Climate activists protest oil shipments at New York port hub

AP News
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Posted: May 14, 2016 3:04 PM

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Climate activists from around the Northeast gathered Saturday at a key crude oil shipment hub on the Hudson River in upstate New York to denounce fossil fuels and promote an accelerated transition to renewable energy sources.

The action targeting crude-by-rail trains and oil barges at the Port of Albany is part of Break Free 2016, a two-week series of actions targeting key fossil fuel projects around the globe to protect local communities and fight climate change.

About 40 activists from numerous groups attempted to line up across the river in kayaks Friday to practice blocking oil barges, but police and several U.S. Coast Guard boats herded them into a cluster that paddled past a riverfront park where a banner saying "Water not oil" was hung. Police blocked access to a railroad bridge over the river where activists had planned to unfurl banners.

Another group on Saturday sat on tracks used by crude oil trains headed to the port. Police did not report any arrests as of midday Saturday.

Albany was chosen as the focal point for activists in the Northeast from Pennsylvania to Maine because it's a hub for crude-by-rail shipments from North Dakota's Bakken Shale region to East Coast refineries. For three years, residents of a low-income housing project beside the oil train route have been fighting expanded crude oil shipments at the port by Global Partners, a fuel transport firm based in Waltham, Massachusetts.

"We have to stop these explosive bomb trains from rolling through our communities across the continent," Marla Marcum, a member of the Climate Disobedience Center in Arlington, Massachusetts, said on Friday. "We have to keep fossil fuels in the ground and bring the focus to renewables."

Mark Romaine, chief operating officer of Global Partners, said in a prepared statement Friday the company is committed to safety and has been inspected more than 270 times in the last three years with only a handful of minor infractions that were promptly corrected.

"It's clear we take our jobs and our responsibility to the community, to safety and the environment very seriously," Romaine said.

In other Break Free events this weekend, activists plan to rally Sunday morning in front of the White House and march to the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool to call on the Obama administration to stop offshore oil drilling. In Anacortes, Washington, civil disobedience is planned over the weekend at two oil refineries.

Climate activist events are also planned this weekend in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Thornton, Colorado, as well as in Germany, Turkey, New Zealand, Brazil and Nigeria.

The Albany protests were organized by a coalition of more than 100 groups including 350.org, Citizen Action of NY and Riverkeeper.