On a brisk December morning in 2012, Montana ranchers in cowboy hats walked alongside members of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in traditional regalia through the streets of Seattle in search of a good breakfast. After eating, they headed to Seattle’s convention centre to square off against multinational companies aiming to move coal on trains through the Pacific Northwest to be loaded on ships bound for Asia.
Their partnership went the distance. Three years after that hearing, the proposed Washington coal terminal was dead. Those trains bearing Montana and Wyoming coal never rolled.
Opponents’ victory in that case was emblematic of how environmentalists, Indigenous Peoples, ranchers, politicians, doctors, fishermen and even windsurfers worked for a decade to fend off more than 20 proposals to ship fossil fuels across the Pacific Ocean, from near Prince Rupert, British Columbia clear south to San Luis Obispo, Calif.
While readers of The Tyee will be aware of ongoing resistance in B.C. against extracting and transporting fossil fuels, this is the story of how such efforts have for years crossed borders to connect with activism up and down the West Coast. The range of projects fought, from shipping coal and oil by train to pumping gas and oil through pipes, is a reminder of how sprawling and persistent the fossil fuel industry’s global export agenda is. And it demonstrates the power of grassroots organizing.
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