Friday, October 22, 2010

Exxon's long-term plans revealed

from the desk of Sam Mace:
Mega-load shipments begin moving into the Northwest

Mega-loads like this thing have started moving into the Northwest

Local citizens, businesses and conservationists continue to fight Big Oil’s plans to ship mining equipment up our salmon rivers and scenic highways to the Tar Sands in Alberta, Canada. It is arguably one of the most environmentally destructive activities on the planet.  Tar sands mining in Canada is destroying rivers, water quality, boreal forest, and fisheries, and affecting climate change.  Recently, over 40 regional and national organizations wrote a letter urging Northwest members of Congress to provide oversight on this project. Read the letter here.

The issue has recently been covered in the New York Times: "Oil Sands Effort Turns on a Fight Over a Road" - October 22nd, 2010.  

If you haven't already, please take action on this issue.

Exxon moves the first mega-loads to the Northwest
Despite widespread opposition, this month Exxon imported its first shipment of heavy loads through the Port of Vancouver and barged them 435 miles upriver to the Port of Lewiston.  This act of arrogance—permits have not been issued and Conoco’s similar mega-loads are stalled at the Port by court order—is proof that Exxon views our rivers and roads as a mere resource at their disposal and cares little about public input.  

Recently translated Korean documents reveal what people have suspected:  Exxon wants permanent use of the Columbia-Snake Rivers and scenic Highway 12 to ship massive loads of mining equipment to the Tar Sands.  While Exxon continues to claim it plans to send only 207 mega-load shipments in the next year, documents obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) show that Exxon has signed long-term contracts with Korean manufacturers for equipment over the next two decades.   

And it’s not just Exxon hoping to make a new “High and Wide” shipping route through the Northwest.   Idaho Department of Transportation has met with Harvest Energy, another company involved in the Tar Sands that wants to use Highway 12 for their industrial shipping route.  

Opposition grows among elected leaders, agencies and citizens
With the realization that Big Oil wants to permanently transform one of the Northwest’s most beloved pristine recreation areas into a permanent industrial corridor, opposition is mounting.  Forest Supervisors for the Clearwater and Lolo National Forests are now on record in opposition..  The Missoula, MT City Council and local Idaho state representatives are working to stop the shipments.  Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio wrote a letter to the Dept. of Transportation expressing his concern over the impacts of this proposal and lack of public review and oversight.

Most recently, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) publicly expressed his concerns about Exxon’s plans and the impacts to the Northwest and is following the issue closely.

As Big Oil’s intentions become clear, concerns are growing.  With your help, we can stop Exxon from turning our rivers and roads into their own dirty highway.  Please contact your elected leaders and urge them to oppose Big Oil’s push for a Big Road.  At the very least urge them to require pubic and environmental review of such a far-reaching project that will change the character of the scenic Highway 12 corridor forever. 

Sam Mace is the Inland Northwest Director for Save Our Wild Salmon
She can be reached at

Orca Baby!

New killer whale calf appears in Puget Sound

From Christopher Dunagan of the Kitsap Sun:

The birth was reported by observers with the Center for Whale Research, who spotted the baby Wednesday off the south end of San Juan Island. The newborn has been designated L-116, the next available number for L pod.

The calf is believed to be the first offspring of L-82, born in 1990. The newborn appears to be less than a week old, and researchers say the calf appears healthy.

This is the third calf born into L pod this year. The first, L-114, did not survive more than a few days. The second, L-115, was born in August and still appears healthy. Both L-115 and L-116 and their mothers are in the same subgroup that has been traveling together. The new calf brings the total for the three Southern Resident pods to 90.

Meanwhile, a large number of killer whales was reported Thursday traveling through Puget Sound. They were seen from the Kingston and Bremerton ferries as well as from Blake Island and West Seattle. They were identified as Southern Residents.

At this time of year, orcas are seen more frequently in Central and South Puget Sound as they switch from foraging for chinook salmon, their primary prey in the San Juan Islands, to the more abundant chum salmon coming back to streams throughout Puget Sound.

In other orca-related news, Puget Sound kayak guide Martine Springer of Sea Quest Expeditions recently added her voice to Working Snake River for Washington.  Here's a clip:

"Imagine yourself in a kayak flowing down a broad ribbon of blue water. Surrounding you are more islands than you can count, and in the distance, you see snow-capped mountain peaks. Your flotilla of companions rounds a headland crowned by an old lighthouse, and suddenly, they appear."

Read more at Working Snake River for Washington.

For more information on the orca / salmon connection, check out this great video.
Also check out our great partners on this issue:
Center for Whale Research -- Orca Network -- People for Puget Sound

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Harnessing Washington’s Wind

Creating carbon-free energy and good jobs and healthy communities – and further diminishing the need for 4 dams on the lower Snake.

by Joseph Bogaard, outreach director, Save Our Wild Salmon
A recent article in the Vancouver Columbian highlighted the wind energy investments in Kittitas County in and around the Columbia Gorge east of Portland and Vancouver. This is one of our region’s most promising areas for generating this clean and affordable energy source. Indeed, the wind blows a lot around here. Based on projects currently under construction and in the permitting process, more than 1,000 wind turbines should be online within the next several years able to produce 1200 MW of energy. That’s enough to support roughly 300,000 homes.

In addition to bringing new carbon-free energy online, the projects are also creating lots of much needed, good-paying jobs, generating significant tax revenues, and creating an important revenue stream for farmers and rural landowners that is – at least in some cases – is allowing them to stay put and keep the land in the family instead of selling to developers.

Farmers who lease their land to energy companies for turbine installations  - about $10,000 per year per turbine – can also keep farming. This steady source of income can make an important difference in an industry often known for ups and downs. Tax revenues from the turbines are also helping to improve schools and invest in the public health and safety services like fire and police.

Washington state’s energy portfolio is diversifying rapidly. Regional hydropower is basically maxed out now, supplying just under 60% of Northwest electric needs. The region’s official power planning agency, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, projects electricity needs increasing by about 3,400 average megawatts over the next 10 years, dropping hydropower’s share of the regional mix to just over 50% by 2020. Hydropower’s share will continue to drop as power consumption rises … and that doesn’t even take into account the climate change-related reductions in mountain snowpack that will cut hydropower capacity ever more deeply.

Energy efficiency will meet the lion’s share of new needs, along with wind and other new renewable energy sources. 
Right now, we’re actually developing more wind power than the region currently needs, so much of this new clean energy is actually heading south to markets in California. As new clean sources of energy continue to come online in the Pacific Northwest, the importance of lower Snake River dams’ relatively small contribution to our region’s overall energy diet continues to shrink. Our region can survive, indeed even thrive, without the 1,200aMW generated by these dams – about a third of which is sold on the market to California and elsewhere since Northwest public utilities don’t need it.

More information can be found at the NW Energy Coalition’s website.
You can also contact me directly: