Environment Magazine

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the TransCanada Luncheon.

Posted on the 28 March 2013 by Earth First! Newswire @efjournal

Cross posted from Mismanaging Perception

By Hart Noecker

Several weeks ago, the Portland Business Alliance (PBA) posted notice for one of their semi-regular luncheons where cherished bicycle infrastructure and livable cities proponent U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer would be the noted speaker. For many who were informed of this notice, the idea of Earl speaking in front of the PBA seemed a bit awkward, considering the Alliance’s opposition to several bicycle safety improvement projects downtown, as well as as their agenda of promoting free-trade export economic practices.  But even more out of touch with the Portland values Mr. Blumenauer has been perenially re-elected to represent was the fact that the luncheon was being sponsored by tar sands oil extractors & Keystone XL pipeline builders TransCanada.  This represented a clear conflict of interest in the eyes of the climate justice community.

Screen shot 2013-03-27 at 4.09.27 PM

The KXL pipeline project has been predicted to make our current climate crisis into a nightmare, and has seen indigenous people’s land stolen from them to make way for this dirty carbon-rich energy source to make its way from the Alberta tar sands to refinement plants in Texas prior to export to Asia.

Last week, several ‘Worst Polluters’ bike tours around town had stopped by the offices of TransCanada and the Portland Business Alliance to shame the firms for their environmentally destructive profit models, and to call Mr. Blumenauer by phone on the spot to voice their displeasure that he would associate with either group, let alone speak at their event.

In the days that followed, many more constituents continued calling the congressman’s office, urging him to reconsider his choice of company.  After being told that no change of plans would be forthcoming, it was decided on the morning of the luncheon that one last appeal of moral conscience would be made in person.


A small group of climate activists met outside his district office building and climbed the stairs together.  While no appointment had been made due to the short notice of the luncheon, the group entered Mr. Blumenauer’s office and requested to speak with him directly.  Earl’s district director Willie Smith was quick to intercept the group and begin trying to explain why they would not be allowed to speak with their congressman at this time.  He went on to claim that they didn’t previously know TransCanada was hosting the event, but that this made no difference because Earl had made it “clear” he does not support KXL, and that TransCanada representatives weren’t likely to be in attendance at the luncheon.

A member of the group replied that whether TransCanada was present was the fact that did not matter, that the mere association was enough to show Mr. Blumenauer’s words and actions did not match.  They also informed Mr. Smith of the PBA’s connections to TransCanada and other polluting industries that the congressman alleges to oppose.  Willie Smith claimed ignorance of these associations as well, a highly unlikely possibility.

When pressed again to allow the group to see Mr. Blumenauer, Mr. Smith claimed the congressman was unavailable.  When asked if Earl was in his office, Willie non-answered by replying, “He wasn’t in his office 30 minutes ago.”

The group left several written questions and a request to have a peoples’ luncheon with Mr. Blumenauer at some point in the near future.  Willie Smith predicted, “I have a feeling I’ll be seeing you guys soon.”

Contact information was traded before the group left the office and walked back down the steps of the building.




From here, the group crossed the Willamette river via various modes and headed downtown to the black-box of an office tower that houses the headquarters of the Portland Business Alliance and the University of Oregon Business Institute where the luncheon itself was to take place.


It wasn’t long after sitting down at some cafe tables in the courtyard of the featureless building that security moved in and ordered the group off the private property and onto the sidewalk.  From here, the groups donned green bow ties (a fashion accessory that Earl is known for), and proceeded to unfurl several banners and signs condemning TransCanada and their devastating tar sands extraction.



The group flanked the entrance to the building’s parking garage, while luxury Cadallacs and SUV Escalades rolled in for the luncheon.  Earl often travels by bicycle, and the hope was that he might roll up via two-wheeled pedal power to counter the petroleum profiteering corporate crowd he was about to speak to.



As it turned out, a smaller conventional car pulled up, and from it emerged both Earl Blumenauer and his district director Willie Smith.  Somebody waved and shouted, “Hi, Earl!”  The crowd turned and approached the congressman to finally engage in some much deserved face time.  The first individual to approach the congressman extended and shook his hand.  The following exchange was civil, though somewhat tense, due to the swarm of police officers on bikes that closed in to monitor from across the courtyard.




Mr. Blumenauer repeatedly stated he felt there was no conflict of interest in his speaking to the PBA at an event sponsored by TransCanada.  He stressed, “My position is clear” on KXL, though he would not condemn TransCanada by name.  The crowd in turn reminded Earl of the destructive practices of the PBA and TransCanada.



Earl went on to cite his support of a carbon tax as a way of addressing the climate crisis.  Such plans have often beeen criticized as simply being another market-based non-solution that will generate a new flow of revenue that would incentivize  more carbon pollution.



The entire exchange lasted just over two minutes before Mr. Blumenauer left the crowd to enter the black building, joining the Portland Business Alliance’s TransCanada-sponsored luncheon.

More video content HERE.


The police lingered, using the opportunity to take a few closeup photos of the protestors for their records.



The group of citizen activists agreed – it was a good face-to-face confrontation in which Truth was spoken to power.  If Mr. Blumenauer wants his record to reflect that of an elected leader concerned with climate change, holding court with big business corporate polluters doesn’t send the right message.

The fight against KXL and TransCanada is just beginning, but it is clear who must win.  The fate of our future depends on shutting down these reckless companies and the social clubs they design to lure in so-called liberal leaders.  The pressure on Oregon’s politicians to distance themselves from these climate criminals is only going to increase.

See you in the streets.



All photographs are copyright Hart Noecker, and may be used with credit

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