SEATTLE — Five people have been arrested after blocking railroad tracks at a BNSF Railway yard in Everett, Washington.
Railroad spokesman Gus Melonas said two women and three men were taken to the Snohomish County Jail after refusing to leave a protest of train shipments of oil and coal and proposed export terminals in the Northwest. Melonas said he expects they will be charged with trespassing.
The protest by about a dozen demonstrators blocked some railroad tracks from 6 a.m. local time until about 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Melonas says three trains were delayed and others were diverted around the blocked tracks. No railroad property was damaged.
The group Rising Tide Seattle erected a tripod of poles over the tracks with a woman perched on top. Melonas says railroad police used a motorized lift known as a cherry picker to bring her down. Others were locked to the legs of the tripod.
A sign on the tripod said: "Cut Oil Trains Not Conductors," an apparent reference to a deal negotiated by BNSF and a union to allow the railroad to run some freight trains with only an engineer on board.
"People in the Pacific Northwest are forming a thin green line that will keep oil, coal and gas in the ground," spokeswoman Abby Brockway said in a statement. "Just one of these proposed terminals would process enough carbon to push us past the global warming tipping point — we won't let that happen."
BNSF police are commissioned officers with authority to issue citations or make arrests for trespassing or other criminal activity on railroad property, Melonas said.
Rising Tide Seattle says it's an all-volunteer collective dedicated to taking direct action to confront the causes of climate change.
Trains carrying coal from northern Plains states as well as oil trains from the Bakken Fields of North Dakota have drawn increasing opposition from environmentalists because of plans for terminals in Washington, Oregon and along the Columbia River to export fossil fuels to Asia. More than 20 new or expanded coal, oil and gas terminals are proposed in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon, said Rising Tide Seattle.
"There has not been one fatality on the BNSF Northern Tier from the Great Lakes, across the Plains, through the Rockies to the Pacific Northwest ports — not one fatality — as a result of a hazardous material release since 1981," Melonas said.