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Updated w/ photos:Oil Enforcement Agency bust at Portland city council hearing a success.

The controversy over the I-5 expansion project known as the Columbia River Crossing took a theatrical turn on Wednesday, as politically charged street performance took center stage outside a packed city hall. Meeting attendees were greeted with a fake check point just past an area marked off by "Global Warming Crime Scene" tape.

Decked out in a Men-in-Black style uniform marked with the insignia of the "Oil Enforcement Agency", an actress known as Agent Burns was busily preparing a ticket for a bemused member of the Portland Business Alliance on his way to the meeting. "This is your final warning sir, if you’re intent on testifying in favor of the bridge, we’re going to have to write you up for abuse of a foreign fossil fuel," chided the agent.
Oil Enforcement Agents form a check point at City Hall
Oil Enforcement Agents form a check point at City Hall
Oil-cult worships around the 14 foot tall oil derrick
Oil-cult worships around the 14 foot tall oil derrick
The Oil Enforcement agents were not the only performers making a point about the I-5 expansion’s impacts on oil use and climate change. A second troupe had assembled an oil-worshipping cult, chanting dirges in praise of fossil fuel burning while bowing before a 12-foot tall mock oil-derrick. Occasionally members of the Oil Enforcement Agency would attempt to arrest the cult, only to be chased away by an oil-worshipping dominatrix.

Meanwhile, inside the city council meeting a variety of groups opposed to the Columbia River Crossing raised their concerns about the I-5 expansion in a more sober fashion. Hostility to the project has been expanding in recent months, with dozens of groups on both sides of the Columbia River weighing in against the project.

Opponents of the project point out that the state of Oregon has stated a goal of reducing global warming pollution to at least 75% below 1990 levels(1), with transportation-caused global warming pollution responsible for 1/3 of regional global warming pollution(2). Public health advocates at the hearing point out that the I-5 freeway has already had a negative impact on the health of low-income communities and communities of color along the freeway and that increased driving would lead to further pollution. Finally, homeowners are up in arms about the possibility of their property being seized through imminent domain to make way for an expanded highway.

Back outside city hall, the Oil Enforcement Agents had a closing message to Portland residents. "If the politicians won’t do it, it’s going to take community-based policing, each of us standing up to the oil pushers in our neighborhoods," said Agent Slick, also of the Oil Enforcement Agency. "We need to put an end to the lawless abuse of the climate and the illegal foreign wars before they prove the end of us."

The street theater was organized by energy activists with the organizations Rising Tide and Global Exchange, as a kick off for the 2nd Annual Convergence for Climate Action, a week long conference that takes place in Coburg, Oregon later this month(3). The Convergence focuses on regional climate and energy issues, including liquefied natural gas development along Oregon’s waterways, the Bureau of Land Management’s forest plan revisions, the removal of the Klamath dams, sustainable agriculture, and the Columbia River Crossing.

1.  http://sustainableoregon.org/documents/climate/Oregon_Strategy_Final_Report.pdf
2.  http://wweek.com/editorial/3428/11009/
3. More information at www.climateconvergence.org

homepage: homepage: http://www.risingtidenorthamerica.org