For years, dozens of Portland and Oregon organizations and community members have been protesting the growth of 10 fossil fuel companies operating within a six-mile area along the Willamette River, which flows through Portland. The area is called the Critical Energy Infrastructure Hub (CEI Hub). It has 360 holding tanks that contain 90 % of Oregon’s fossil fuel supply, with over 150 types of petroleum-based fuel. Most tanks are very old; less than 2% were built since 1993.
Zenith Energy, a Texas-based fossil fuel transportation and storage company, has a history of violating safety and emission requirements at the CEI Hub.
Hundreds of toxins are present at the CEI Hub, and they escape when oil is transferred from train to tank to ship. Depending on the winds, these toxins may spread through the metropolitan area, and there are no air quality monitors in the CEI Hub.
Danger of earthquakes
Besides health risks from pollution and explosions from train derailments, the Oregon government says seismologists “are predicting that there is about a 37 % chance that a megathrust earthquake of 7.1+ magnitude in this fault zone will occur in the next 50 years. This event will be felt throughout the Pacific Northwest.” (tinyurl.com/68esdht6)
The holding tanks sit atop very unstable land, once lakes and wetlands, that has been filled with soil dredged from the river. Experts predict that the earthquake will cause millions of gallons of fuels to spill into the river and surrounding land, an amount equal to the 2010 BP oil rig spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The minimum cost to society of potential fuel releases at the CEI Hub ranges from $359 million to $2.6 billion, says ECO Northwest. (econw.com)
In August 2021, local resistance forced the city of Portland to deny Zenith a permit to continue operating at the CEI Hub. However, current back-door deals between Zenith Energy and the city have been recently exposed. The city secretly granted the company an operating permit. Furthermore, officials gave the company a franchise allowing additional underground fossil fuel pipes to be built along Front Avenue in downtown Portland.
Portland’s deals with fossil fuel companies reflect U.S. investments in the private, for-profit fossil fuel industry. A CNN article published on April 20 stated that, “banks provided $673 billion in 2022 to finance the fossil fuel industry,” citing the annual Banking on Climate Chaos report, issued by environmental nonprofits.
The world’s biggest banks are still pouring money into fossil fuels. CNN refers to the report again: “At the top of the list is JPMorgan Chase, the largest funder of fossil fuels cumulatively since the Paris Agreement on climate change was signed in 2016.” (tinyurl.com/5ektdckp)
Community vs. Zenith Energy
Organizers have developed a slide show exposing the dangers of Zenith trains and the CEI Hub storage tanks. Their goal is to reach all 95 Portland neighborhood associations and collect residents’ signatures on a petition letter to city officials.
On Sept. 6, protesters packed the Portland City Council demanding councilors “Stop Zenith Energy” and rescind the land-use permit granted to the company.
Over the last few years, Portland and state groups and organizers have rallied, called, written, educated the public, sued the company, written songs and lobbied elected officials. Protesters dumped soil across the train tracks and planted an ad hoc garden. They held a 60-hour vigil at the facility and scheduled kayaking protest trips along the Willamette River storage facilities.
China’s largest solar power plant. China invested $546 billion in clean energy in 2022, far surpassing the U.S., while the world’s biggest banks provided $673 billion last year to finance the fossil fuel industry.China: clean energy superpower
In contrast to U.S. fossil fuel investments, China, a developing socialist country, is rapidly becoming the first renewable energy superpower. They lead the world in every zero-emissions technology today, asserts Carlos Martinez in his book “The East is Still Red.”
China produced 46% of new solar and wind power in 2021. Martinez explains: “China is the world leader in wind and solar installation, electric vehicle production, in batteries, in hydro, in nuclear, in ground heat pumps, in grid transmission and distribution, and in green hydrogen.”
According to a January 2023 Scientific American article, China invests $546 billion in clean energy, far surpassing the U.S. China accounted for nearly half of the world’s low-carbon spending in 2022. (tinyurl.com/4hf34cej)
To sign a 350 PDX petition and tell the City Council to shut down Zenith and do their job, go to actionnetwork.org. (tinyurl.com/4d4avh84)