Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Oil Train Listening Project

VAN is working with Portland Rising Tide to conduct the first Oil Train Listening Project in Portland on March 28 from 10am-3:30pm followed by a debriefing from 4pm-5pm. There will be two trainings offered on March 27 from 7pm-8pm and March 28 from 8:30am-9:30am. All of the trainings and debriefing will happen at the Portland Rising Tide office located at 2249 E Burnside. You are only required to attend one listening project training. 
The work that needs to happen before the Listening Project is scouting of houses / roads that have a direct line of sight of the railroad tracks. We are focusing on the north south traffic right now. If you go to this map and zoom in you can find the areas which we are targeting for active listening. We also need help gathering clip boards/pens, making copies, lamination, creating the listening project worksheets / questions.

If you don't live in Portland we would still love to work with you on Oil Train organizing.

Training Required:
Everyone who plans to attend the Listening Project will need to attend either of 2 trainings offered on Friday March 27 from 7pm-8pm or Saturday March 28 from 8:30am-9:30am. You only need to attend 1 listening project training but you MUST attend our Listening Project training in order to go door to door for this project even if you have prior listening experience. All trainings and debriefing will happen at the Portland Rising Tide office located at 2249 E Burnside in Portland, OR.

What is a Listening Project?
This Listening Project model was started by the Mountain Justice Movement in 2005 and has been modified and replicated by several social / eco justice groups around the world since then. Listeners get training and go with a buddy door to door asking residents questions to gauge their feelings and concerns about oil train issues. It is a humbling experience, asking questions and then listening to their answers. Listeners will be equiped with maps and other educational materials to distribute. At the end of each 15-30 minute interview the Listeners write down responses and move on to the next house keeping track of which houses have been visited. At the end of the day we gather back to debrief the Listening Project and share stories and highlights. The Listening Projects are good for finding supporters, expanding the local knowledge base and networks, and learning how to phrase our struggles in local terms. The end goal of the Listening Project is to empower local residents by allowing them to tell their story with the idea that upon feeling empowered that they would then organize and take action. Mountain Justice has gotten lots of positive results from using these Listening Projects in Southern Appalachia around coal mining issues. You can find an outline of the questions here.

What happens with the data collected?
The data will be written onto sheets of paper and collected by Vancouver Action Network and will be available for review by any group working on Oil Train issues. Residents who give contact info will be invited to participate in the Twitter Oil Train Watch monitoring program, protests, and other direct actions. We will share some of the data collected during the debriefing in the form of story telling. You can go to our blog or find us on Facebook for more info about how we use community generated data.

Please Help with Planning the Listening Project
1.  We are looking for locations for Listening Projects to occur in the greater Portland area. The places where we want to listen are along the railroad tracks where oil trains travel. The resident's houses need to be facing the tracks or at least be within a clear line of sight of the tracks. Suggested areas are Hayden Island, St Johns, Hwy 30 near Forest Park, Milwaukee,(and in additional railside communities). Do you live near exploding oil train railroad routes? Check this Forest Ethics Blast Zone Map-- If you are a local resident who wants to help organize your railside neighborhood contact us. 
2.  We are looking for questions to ask. We will be using a generic Mountain Justice question list but will include oil train and Portland specific info. If you have door to door experience in Portland and have ideas then please get in touch. I have attached the rough draft of the listening project questions. Feedback is welcome.
3.  Funding to make color lamenated copies of Oil Train Blast Zone maps, copies of the listening project form sheets, and Twitter Oil Train Watch quarter sheets ($60)

Who can attend?
Anyone who is able to ask questions and listen to answers or anyone who can just be a listening buddy for safety. We do ask that you please bathe and wear clean non political and non offensive clothing when going door to door as you are the friendly, smiling, smelling nice face of this budding oil train movement. If you have a car great, bring it. If you don't have a car that is fine as public transit can get you around.

Please RSVP
If you are interested in participating in the Listening Projects please RSVP so that we can make sure our training space is big enough.
RSVP with Matt Landon at

Stuff to bring
water, food, clipboard, pens / pencils, car, bus fare, a positive attitude, your listening ears! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wednesday Talk Radio with Paul Roland on KBOO

VAN co-founder, Matt Landon, will be speaking to Paul Roland tomorrow morning at 8:00am on KBOO. They will be talking about the Twitter train watch, an automated train watch, and listening projects in railside neighborhoods.

If you missed the broadcast, you can listen to it here:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

VAN's 2015 project list and Wishlist

2015 VAN volunteer projects list

1) Listening Projects in Railside neighborhoods-- VAN is partnering with Portland Rising Tide (and other groups?) to help increase the number of most directely impacted railside residents participating in this growing movement.  This spring we plan to go door to door to conduct  Listening Projects (based on the Mountain Justice model) to learn about the concerns of railside residents, provide some technical education about oil by rail projects, and recruit volunteers for Train Watch and other direct actions.  A mandatory training will be provided prior to engaging in Listening Projects.  

2) Twitter Train Watch volunteers needed-- This is one of the most vital tools which VAN can help provide, REAL TIME  oil train monitoring data.  This is information that isn't being provided by any other group,  federal or state agency (that I know of).  If you see a 100% oil train please Tweet the time, direction of train travel if known, location such as city, state and major landmark, and the hash tag #waoiltrainwatch for Washington state, #oroiltrainwatch for Oregon and so on.   This can be done from where ever you are as long as you can see oil trains and use Twitter.
Do you live near exploding oil train railroad routes? Check this Forest Ethics map
Forest Ethics Blast Zone Map--
We also have the option of monitoring oil trains in Vancouver, WA via our live city webcam if anyone is interested.  I can't stress how important this real time data is to our budding movement.  This is one  way to provide real time data to first responders, government officials, local citizens, and those planning direct actions against oil trains.    
Contact VAN when you start monitoring so we can promote your work.

3) Railroad Infrastructure monitoring via drone-- Yep VAN has entered the drone age. We'll be using a drone with Go Pro video to monitor railroad bridges for safety violations. We will be doing visual inspections of railroad crossings which is a common place for accidents to happen. We plan to use to help provide easy to use access to our monitoring data. will map your geosynced tweets and display photos from your trip so that railroad experts and the Utilities Transportation Commission which regulates crossings in Washington state can bust the railroads.

We will not be trespassing on railroad property or breaking current drone regulatory laws.  

4) Exhausting Administrative Rememdies clerical work-- We need to compile a list of which states have complied by providing oil train shipment data to citizens and which ones haven't (so we can break their will to resist) and help locate and mobilze area residents to request this info and initiate lawsuits when possible.  (this can be done from anywhere)

5) Protest it up!-- We need to increase public protests against Washington Governor Jay Inslee and the new Oregon governor to block proposed oil and propane terminals in our states.  We also need to organize nation wide protests at DOT and FRA offices demanding an end to shipping of all explosive substances in out dated DOT 111 railcars. 

6) tabling-- We have a bunch of events where we could use some solid tabling volunteers.  You can get into music shows for free, farmer's markets, festivals and conferences.  It is pretty easy and pretty awesome to meet new folks and help build the movement.  Also doing outreach to Amtrak and crusty punk train riders to conduct Oil Train Watches as they ride the rails.

VAN's 2015 Wishlist---

Anything you could provide or loan would be most helpful.

1) funding (gas money for feild work, printing flyers, relevant conference fees, ect)

2) volunteers (any above listed projects, webmaster, willing to protest in Olympia, Salem, hunger strike on capital steps, ect)  

3) trail cam w / batteries (we would use this to monitor oil trains for historical data via Twitter like Rod Tharp in Olympia) 

4) Live web cam with streaming video feed of train tracks

5) a way to program a computer to automatically monitor for oil trains via webcam using facial recognition type technology

6) a running vehicle (a loaner is ok, with a driver is even better)
7) a rent free VAN volunteer house (we'll take anything on either side of the Columbia or Willamette rivers in Vancouver/ Portland) We would house full time interns and get so much work done!

8) Zappar augmented reality guru-- Augemented reality is a pretty cool thing.  You can use your smart phone to look at Zappar enabled items and info automatically appears on your screen, much like VH 1's Pop Up Music Videos.  We would like an app that could be used to identify contents, maker, and owner of oil tank cars which could help with Train Monitoring.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Next Generation Climate Justice Action Camp Aug 14-17, 2014 Hillsboro, OR

VAN members will be volunteering with this event.

Age 14-18?  Then register online here- 
This summer, the Civil Liberties Defense Center is teaming up with the Ruckus Society and the Backbone Campaign to host an action camp for young people ages 14-18 to gain knowledge and skills to organize for climate justice! It will be a weekend of FUN, hands-on workshops, and action!
The camp will be from August 14-17, 2014 at Camp Ireland in Hillsboro, Oregon!
For more information contact-
The Civil Liberties Defense Center  WWW.CLDC.ORG
Lauren C. Regan, Attorney at Law Email:
259 East 5th Avenue, Suite 300 A Eugene, Oregon 97401

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Matt Landon interviewed by Al Jazeera English TV and VAN solidarity statement

Thanks to Al Jazeera English TV for interviewing VAN volunteer Matt Landon on June 24-25, 2014 in Vancouver, WA about our Twitter Train Watch activities.  The piece should air the week of July 1-7.  Stay tuned for more details. 
We would also like to condemn the illegal jailing, unfair trial, and harsh sentencing of Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed in Egypt this week.  These journalists were documenting pro-government protests and two of them received seven year prison sentences while the third received a 10 year sentence.  An attack on journalists anywhere is an attack on journalists everywhere. 
"Today three colleagues and friends were sentenced, and will continue to be kept behind bars for doing a brilliant job of being great journalists. 'Guilty' of covering stories with great skill and integrity. 'Guilty' of defending people’s right to know what is going on in their world," said Al Anstey, Al Jazeera English’s managing director.
Here is a list of Egyptian Embassies in the United States.
Please take a moment to send an email and make a phone call asking that the Egyptian government release these journalists.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Citizens Receive Railroad Information in Washington

SERC - US DOT Emergency Order Re: Bakken Crude Oil by Rail

On June 6, 2014, an Emergency Order issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) went into effect requiring railroad carriers operating trains transporting 1,000,000 gallons or more of Bakken crude oil in a single train to provide information to the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) regarding the estimated volumes and frequencies of the train traffic implicated. Specifically, the notification must:
  • Provide reasonable estimate of the number of trains and volumes per week, through each county.
  • Identify and describe the petroleum crude oil expected to be transported in accordance with 49 CFR part 172, subpart C.
  • Provide all applicable emergency response information required by 49 CFR part 172 subpart G.
  • Identify the routes over which the materials will be transported.
  • Provide at least one point of contact at the railroad (including name, title, phone number, and address) responsible for serving as the point of contact for SERCs and relevant emergency responders related to the railroad’s transportation of Bakken crude oil.
Railroad carriers shall update notifications prior to making any material changes in the estimated volumes or frequencies of trains traveling through a county (U.S. DOT considers any increase or decrease of 25% or more in the number of implicated trains per week to be a material change). For more information, see the U.S. DOT website:!docketDetail;D=DOT-OST-2014-0067.
Below notification process currently being implemented:
  • Railroad carrier notification reports received by the SERC are being sent to those emergency management organizations with a “need to know” (the counties/cities/tribes the oil trains travel through).
  • All railroad notifications reports sent by the SERC to emergency management organizations contain the following direction: “Each receiving agency is independently responsible for compliance with all state and federal laws and regulations concerning the disclosure and protection of this information, including but not limited to compliance with the state Public Records Act, ch. 42.56 RCW, and 49 CFR 1520, as applicable.”
  • Anyone other than an emergency responder with a need to know who would like to see a copy of the railroads’ notifications will be asked to file a Public Records Request (PRR).
  • SERC expects that all agencies that receive this information will comply with applicable state and federal law as directed
Railroad Notifications Released Pursuant to Public Record Request:

This information can be found at

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Twitter Oil Train Watch starts up in Missouri

For more info go to
Thanks to Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) for starting the Missouri Oil Train Watch.  MORE will utilize cameras to enhance their Train Watch activities.  You can follow them on Twitter by searching for hashtag #mooiltrainwatch
MORE can be reached at 314-862-2249 or 314-780-3734 and by email at