Activists Confront ODOT Officials and Demand an End to the Permitting of Controversial Tar Sands Megaloads


from Earth First! News

Around noon, climate justice activists entered the Oregon Department of Transportation offices in downtown Portland to stop the movement of the tar sands megaloads through Umatilla and Warm Springs tribal land in Eastern Oregon.

The group presented two letters to ODOT officials outlining their objections to the loads on moral and legal grounds — one by Portland Rising Tide, the other by the Tribal Government of Umatilla (recently sent to Kitzhaber).

After gathering in front of the building, people entered and delivered the letter to ODOT staff.

In their letter to ODOT, Portland Rising Tide emphasized the actions of those arrested on Monday night, “Monday they took this risk to do what you have refused to do: to stop the movement of materials that damage the public good, destroy the global commons, and shred indigenous rights,” said Toby Seldon of Portland Rising Tide.


“The fossil fuel industry is aggressively trying to transform the Pacific Northwest into a fossil fuel corridor, with terminal proposals and now with the megaloads, and ODOT’s willingness to permit these actions is outrageous — we will do everything we can to stop them. ” said David Osborn of Portland Rising Tide.

This is the seventh regional action in a little over two weeks against the megaloads. The actions started December 1st, when two were arrested for successfully blocking the megaload from leaving the Port of Umatilla.

On Monday of this week, resistance continued when activists locked themselves to two disabled vehicles in front of the 450 ton, 376 foot long megaload, blocking its route along highway 26 outside of John Day. Police arrested 16 activists that evening, violently extracting them from the blockade and indiscriminately arresting everyone at the site. One minor was arrested and released, and total bail was set at $150,000 for the other 15 arrestees.

On Tuesday, ODOT gave special permission for the megaloads to move during the daytime, outside the bounds of their permits, waiving public safety concerns without public notice. The Oregon Department of Transportation has been providing permits for the megaloads to travel without permission or consultation from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla and Warm Springs First Nations.

In a recent letter to Governor Kitzhaber from the Umatilla Tribe’s Board of Trustees, Chair Gary Burke challenged the megaload trespass, citing the absence of mandatory consultation with the tribes, and the role of tar sands extraction in harming indigenous communities and fueling global climate change.

Government-to-government consultation of this kind was mandated by Governor Kitzhaber in Executive Order 96-30 and has since become statute in ORS 182.162-168. At the 13th annual government-to-government summit initiated by the order, Kitzhaber emphasized “This is far more than a statutory obligation… for me, it is a deep personal obligation.”

Portland Rising Tide is an all-volunteer organization that collaborates with an alliance of groups organizing to stop the megaloads. We have been accepting contributions to cover the legal expenses of current and future resistance to the megaload shipments. Donations can be made here, and will go exclusively to our legal fund:

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