Protest held against tar sand oil harvesting

April 23, 2011

A protest against oil harvesting in western Canada was held Wednesday in Hood River, on the first anniversary of one of history's worst oil spills disasters.

"No tar sands/On our lands!" chanted about 50 people as they walked up Oak after gathering at Marina Park.

At the Columbia River, some protestors paddled kayaks bearing banners opposing use of the Columbia River as a transportation route for the tar sands oil extraction area of Alberta, Canada.

The group marched to the city administration building, seeking the city's endorsement of a resolution calling on the city to pursue alternative energy, and away from the use of fossil fuels "particularly transportation fueled by fossil fuels such as those derived from Canadian Tar Sands."

The demonstration was part of a "National Day of Action" against the Alberta tar sands projects. Mining and refining equipment bound for the tar sands began moving up the Columbia River late last year.

Jasmine Zimmer-Stuckey of Hood River said communities along the Columbia should protest the shipping of equipment up the river to Alberta, and hoped Hood River will take a stand against it.

Along with Aera Atkins and Anthony Villagomez of Hood River, Zimmer-Stuckey submitted a draft resolution for city council to consider at an upcoming meeting.

"This is the one-year anniversary of oil spill, and we're coming out against the next big disaster," Zimmer-Stuckey said, referring to the April 20, 2010, explosion of the BP vessel Deepwater Horizon, which led to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that lasted through summer 2010.

City Planning Director Cindy Walbridge accepted the resolution, and told the group it would be given to Mayor Arthur Babitz and City Manager Bob Francis.

Atkins said, "We are trying to get people not to take part in any aspect of this, and instead to work toward clean energy."

Dustin Johnson, a native Tsimshian from Edmonton, Alberta, called the tar sands projects "very risky; industrial and socially."

He told Walbridge the oil sands projects are "the most environmentally destructive energy project on the planet, with their effects on air and water, and on social conditions.

"People everywhere are aware of this," Johnson said of the National Day of Action. "The world is watching what's going on."

Filmmaker Trip Jennings, of Portland, said Americans should care about the protest campaign because, "The tar sands oil is blatantly being pointed to as something for Americans. It's a particularly dirty kind of oil and it's affecting people all over the world." He cited depletion of water resources for tar sands oil production, and the impact on global warming.

"In its manufacture, it has a higher impact on carbon footprint," Jennings said. "It takes far more carbon to upgrade tar sands oil to synthetic crude."

He cited "a visual difference" in Hood River thanks go climate change, citing 80-year-old photos of Mount Hood glaciers compared to far-smaller ice fields today.

"There are impacts on air and water, and it affects every orchardist, or they will feel the effects down the line," Villagomez said.

Zimmer-Stuckey said the tar sands extraction is not the kind of enterprise that residents of the Gorge would want to support.

"We pride ourselves on the proximity to the river and to the mountain, but by supporting this we are taking away from other people because of the impact it has on the opportunity to recreate for the people of Northern Alberta," she said. "We are literally dissolving that opportunity."

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