Leading up to Earth Day 2019, Extinction Rebellion PDX and other climate activists started the fight against tar sands exports from Portland—with 18 of us getting arrested on Zenith’s oil tanker train tracks.
After years of protesting, letter writing, chanting and singing (most recently about denying the LUCS, with some very clever puns from the activist community), handing out thousands of leaflets so thousands of people would, and did, call the City telling them to Deny the LUCS, dragging the Tank of Doom around town so people could learn about Zenith’s Blast Zones, some excellent lawyers doing really good work, and so much more, the City of Portland finally said no to Zenith.
Zenith has been operating with an expired air quality permit for years. In January 2021, the DEQ told Zenith that in order to approve their new air quality permit they had to have a statement from the City that says Zenith is “Compatible” with the City of Portland (the LUCS). Zenith’s luck ran out on 8/27/21 when the City of Portland said no to their Land Use Compatibility Statement. No, Zenith’s massive crude oil by rail project is not compatible with Portland’s stated climate, land use, and equity goals. According to Dan Ryan’s office they finally contacted the Tribes in the area and stated: “We know that the activities carried out at this site, and the fossil fuel products being transported, have the potential to directly impact tribal territories, cultural resources, and tribal treaty rights.” (See his full statement here.)
In additions to being bad for Tribes and bad for climate, Zenith’s trains roll through the Gorge and then through predominantly BIPOC and low income communities, spewing toxic fumes daily and risking derailment leading to death and destruction in these neighborhoods.
Who knows what finally convinced the City to deny the LUCS? Maybe it was the pleas of progressive State legislators and County commissioners. Maybe it was the CEI Hub earthquake report saying that when the earthquake hits Zenith will go “boom” and kill people, burn Forest Park, and destroy the rivers’ ecosystems at the level of Fukishima. Maybe it was finally listening to the Tribes or maybe something else. The City made the right decision, and we should thank them. We want them to continue to stand strong against Zenith as undoubtedly there will be legal battles that follow, so a little encouragement right now would be good.
Hours after the decision on Friday, XRPDX and Allies tried to deliver a letter to Zenith’s lawyers at Stoel Rives in Portland. The people at Stoel Rives wanted nothing to do with that. A letter asking them to re-think the value of their children’s futures compared to the money they make from Zenith. A very scary letter apparently.
What’s next for Zenith? They will certainly appeal the decision, probably already have. Will the DEQ approve their permits anyway? Will they have to shut down all fossil fuel operations now? Soon? Who knows, with so many different scenarios floating around it is safe to say no one really knows for sure.
Stay tuned for the latest on Zenith, and what we can do to make sure they really do shut down. For today, just call the County Commissioners, City Council, and say thanks for saying no to Zenith.
Portland City Council
- Commissioner Dan Ryan: CommissionerRyanOffice@portlandoregon.gov
- Mayor Ted Wheeler: email@example.com
- Commissioner Mingus Mapps: MappsOffice@portlandoregon.gov
- Commissioner Carmen Rubio: Comm.Rubio@portlandoregon.gov
- Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty: firstname.lastname@example.org
Multnimah County Commissioners