Environmental Activist Ken Ward, Famed as a Pipe Turner, and Others Plant Garden on the Zenith Oil Tracks to Halt Trains Through Portland

Group is taking direct action to halt climate change in Portland and around the world.

Ken Ward (Joe Michael Riedl)

Environmental protesters laid down soil and then planted a garden on train tracks Sunday morning to protest the growth in oil shipments to the Zenith Energy facility in Northwest Portland.

A leader of the group, Ken Ward, was the subject of a WW cover story in 2017 about his direct-action protests against fossil fuel companies, specifically turning a valve to shut off the crude-oil pipeline that runs from the Alberta tar sands to Washington State for refining.

Related: Ken Ward Is Willing to Go to Jail for the Rest of His Life to Fight Climate Change. What About You?

Now he's directing his attention on oil trains. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported in February that Zenith Energy was increasing its rail capacity to quadruple its capacity for unloading oil.

The growth of Zenith's oil shipments under the nose of Portland regulators is striking, given that City Council has voted to block the expansion of further fossil-fuel infrastructure.

In a letter to City Council, OPB reported today, the protesters said they were "initiating a blockade."

"We are writing to inform you that we have rezoned the industrial corridor in which this facility is sited, which also houses numerous other fossil fuel operations, from an Employment and Industry base zone to an Open Space designation," Ward and fellow protesters wrote.

"We urge you to use your powers to make this zoning change official, but we are not waiting for such measures to begin enforcing our own code."

One group involved in the protest is Extinction Rebellion PDX—a local chapter of a group founded last year in the U.K. that has engaged in high-profile nonviolent civil disobedience in an effort to get action on climate change.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.