Open Letter to the Attorneys at Stoel Rives

[XRPDX organizer Lynn Handlin Spitaleri (pictured here) read this letter in front of the Stoel Rives office building, before attempting to deliver it to the law firm. Delivery was denied. – Ed.]

To: The Attorneys at Stoel Rives LLC                                                          6/15/2022

From: Concerned Citizens of the Portland Metro Area

RE: Appeal the Appeal, Zenith Energy, Fueling the climate crisis

The people of the City of  Portland have spoken, loud and clear and often: Zenith Energy’s operations are not compatible with the City’s climate goals, land use plan, clean air, clean water, safety and a livable planet. Zenith Energy has been denied by the City and DEQ. Yet your firm continues to enable Zenith’s toxic operations.

According to your website, your firm claims to care about the environment and the climate crisis in particular. “The attorneys and employees of Stoel Rives remain committed to meeting the needs of today without compromising those of tomorrow.” In no way is defending and supporting Zenith Energy’s fossil fuel infrastructure business consistent with this statement.

On the basis of the 2021 IPCC Report on the Physical Science Basis [of climate change], the UN Secretary General has declared “code red for humanity,” because of the climate crisis. Ending our dependence on fossil fuels is critical if humans, and those we share this planet with, can survive. Now is the time for drastic actions, we do not have 5 to 15 years to start moving away from fossil fuels. At a DEQ hearing, a Zenith representative claimed that Zenith is considering moving away from fossil fuels “as the market dictates” in maybe 5 to 15 years. Five to 15 years? It will be far too late by then.

While it is important that everyone has fair legal representation, it does not follow that corporations that are killing the planet, starting with marginalized communities, deserve your legal representation. Zenith Energy has been expanding its oil by rail infrastructure, added new rail platforms and increased crude oil throughput by over 11 fold. That increased throughput has nothing to do with renewable fuels, it is all about fossil fuels. That sounds, looks and smells like an increase in fossil fuel infrastructure. Have you spent time at the site? Especially on a hot day? The fumes are not fun. It is making people living in the area and along the route sick. If there is a derailment in Portland it will destroy neighborhoods, predominantly BIPOC and low income communities.

When, not if, the earthquake hits the Portland area the resulting oil spills and explosions will be catastrophic, according to the recent CEI Hub Earthquake report commissioned by Multnomah County. This is part of why the Multnomah County commissioners and many state legislators have come out in strong opposition to Zenith Energy’s fossil fuel operations.  Zenith is the only fossil fuel facility in the CEI HUB that did not report on the contents of their tanks.

Is 116 degrees hot enough for you? Are the smoke-filled skies not making you sick? Do you want to see Portland’s rivers destroyed by spills from Zenith Energy’s facilities? How many more have to die before firms like Stoel Rives will take this crisis seriously? Do any of you have children? Grandchildren?  Anyone you care about have children? Do you want them to have a livable future? Is the income you receive from Zenith really worth more than our children’s futures?

“Climate change represents not only an existential threat to humanity but also material financial risk to investors.” (a quote from the Morningstar investment analysis firm’s report, “Investing Toward Net Zero”). Setting aside the fact that without humanity there are no investors, surely the very knowledgeable people who work at Stoel Rives can recognize that supporting the expansion of fossil fuels is a bad business practice.

We do not believe that all of the humans that work at Stoel Rives really want to be on the wrong side of this. Do the right thing, stop enabling Zenith Energy’s fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Why not be on the side of defending the rights of nature instead?  Consider defending the rivers, instead of those who are destroying them. The people at Stoel Rives should consider whether they want to be on the side of a future doomed by the climate crises, fueled by companies like Zenith Energy, or on the side of a future blooming with hope and possibility on a livable planet.


Many Portlanders

About Lynn Spitaleri Handlin

Organizing member of Extinction rebellion pdx, founding member of Cascadia Magical Activists, loves doing habitat restoration for fun.


Stoel Rives: Working Both Sides of the Energy Industry

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