening in Los Angeles and by the Los Angeles River, an area slated for a $1-billion facelift in the coming years. Photo By Steven Storm.

Rally and Teach-In at Union Station/Olvera Street Highlights Public Opposition to Dangerous Oil Trains

As Los Angeles endeavors to improve the quality of life for its citizens, making the city safer, more livable, with a more sustainable vision of our future and our Los Angeles River, danger rides the rails into our city.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA — On July 11 almost 200 people gathered at Union Station to learn about the danger of shipping volatile crude oil via rail and voice their opposition to these trains moving across California and through Los Angeles. The rally/teach-in was organized by Tar Sands Action SoCal and SoCal 350 Climate Action, and supported by almost thirty social justice, environmental, faith, community, indigenous peoples and labor organizations in Southern California as part of the Stop Oil Train Week of Action coordinated in dozens of cities across North America.

Oil trains from a proposed Phillips 66 offloading facility in San Luis Obispo County would bring into California nearly 3 million gallons of dangerous crude via rail, including volatile and toxic tar sands from Alberta, Canada. This is part of a 4,000% increase in oil trains in the last six years. Some of these 1 1/2-mile trains in unsafe rail cars will be rolling into Southern California, down tracks that cross the San Fernando Valley, following their L.A. River adjacent route through downtown on their way to and from Colton in the Inland Empire and the refineries in the L.A. Harbor Area.

Blast Zone, Oil Trains, Los Angeles, ForestEthics

Though the project isn’t in the city, “this is a health and safety issue for the City of Los Angeles,” said Jack Eidt, quoted on KCET. “The P66 Santa Maria EIR stated that emergency responders would not be equipped to deal with a derailment or explosion of a 100-car train carrying toxic crude. We need to focus on optimizing our rail transportation network with high-speed rail and Metrolink/Amtrak, which will use the same right-of-way/rails respectively. Metrolink has had a difficult history of accidents that have caused a significant toll on communities. Factor in volatile crude oil into the mix and we are looking at trouble.” Map of the “Blast Zone” through Los Angeles by ForestEthics.

These trains have become known as “bomb trains” due to their explosive and destructive track record. Dorie Snow, a Registered Nurse with Keck Hospital of USC and California Nurses Association activist spoke during the teach-in. “Nurses are very concerned about the possibility of train derailment, explosion and fire which would have devastating health and safety impacts. We have grave concerns about the safety of children whose schools are in the blast zones around the oil train tracks. There are several hundred blast zone schools in California alone.”

Another speaker at the teach-in included Angela Mooney D’Arcy from the Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples, sharing the California indigenous perspective on preserving our sacred green infrastructure from disasters like what happened when a pipeline burst along the Santa Barbara Coast last May.

In 2005, just ten years ago, the number of train cars [in the U.S.] was about 2,000. Five years ago, it was about 30,000. And last year, there were more than 450,000 oil-filled rail cars on the train tracks of this country.  — Sabina Virgo on KPFK

Stop Oil Trains, Los Angeles, crude by rail, Phillips 66

Hundreds showed up on July 11th at Union Station to ask the City of LA to Stop Oil Trains. Photo By Mike Chickey.

Alicia Rivera, an organizer from Communities for a Better Environment based in Wilmington, also spoke on a study recently completed by CBE and ForestEthics called “Crude Injustice on the Rails“: “Oil by rail disproportionately exposes communities of color that live in lower-income neighborhoods within a mile of the tracks to risks from accidents, explosions, air and water pollution. This is effectively environmental racism.” She called for an immediate moratorium on oil imports by train into California.

“This is a health and safety issue for the City of Los Angeles,” said Jack Eidt, an urban planner and environmental designer who co-founded Tar Sands Action SoCal, and publishes the environmental blog WilderUtopia. “What’s the use of spending $1 billion to revitalize our L.A. River when it could be despoiled with a fiery oil spill? The LA City Council must join over 30 city and county governments across California in signing a letter of opposition to the project. We would love to see Councilmember Huizar sponsor the measure already passed by the Mar Vista, Echo Park and Silver Lake Neighborhood Councils, because his district encompasses many neighborhoods that could be affected by a rail accident.”

Our emergency responders are simply not funded, trained or equipped to deal with a disaster of the magnitude threatened by this project. If there were an oil disaster in our community, we taxpayers would be stuck with the bill for firefighting, hazardous material cleanup and repair of infrastructure. The damage to our lives, our environment and our economy would be devastating.  — Jan Marx, San Luis Obispo Mayor

Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples, Stop Oil Trains, Los Angeles

Angela Mooney D’Arcy, from the Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples and a member of the Acagchemem Tribe, versed the crowd on the impacts to Indigenous culture from oil trains to colonization. Photo By Steven Storm.

Much of the teach-in focused on turning Southern California into a model sustainable city. Jack Eidt argued that instead of major investments in infrastructure that will ship, store, process and export extreme fossil fuels like tar sands and fracked oil shale in a warming world where droughts, floods and wildfires have become the norm, we must find more efficient ways of getting around, heating and cooling and sustainably creating our consumer products. “We don’t need to put our water sources and communities at risk from bomb trains when we can invest further in public transit, more efficient cars that would run from solar power or advanced biofuels, heating and cooling using renewable energy sources, etc.”

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Stop Oil Trains in LA Day of Action – July 11 Media Hits

“Communities Fight to Prevent Bomb Trains from Passing By the L.A. River” — KCET River Notes 

“Protestors Rally and Teach Against Bringing Oil Trains Across L.A.” — MyNewsLA

“The Explosion of Oil Trains” — Our Glass Earth

“Oil Trains, Tar Sands, and Environmental Racism” — KPFK 90.7 FM

“#StopOilTrains Week of Action 2015” — Storify

“100 Actions, 5,000 people: Biggest oil trains protest in history!” — Tar Sands Solutions Network

Mike Chickey Photography: http://ow.ly/PvCmY

SoCal 350/Spike Lewis July 11 L.A. Stop Oil Trains Day of Action on Facebook

Steven Storm Photography on Facebook

Sanchez Montebello Photos on Facebook

Stop Oil Trains Day of Action on Facebook

Media Advisory: July 11 Stop Oil Trains in L.A.

Press Release: Hundreds Rally/Teach Against Oil Trains in L.A.

Stop Oil Trains in L.A. Web Page – WilderUtopia

Stop Oil Trains in L.A. Facebook Page

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About Jack Eidt

Novelist, urban theorist, and environmental journalist, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion -- Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Planners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com. Follow him on Twitter @WilderUtopia and @JackEidt