On Thursday, the City of Seattle dodged a bullet when a BNSF train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed under the Magnolia Bridge without a leak or explosion. This is extremely alarming. It is important to stress how lucky we were that it wasn’t a real disaster. More oil was spilled last year by BNSF and other oil train companies in 2013 than in the previous 38 years combined.
The City Council of Seattle has passed a resolution to assess the impact of oil and coal trains and just circulated a letter asking for a ban on DOT-111 legacy tankers. This alone will not be enough, and I believe the council should consider stronger action, calling for a direct ban on oil trains. Councilmember O’Brien has spoken against oil trains many times, and I thank him for immediately visiting the site that day.
It is going to take a determined and defiant broad-based movement that will organize non-violent civil disobedience actions in favor of a ban on oil and coal trains to shift away from fossil fuels, build support for rapid investment in alternative energy sources, and to challenge the environmentally destructive agenda of capitalism. Environmental activists who are part of such a movement also need to emerge as leaders who will challenge the two-party establishment of corporate politicians that have failed to even minimally address the environmental crisis.
Earlier today, three environmental activists locked themselves to the tracks in Anacortes, an oil train destination point. I stand in solidarity with such non-violent disobedience action, and will continue to use my seat on the Seattle City Council to build this movement with my fellow activists.