U.S. News

Anti-oil protesters arrested for blocking trains in Washington state

(Reuters) - Police arrested 21 protesters on Saturday for blocking BNSF Railway Co. [BNISF.UL] freight trains in Vancouver, Washington, on a line that transports oil and coal in the Northwest, protesters and a railroad spokesman said.

The Fossil Fuel Resistance Network, conducting its first protest, blocked the tracks for about three hours before police handcuffed and detained 21 people who refused to leave.

Hoisting signs reading “I Stand Against Oil Trains” and “Ban the Bomb Trains,” about 100 demonstrators participated, network spokesman Jessie Braverman said by telephone from the protest site.

She said the protest was in “direct response” to a June 3 derailment of a Union Pacific train that spilled 42,000 gallons of crude and started a fire in the town of Mosier, Oregon, along the Columbia River, which marks the border between Washington and Oregon.

Vancouver is just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, and Mosier is about 60 miles (100 km) upriver to the east.

The protest delayed five freight trains, but they were able to move after the protest ended, BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said. The trains were carrying grain and general freight and not oil or coal, Melonas said. But oil and coal sometimes are transported on that line, he said.

“It is disruptive. It’s costly,” Melonas said of the protest. “These trains carry millions of dollars’ worth of merchandise. We can’t tolerate these blockades. We asked that they moved their protest off site. If not, action will be taken.”

Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Dan Grebler