Shell Anacortes Refinery Project

October 05

UPDATE: Shell Puget Sound Refinery has decided to call off the rail project in Anacortes. 


Shell Anacortes Refinery Project

Shell Proposes to enlarge its Anacortes Refinery with an additional rail spur on March Point Peninsula where the refinery is currently located. This rail spur would allow an increase in train traffic to replace some of the bulk ship traffic from Alaska. According to the summary of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS):

Each unit train arriving at the rail unloading facility would carry approximately 60,000 to 70,000 barrels of crude oil. The facility would receive six unit trains per week, with each train carrying up to 102 tank cars. The facility has been designed to receive 360,000 to 420,000 barrels of crude oil by rail per week.

In other words, the project would involve six additional trains to come to the facility and leave; much of the oil would be Bakken crude and would be highly volatile (because the heavy crude has to be “lightened” with volatile solvents). There are major concerns about oil train accidents along the routes which include the Columbia Gorge, Puget Sound and the train tunnel under downtown Seattle.

In addition to the issues of train traffic, the draft EIS also addresses climate change. As is typical, however, the issue is finessed by not evaluating the emissions from the end use of petroleum products. To be fair, this is uncertain – but the summary of the draft EIS does project some rather major effects of the train traffic:

The proposed project would not increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the Shell PSR. Emissions resulting from the refinement and consumption of products from the Shell PSR were not assessed because the refinery’s operating capacity would not change with implementation of the proposed project. The crude oil shipped to the proposed unloading facility would replace deliveries from the Alaska North Slope currently delivered via marine vessel. The transport of crude oil from the mid-continent area would result in a 93-percent increase of GHG emissions resulting from changing delivery of oil from tanker ships to rail.

In other words, the increased train traffic would almost double GHG emissions from transporting the crude oil to the refinery. This is because train traffic is less efficient in transporting large quantities of crude oil than marine traffic. There is a tradeoff – marine vessels can pollute much larger areas with an accident such as the Exxon Valdez than trains such as the Mosier, Oregon accident. But the large number of trains – six a week – mean a higher possibility of accidents.



Observations from Congressional Candidate Forum

October 05

Brady Walkinshaw and Pramila Jayapal at candidate forum

UU Voices members are active in politics, and one of the most effective means of expressing their activism is attending candidate forums and getting to know the candidates’ views.

A recent example was the candidate forum for the Seventh Congressional District of Washington (Seattle and some surrounding suburbs), sponsored by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and Cascadia Climate Action, and held at Ballard’s Peddler Brewing Company on Tuesday, October 4, 2016.

After Representative Jim McDermott announced his retirement, Brady Walkinshaw and Pramila Jayapal (both members of the state legislature) won the primary. Both are Democrats -- Washington primary system selects the top two candidates with the most votes, regardless of party.

Walkinshaw and Jayapal faced off in a debate that was attended by about 100 voters. On most issues – for example, criminal justice and poverty – their positions are almost identical. On one issue, carbon tax, the candidates differed.

Walkinshaw favors I-732, the carbon tax initiative, while Jayapal opposes it. Walkinshaw noted that I-732 is an action that we can take this year, while other proposals would take longer. He said that while I-732 is not perfect, it is a means of putting a price on carbon and addressing climate change, which is his highest priority.

Jayapal opposes I-732 because of equity concerns. She noted that communities of color and others had not been consulted in the drafting of I-732, and she had concerns that it would drain revenue from the state budget. Walkinshaw countered with the Sightline Institute analysis, which found “I-732 is revenue neutral, to the best of anyone’s ability to forecast it.” Jayapal said that there would be efforts by Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, labor unions and other groups to formulate a more equitable initiative in the future.

Based on the applause for each candidate’s views, most people in the audience appeared to be more sympathetic to Walkinshaw’s position on I-732 than Jayapal’s. Although she had the most votes during the primary, it remains to be seen if Jayapal’s position on I-732 will help or hinder her in the general election.


A New Day is Dawning

September 21

Reflections by Rev Dennis Reynolds, Board Member, UU Voices for Justice


I was privileged to be part of an amazing gathering near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. There, representatives from nearly 300 indigenous tribes and communities and many other organizations have pledged support to the water protectors who are gathered there in opposition to the North Dakota Access Oil pipeline.

Inspired by the prior visits there by the Lummi people and other Northwest tribes, a delegation  of Unitarian Universalist from Washington traveled by train across the country to witness and to stand in solidarity with the tribes gathered there.

Tribal Flags

I joined Rev. Florence Caplow and lay members from the Quimper UU Fellowship in Port Townsend. We delivered  a few donations and a letter of support from 120 UU ministers. We in turn, were gifted with deep hospitality and reminded of the undeniable truth of our connection to all people and to the sacred waters everywhere. 

More information  is available at

Support for this continuing effort can best be provided to the Standing Rock tribe at Standing         


Totem Pole Journey Stops in Longview

August 26

Lummi leaders gave significant support to the Longview community on August 26, 2016 when the totem pole was brought to the Longview Methodist Church. Reverend Rene Devontier welcomed the Cowlitz tribe leaders and the Lummi leaders, who spoke against the approval of the Millennium Coal Terminal in Longview. The totem pole, carved and painted by Jewell James and his family, originated in Bellingham and will be carried from the Northwest to Winnipeg, Canada, with stops in Idaho, Montana and South Dakota at tribal events. Jewell James introduced his family. After Jewell James spoke to the community, Reverend Devontier invited members of the community to come forward and lay their hands on the totem pole, and concluded the ceremony with a prayer.



Sierra Club ExCom Meeting on I-732, August 25, 2016

August 26

 After two hours of parliamentary maneuver, possibly to delay a vote on a proposal to change the Sierra Club policy on I-732 (carbon tax initiative), the Washington Chapter Executive Committee (ExCom) members voted to replace Chair Margie Van Cleve with Tim Gould as temporary chair. The ExCom then voted to appeal a ruling by club staff to foreclose any reconsideration of the previous (April) decision on I-732, which has been interpreted to say that the Sierra Club opposes I-732. Subject to the outcome on this appeal, the ExCom voted to replace the previous decision with the following language:

The Sierra Club neither opposes nor supports I-732.

In the event that I-732 passes in this November election, the Club will reach out and work with many allied organizations to (1) enact public policies to assure a just transition for labor groups affected by the carbon pricing measures; and (2) develop along with climate equity groups and organized labor additional public policies which are needed to prevent and mitigate climate change.

In the event that I-732 fails to pass in this November election, the Club will work with allied organizations to enact a carbon pricing plan that is fair and equitable for all stakeholders, including labor, climate justice, race and social justice, and industry groups.  In addition, Sierra Club will continue to pursue alliances with a broad coalition to further change public policies in order to reduce the rate of and mitigate climate change.

There are still major questions about whether this statement can have the desired effect, particularly if the national Sierra Club board refuses to reconsider the earlier action. Nevertheless, that board has been put on notice that many members of the chapter are concerned about effects of perceived Sierra Club opposition to I-732; many members favor I-732 and are working to support it.



UU Voices for Justice Statement on Immigration Policy and Berks Detention Hunger Strike

August 16


On Monday, August 8th, 2016, 22 Central American mothers inside Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania launched a hunger strike demanding their immediate release from detention. Most of the families in Berks have been incarcerated for more than six months and many have been detained for one year. As a result, some of the youngest children in the facility have spent nearly one-third of their life in prison-like conditions. The average length of stay at Berks far exceeds the Obama administration’s stated goal to limit detention to an average of twenty days or less, a standard created to comply with recent federal court rulings.

Here in Washington State, community organizers have protested similarly unjust detention and deportation of immigrant families at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.


In response, William McPherson, Board President of the Washington State Unitarian Universalist Voices for Justice issued the following statement:

We bear witness to and condemn the unjust realities of our current national immigration policy, as evidenced by the shameful conditions of detention at Pennsylvania’s Berks County Residential Center. More must be done by the current administration, including placing a temporary moratorium on deportations. On the state level, UU Voices for Justice supports efforts in Washington to end family detention and provide all asylum-seeking families a meaningful opportunity for protection, rather than punishing them for exercising their fundamental human right to seek asylum.


Testimony on Department of Ecology (ECY) Hearing on Clean Air Rule

July 15

Testimony at Department of Ecology Clean Air Rule Hearing

I am William McPherson, President of the board of Unitarian Universalist Voices for Justice. I am a retired diplomat. I would like to set context for the Clean Air Rule at the global, national and state levels.

The US agreed with 194 other countries on the Paris Agreement. Our pledge (Nationally Determined Contribution) is too weak, and along with other pledges will lead to 3.2 degree increase; instead 26-28% by 2025 US should pledge 40%.

To reach our stated goal of “less than 2 degrees,” the world is obligated to stay within a carbon budget of 1000 gigatons. Human induced emissions have amounted to 600 gigatons so far, leaving 400 gigatons, which at current rates (10 gigatons per year) would be exhausted in 40 years, by 2057. Reductions must accelerate.

How do we fit this budget? Washington is at 3 tonnes per person per year, which is better than U.S. average 6, but we are at more than twice world average (1.3), and at five times level advocated by science, 0.6 tonnes per capita.

If a carbon budget target were to be realized, we would need to reduce at a much more ambitious rate. It is a moral obligation for us to approach reductions not only in terms of tonnage in state reduction but also in terms of tonnage per person. I urge ECY to analyze and report the effect of the rule on tonnage per person.

Thank You. 


Climate Justice: Fast for Our Children

July 13

Last week, my friend Alec Connon from 350Seattle asked me if I would stop eating for three days. I said yes... Here’s why. 

In 2015, eight courageous kids won a historic case in which the Department of Ecology was ordered to come up with a Clean Air Rule that supports their constitutional right to clean air and a healthy environment. If that rule were based on climate science or the threat posed to our children by air pollution, the rule would need to mandate annual greenhouse gas reductions between 6% and 8% per year. The Clean Air Rule that Ecology has come up with only mandates a 1.7% annual reduction, and because of the way that the rule is written, actual greenhouse gas reductions will likely be even less. (More info here.)

The Washington State Dept. of Ecology is having a hearing and allowing public testimony on their draft of the Clean Air Rule this Thursday in Olympia. As far as I’m concerned, this rule is one of the most important steps that our government can take to ensure clean air and a livable planet for Washington’s children. And yet, most people aren't even aware of this issue.

We need to change that.

At 9am on the 12th of July, I joined over a dozen parents and grandparents and begin a hunger fast on the Capitol steps in Olympia.

 Fast on the Capitol steps

The fast will continue until the public testimony at 6PM on Thursday, July 14th at the Red Lion Hotel (2300 Evergreen Park Dr. SW Olympia, WA 98502).

I am doing this because I feel compelled to act and support the hopeful, beautiful work that is being done by the children who are defendants in the lawsuit and who are speaking not just for themselves, but for my daughters and for all the children of Washington State.

Please support a Clean Air Rule that mandates meaningful, measurable action. You can do this by informing others about this issue and by providing written comments to the Department of Ecology demanding a rule that is based on science. If you are willing and able, you could also consider participating in a one day fast to show solidarity with the parents in Olympia (and if you do so, please inform others of your decision on Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or by providing testimony about why we need a science-based clean air rule, online or in person at the hearing. 

When I was pregnant with my older daughter, I read this quote from Elizabeth Stone, "Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” When my daughters were babies, I made sure to find a safe car seat with a secure harness; when they learned to crawl, I installed a safety gate at the top of the stairs; when they were toddlers I found hats for the beach and carefully applied sunscreen; when they learned to ride a bike, I made sure they wore their helmets. We do these things as parents because we want to protect our children. 

At a time when so much in the world seems broken and when violence between people and violence towards our natural world seems to be the norm, I worry that I will not be able to do so. Protecting my children - protecting our children - will require a change in the way that we treat each other and in the way that we treat our earth. 

Please join me in raising people's awareness about the children's lawsuit and the Clean Air Rule and please take steps to protect the children that you love.


Oil Train Safety Threat

July 13

On the Washington side of the Columbia River there is a threat to safe transportation of oil similar to the one in Oregon: loose rails along the river at White Salmon (just across from Hood River, a few miles from Mosier). The photo below was taken by Sean Couvreux.

Note the loose spikes on the brackets. 

Loose rails


Quinault Indian Nation Rally and March

July 11

On July 8, 2016, the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) sponsored a rally and march in Hoquiam, Washington, along the Hoquiam River just above the point where it empties into Grays Harbor bay. The aim of the rally and march was prevention of the development of an oil terminal in Grays Harbor. The rally started with the arrival of two Quinault canoes and a flotilla of kayaks and boats carrying the legend “Shared Waters, Shared Values,” the theme of the rally. 

Quinault canoes and flotilla of kayaks and boats.


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