100+ Bay Area activists commit to standing against fossil fuel industry both locally and globally
100+ Bay Area activists commit to standing against fossil fuel industry both locally and globally
Tuesday April 23, 2019

Locals participate in trainings, pledge their support to stopping Keystone XL Pipeline and Bay Area refinery expansions

By Isabella Zizi, Climate Campaigner, Stand.earth

Earlier this month, more than 100 Bay Area activists joined together for a weekend of trainings led by Indigenous trainers with Promise to Protect. The trainings were designed to support passionate people committed to taking a stand against the expansion of the fossil fuel industry through bold action both locally and globally — including the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in South Dakota and the expansion of local refineries in the Bay Area. 

The training in Oakland was just one of several trainings happening across the U.S. — in cities like Seattle, New York, Miami, and more — that brought people together with a common purpose: taking action into our own hands to protect our future from the growing threat of climate change. 

A mix of intergenerational people of color and allies packed the room, from bald toddlers to those with salt and pepper hair. There were familiar faces with loads of experience in civil disobedience, and others who were attending a training for the first time. During the first session on “How to be a good relative to Indigenous peoples,” participants joined the Indigenous trainers in a serious conversation about the importance of understanding place-based cultural and traditional practices, and the positive impact that has on Indigenous leadership and solidarity in the environmental movement.

No tar sands in San Francisco Bay

Stand.earth hosted the event, alongside the Indigenous trainers with Promise to Protect, to highlight the growing community opposition to the proposal by Phillips 66’s San Francisco Refinery to expand its wharf and bring in tar sands tankers from Canada. The refinery expansion, if permitted, would impact local health and the climate by increasing refinery emissions and worsening air quality for nearby communities, while increasing tanker traffic and the risk of a devastating oil spill in San Francisco Bay.

Tar sands is one of the dirtiest crude oils on the planet. It’s high in sulfur and heavy metals. Extracting and refining it creates an outsize climate impact. Tar sands is so thick when it comes out of the ground that it can only be moved through a pipeline and loaded onto a tanker after dilution with toxic chemicals. These same toxic chemicals also make it unsafe to approach a tar sands spill until the chemicals have evaporated. This means that in the event of a spill in San Francisco Bay, the heavy portions of tar sands will have the chance to sink while first-responders wait for the toxic, and explosive, chemicals to disperse. Read more: https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/10/05/opinion-canadas-tar-sands-pipeline-plan-threatens-bay-area/

I had the opportunity to speak to participants about local opposition to refinery expansions, and the conversation brought everything back home for the participants. Over 25,000 people have signed the Pledge to Protect to take bold action to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline. I emphasized that this training was not only to prepare participants for global actions, but also to get them involved in local movements — like the fight against Phillips 66’s refinery expansion.

As someone who lives on the frontlines, with the Chevron Refinery polluting my community every day, it was an honor to be able to host a stop of the Promise to Protect tour. The training was a chance to raise awareness about what refineries are doing in our own backyards, connect the dots to the resistance to the Keystone XL Pipeline, and grow the movement to stop the expansion of Canada’s tar sands into California. 


Art for the movement

After a long day of intense training, the night was alive and bright with new and familiar faces for an art build to create beautiful protest imagery for future Promise to Protect trainings and for local actions.

The event included the launch of a “No Tar Sands in SF Bay” graphic by renowned Indigenous artist Jackie Fawn, a Yurok and Filipino artist who is well-known for her work at Standing Rock and other movements across the nation. Read more about the graphic: https://www.stand.earth/blog/people-vs-big-oil/phillips-66-refinery/activists-fighting-tar-sands-tankers-san-francisco-bay

Dozens of activists arrived ready to help paint and silkscreen flags and patches — many of which were created by Christi Belcourt, a Métis artist who lives in Canada. They included a baby in a traditional swaddle with the words “Keep it in the ground,”  “No pipelines,” and “Power to the babies,” as well as a buffalo with a sacred heart in the middle with the words “Promise to protect water, climate, and communities.” 

Table after table filled with fresh muslin, paint brushes and paints. Rope lines stretched from one end of the building to the next as participants hung up the wet fabric, filling up every inch of the ropes.

How you can get involved

Although the worldwide Promise to Protect tour is complete, the movement is only just getting started. Many activists, including myself, have been inspired by youth like Greta Thunberg to rise up and take on the urgency of climate action. Just last month, roughly 1.6 million youth across the globe took over the streets as part of the Youth Climate Strike. That on its own is a powerful statement.

The movement to stop refinery expansions in the Bay Area is also growing. Activists have formed a local coalition to educate refinery communities by conducting town halls, where residents can hear directly from their neighbors and learn how to build power themselves. Tens of thousands of people have signed a growing petition to oppose the Phillips 66 proposal to bring in tar sands tankers from Canada.

The world is waking up to the fact that the fossil fuel industry is a dying industry, and that the time to act is now. Join the movement to stop the the Phillips 66 refinery expansion by signing the petition in the next few days, and you’ll receive a “No Tar Sands in SF Bay” sticker designed by Jackie Fawn herself!

Photo credit: Norm Sands, Idle No More SF Bay