‘Changing ourselves by changing the city’

“The question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from that of what kind of social ties, relationship to nature, lifestyles, technologies and aesthetic values we desire. The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.”
—  David Harvey, The Right to the City

Grass-roots opposition to oil train terminal in Vancouver: success on the ground!

 Grass roots citizens in Vancouver have defeated the largest oil train terminal proposed in North America.

The oil terminal was proposed in 2013 and was soon opposed by ILWU local 4, Columbia RiverKeeper and volunteers with the Sierra Club., who organized and advocated in letters to the editor, at City Council meetings and on social media to urge the City Council to take a stand against the oil terminal even though the City didn’t have jurisdiction [over it].

On June 2 of 2014, we turned out 650 people to a City Council Meeting in support of a resolution of strong opposition to the oil terminal, which was adopted at 1:25 the next morning.   Fifty other cities, including Portland and Seattle soon followed . . . . passing resolutions of concern or opposition. 

We turned out hundreds to many other related public hearings.  We showed up at multiple Port meetings.  The Columbian published at least 2000 stories or letters to the editor on the subject. 

In 2015, we elected Eric LaBrant to the Port Commission, and on Nov 7, 2017 we elected Don Orange to the same Port Commission with a  65% vote.  230 volunteers showed up for door-knocking and phone-banking.  Vancouver has never seen anything like it.  Both commissioners will vote to cancel the lease with the oil company early in 2018.

We turned out a thousand people in the freezing rain to a public hearing on January 5, 2016 at the Clark County Convention Center.

On November 28, 2017, the Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council voted 9-0 to recommend disapproval of the project to Governor Inslee who has the final say . . . unless the Port Commission cancels the lease first, or the whole thing ends up in court.

This has been a 4 ½ year campaign and it looks like we have won.  Governor Inslee is a non-stop advocate against [contributors to] global warming, but he is not allowed to express an opinion on the oil terminal until all the documents are on his desk.

In Vancouver, we also stopped a smaller oil terminal proposed by NuStar in 2016.

As retirees, we can’t image doing anything more important than to fight climate change.  Texas has had three 500-year floods in the last three years, which cost them $180 billion.  Texas is now asking Congress for $61 billion to prepare for the next flood.

But when we fight, we win.  Our coalition west of the Cascades has had 50 major victories in the last 7 years.

We stopped 6 large coal export terminals, a propane terminal and oil terminal in Portland, an LNG and oil terminal in Longview, three oil terminals in Grays Harbor, one oil terminal in Anacortes, and two LNG export terminals in the lower Columbia.

Our coalition included many tribes, Columbia Riverkeeper, Friends of Columbia Gorge, the Sierra Club, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Washington Environmental Council, Stand, Greenpeace, 350.org, Portland Rising Tide, and many others.

When we fight, we win.  Not one new fossil fuel proposal has been approved!

–Don Steinke, climate writer and organizer in Vancouver, December 21, 2017

(lightly edited by Portland Right to the City)