Want to Stop Oil Trains? We Have Work to Do!

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Rev. Richenda Fairhurst of Camas UMC testifies against the Tesoro Savage oil terminal while munching a Washington apple. Photo by Michele L. McDermid January 2016, used by permission.

By Rev. Richenda Fairhurst | Camas United Methodist Church

I am still celebrating today! Last week, more than 1000 people participated in a hearing on the proposed Tesoro Savage Oil Terminal in Vancouver, WA in the largest turnout for a public hearing in Clark County history. The plan would bring millions of gallons of oil into Vancouver, Washington, every day by rail. That oil would first be stored and then transferred onto ships that will sail on the Columbia River to the West Coast and beyond. This project directly impacts my own community where I live and serve; the trains loaded with explosive Bakken crude are already rolling through our Camas streets.

If built, Tesoro Savage would be the largest crude oil by rail terminal in the nation. With a capacity to handle 360,000 barrels per day four mile-long trains would travel through Washington State daily to deliver the oil, nearly filling a tanker 700 feet in length for shipment down the Columbia River.

Please submit a comment against this proposal by January 22, 2016.

I am celebrating today, but this endeavor did not begin with celebration. It began as I was sitting in my office feeling tired. It began as I read in the local paper about the problems at the Livingston Mountain mine, a gravel mining project in Camas territory. The people of Livingston Mountain have been crying out for years as the blasting continues. I attended a County Council hearing and wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper. But always I was worried about the clock. Are there enough hours in my pastor’s day to help with this?

If your church is located near the bottom green line on the map below, the Tesoro Savage Oil Terminal will affect your community. Learn more at Columbia Riverkeeper.

I am celebrating today because the Holy Spirit doesn’t take “Yes Lord, but I’m tired” for an answer. I had lunch with an organizer for Friends of the Columbia River Gorge not long after that. He was one of those Greenpeace activists that got between the whales and the harpoons of the whalers. He is also the incarnation of “cool.” We had Mexican food, talked about Tex Mex and New Mexican hatch chilies. And we talked about the oil trains, Bakken crude, and how good people can really, truly make a difference in this good world.

Washington Oil TerminalsI am celebrating today because I said “Yes.” I connected with great people already working hard on Creation Care issues, including faith leaders like Rev. Jenny Phillips, Conference Minister for Environmental Stewardship and Advocacy, and Jessie Dye, Program and Outreach Director for Earth Ministry. I was asked to speak up, and now I’m encouraging others to do the same. I see my role as standing alongside. I see my role as affirming the work of wellbeing in community. I read Psalm 104 and marvel how the psalmist lays it out telling us that God loves this “beautiful planet.” We learn that this earth is in of itself a revelation of God. We learn that when we see life we see God, for life is a work of God who created it. “Every good thing we need, Your earth provides,” the psalm tells us—not to reflect our glory, but to reflect the glory of the Divine.

I am celebrating today, but we have a long way to go. We have work to do if we want to really transition to a clean energy economy. We must speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. We fight for our children and grandchildren, yes. But the fight is much bigger than that. We are here to fight for all children, not just our own. We want them all, every one, to live and grow in a clean, sustainable world.

I am celebrating today because we are in the last gasp of the industrial age! The truth is being made known that fossil fuels ARE destructive to human health and well-being. Let every creature rejoice! Momentum is shifting. We know the truth, and knowing this, O ye of good heart, stand up and ask, “What is the next best thing that I can do?” Stand up and say “No” to oil and “Yes” to God.

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