BREAKING: Climate Activists Disrupt Governor Kitzhaber’s “Power Breakfast”

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Climate activist wearing “power tie,” being removed by security after disrupting Kitzhaber’s Portland appearance

from Earth First! Newswire

On January 9, members of Portland Rising Tide, along with other concerned citizens, had a boisterous presence at Governor Kitzhaber’s breakfast meeting in downtown Portland.

Two climate activists infiltrated the $40 per plate meeting. After an hour and a half of shmoozing with business reps in support of the governor’s “pro-business” environmental policy, the activists found their opportunity. When Kitzhaber got up to give his speech, one activist stood up, disgusted: “Oh my gosh, I’m eating tar sands! Why does this always happen when Kitzhaber is around?”

The activist stood up and protested Kitzhaber’s do-nothing stance regarding megaloads and fossil fuel infrastructure before being removed by security. He was welcomed outside by a group of protestors who are distributing flyers about Kitzhaber’s dirty energy policy. [Check out the video of the disruption here starting at minute 15]

The meeting, sponsored by Portland Business Journal and other local companies, was a platform for Kitzhaber to discuss the road ahead as he prepares to run for a fourth term, but not everyone in attendance was pleased with the governor’s record on environmental and energy concerns.  Most recently, Kitzhaber has allowed the travel of the “megaloads” — oversized shipments of oil processing equipment destined for the environmentally devastating Alberta Tar Sands — through some of Oregon’s most fragile Wild and Scenic areas and tribal lands.  Portland Rising Tide members confronted the governor today to ask why he is so clearly acting against his own promises to transition away from damaging fossil fuels, as well as his own executive order 96-30 to respect the tribal governments of Oregon in all decisions that affect their lands and communities.

“As Oregon’s governor, Kitzhaber holds the authority  over the Oregon Department of Transportation and their permitting of companies like Omega Morgan to move these loads across Oregon,” says Veronica Muntz, of Portland Rising Tide, “Yet there was no public decision-making and no consultation with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla.  As the Umatilla are saying, ‘No consultation, no passage’.”

It is clear that ODOT and Omega Morgan — the company responsible for transporting the loads — are working hand-in-hand without concern for the needs and wishes of the citizens of Oregon, and with the tacit approval of Oregon’s supposedly “green” governor. In a November ODOT committee meeting, prior to permits for the loads being granted, ODOT personnel and Omega Morgan representatives discussed how to best get the permits to go through without “giving [local communities] the impression that we are asking for their approval or permission” (ODOT meeting notes, 14 November 2013), despite the loads traveling on taxpayer-funded highways.  According to a letter sent to Kitzhaber from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, “we learned of [the proposed megaloads] not from ODOT, the state agency responsible for permitting such loads, but from the media.”  The letter goes on to detail that the Confederated Tribes contacted ODOT to object to the loads, and were issued a response after the loads had already been permitted.  ODOT claimed in the response to be committed to “[reviewing] its current process for these permits with respect to public outreach and tribal consultation,” but, as the Confederated Tribes noted in their letter to Kitzhaber, “consultation has little meaning when, as in this instance, the outcome is a foregone conclusion.”

The governor’s “power breakfast” this morning comes at a time when Oregonians along the megaloads’ route are risking arrests and fines to stop the transport of the loads.  “Protesters see the shipping of Tar Sands equipment as not only a threat to their local environment, undertaken without equal representation, but also a disturbing perpetuation of the destruction caused by tar sands extraction in Alberta, where continuous pollution by chemicals used in the processing of the oil has caused the deaths of thousands of fish and migratory birds, and communities are suffering an increase in rare and deadly cancers,” explains climate activist Rhonda Bloc.

With clean energy and public health topping the list of local and national concerns, Kitzhaber cannot afford to let Oregon become an industrial corridor for dirty fossil fuels.  Even as the first of the megaloads roll through the state, plans are in the works to turn the Northwest into a hub of fossil fuel transport.  From a proposed increase in the number of coal trains rumbling through the Columbia River corridor, to the building of a massive rail-to-ship oil depot at the Port of Vancouver, the famously “green” Northwest is in danger of becoming an industrial nightmare.  “These megaloads are going to expand the Alberta Tar Sands in Canada, which is already the most environmentally destructive project on earth,” says Alexander Ross of Portland Rising Tide. “Then the oil companies want to export Tar Sands oil back through the Pacific Northwest via risky rail and pipeline.”

Portland Rising Tide activists rally outside of the power breakfast

Portland Rising Tide activists rally outside of the power breakfast

Groups like Portland Rising Tide urge Governor Kitzhaber to stand by his statements about decreasing Oregon’s reliance on and development of dirty fuel.  Allowing Tar Sands megaloads to move through the state without public comment or tribal consent is completely counter to the vision of a clean energy future for the Northwest that Kitzhaber says he endorses.   “Rather than localizing decisions about energy and increasing the use of cleaner renewable energy sources, the passage  of tar sands megaloads hands over the people’s right to self governance to transnational corporations,” says Karen Coulter of eastern Oregon-based Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project.  “To alleviate global climate chaos and represent us as Oregonians, Kitzhaber must end all tar sands megaload permits through our state and start working with us to implement a sustainable energy future.”

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