The Port Commission of Vancouver, Washington met on Friday, April 15, to decide on the proposed permit extension for the Tesoro-Savage oil export terminal. If approved, the project would send an estimated 360,000 barrels of oil through Vancouver each day, making it the largest oil terminal on the West Coast. The potential danger of the terminal itself and the oil trains carrying dangerous oil to the terminal have caused a groundswell of public opposition. Tens of thousands of people submitted written comments, including 1,500 Fuse members, and hundreds more showed up in person to the Friday hearing.
In addressing the large crowd, Port Commissioner Jerry Oliver took the conversation in an unexpected direction by comparing climate activists to his ancestors who went to war to defend slavery. Here's his exact quote:
"Mr. and Mrs. Steinke, you have been sincere, I believe that firmly, sincere in your desire to accomplish your goal of keeping fossil fuel in the ground. I am a genealogist by hobby. I had five forbearers, six actually, that fought in the Civil War. Five of them fought for the Confederacy, from the state of Arkansas. None of them were landowners, they were sharecroppers. Not a single one of them owned a slave."
"But they were moved by their sincere convictions to enter a perilous struggle, perhaps moved by demagogues that Yankees were coming down to plunder and rape and pillage their homes and while I can't be as certain of their intention, but perhaps that theme worked well then just as it seems to be working in contemporary America today. They were sincere to the point that two of them, two of the five died in that struggle. They were sincere, like you, and like you, they were sincerely wrong."
Watch it for yourself here:
Only minutes later, Commissioner Oliver also made it clear that he denies the science of human-caused global warming, saying:
"Mr Steinke, you asked me directly on more than one occasion and this week via email where I stand on anthropogenic climate change, that is man-caused climate change caused due to the burning or consumption of fossil fuels. And I suggest to you to date it has not been born out by facts. As you well know, much of the early data presented to make your case was not accurate, it was indeed fraudulent, delivered by so-called English scientists who modified the data to prove their point."
That humans are exacerbating climate change is considered a fact by everyone from the U.S. military to a large majority of scientists. Instead of seriously considering the evidence before him when it comes to climate science and the safety of his community, Commissioner Oliver appears hopelessly stuck in the past, relegated to insulting those who are working to leave a healthier world for our kids. A broad coalition of local city councilmembers, firefighters, and small businesses have opposed the oil terminal and the dangerous oil trains that would rumble through their communities every day. Yet Commissioner Oliver can't even accept the science of climate change, much less have a rational conversation about the proposal that doesn't involve Confederate soldiers.
We expect better from those we elect to represent us and lead our communities. Unfortunately, Commission Oliver's backwards ideas belong in the 1860's with his Confederate ancestors.