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Activists Detained Trying to Hang Anti-Oil Train Banner

Activist Emily Heffling of the group ForestEthics is detained Monday for trying to hang an anti-oil train banner on the Benicia-Martinez railroad bridge east of Vallejo. Credit: Jay Carmona/ForestEthics.
Activist Emily Heffling of the group ForestEthics is detained Monday for trying to hang an anti-oil train banner on the Benicia-Martinez railroad bridge east of Vallejo. Credit: Jay Carmona/ForestEthics.
July 7, 2015

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Two activists protesting oil trains were detained by the California Highway Patrol on Monday while attempting to unfurl a banner on the Benicia-Martinez railroad bridge, one of several bridges which crosses the Carquinez Strait east of Vallejo.

The large banner, with the message "Stop Oil Trains Now," was part of a publicity campaign sponsored by ForestEthics, Communities for a Better Environment and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN).

Richmond resident Megan Zapanta, an APEN community organizer, estimates 5.5 million Californians live within one mile of an oil train route, which she says is considered the potential blast zone of a catastrophic explosion.

"Oil trains are carrying extremely volatile, flammable crude oil," she says. "Many different derailments have happened across the country, so we're very concerned about seeing an explosion or some sort of spill or damage here."

Oil companies have indicated they take all necessary precautions to safely transport crude oil, and note few oil trains are currently running because lower gas prices have affected the crude oil market.

Monday marked the two-year anniversary of the massive oil train explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and activists say they're planning more than 80 anti-oil train demonstrations across the U.S. this week, including one in Richmond on Saturday. Zapanta wants California to revoke oil companies' permits to transport crude oil by rail.

"We really want to fight the permit," she says. "We want to make sure it gets revoked or doesn't get renewed. This process didn't include the community at all."

In April, Congressman Mike Thompson (D–St. Helena) co-authored and introduced H.R. 1804, the Crude-By-Rail Safety Act, which would require additional safety measures. This fall, the state of California will finalize its own set of regulations.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA