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RICHMOND (KPIX 5) — A dramatic showdown at a rail yard in Richmond on Thursday as protesters locked themselves to a gate to disrupt operations at the facility.
The yard is the only one in California that is bringing in 100-car trains full of potentially explosive fracked crude oil. Earlier this year, KPIX 5 was the first to uncover the operation.
A group of protesters chained themselves by the neck with bicycle locks to the gates of the Kinder Morgan rail terminal in Richmond.
“We are here to stop Kinder Morgan’s illegal activity here in Richmond, said Ethan Buckner.
Their goal: To block tanker trucks from carrying explosive crude oil through their communities. It’s the same kind of shale oil from North Dakota that has caused deadly explosions in derailments in Canada and across the country.
“I will do everything I can to prevent that from happening,” said Katy Polony.
KPIX 5 discovered back in March that trains a hundred cars long are delivering the volatile loads to the rail yard every month, where it’s transferred onto trucks and driven to local refineries.
But nobody knew the trains were coming in because the operation never had to go through any kind of environmental review.
“They were granted a permit to bring in oil into this facility by the air district without any public process,” said Buckner, who belongs to an environmental group called ForestEthics.
Even Richmond’s Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said she was kept in the dark. “We hadn’t been aware of it in Richmond, but I am very grateful to Channel 5 for bringing this forward,” she said.
McLaughlin came by to show her support. “This has been a big issue in Richmond. I brought a resolution to the city council stating that we need to do whatever we can to stop these trucks from rolling on our streets,” the mayor said.
Police showed up in force, but did not move to make any arrests.
For three hours, the protesters blocked tanker trucks from leaving, then finally unchained themselves and left peacefully.
Because of our reporting, the environmental group Earth Justice has filed a lawsuit against Kinder Morgan and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to try to force an environmental review. Kinder Morgan and the air district would like to see the suit dismissed. The first hearing in that case is Friday.