Top Ten Reasons to Stop Zenith Oil-by-Rail

Now is Our Chance to Take Action!

This is it! Now is the moment we have been waiting for: the opportunity to stop the City of Portland from locking us into decades of harmful fossil fuels.

For years, community members, organizations, and coalitions have been calling on the City of Portland to shut down Zenith Energy’s dirty, dangerous oil-by-rail operations in NW Portland. When the City of Portland failed to take action, dedicated community members refused to give up. Now our City Commissioners have the opportunity to say no to Zenith—and it’s our job to make sure they do. This is our chance to put an end to oil-by-rail in Portland. Let’s do this!

Take Action! 

Check out our top ten reasons that the City of Portland should say NO to Zenith.


  1. Climate Emergency: The climate emergency alarm bells blast. Our actions in response must rise up to meet the urgency of the moment. The city can stop a project that locks us into decades of the harms of fossil fuels. 
  2. Air Pollution: The city will decide whether to pave the way for the Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to grant an air pollution permit that would allow Zenith to pump massive amounts of dangerous pollution into the air we breathe. Portland’s airshed is already exceeding acceptable levels of low-level ozone (smog). Unnecessary, dangerous facilities like Zenith’s oil train terminal produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrous oxides (NOx) that lead to smog. The added stress on an already overburdened airshed would result in increased pollution. 
  3. Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs): A Title V air pollution permit would allow Zenith to pump up to 100 tons annually of greenhouse gas emissions into our environment in the midst of a climate emergency! This would lock us into decades of harmful fossil fuel pollution as well as threats from accidents and spills. We need to slash our GHG emissions. We deserve a healthy, clean, climate and that includes keeping fossil fuels in the ground.
  4. Accidents and Spills: We know that an accident is not a matter of if, but when. Trains derail and explode far too often, and the results have been catastrophic. Rail companies continue to push the limits: longer and longer trains, shorter inspection times, less staff to do maintenance and repairs, and this increases the chance of something going wrong. 
  5. Public Health and Safety: Portland City Council members identified community safety as one of the top three priorities. We already know the results of continuing to invest in fossil fuels will be catastrophic. Here is another reason why: from extraction to combustion and all along the transport route, fossil fuels cause increased negative health outcomes. The list of health impacts from these exposures is long, and these impacts disproportionately burden Communities of Color and low-income communities. From asthma, to cancer, to negative birth outcomes, communities that are exposed to fossil fuels are at risk for increased burdens to health and safety.
  6. Environmental Justice: Oil trains pose immediate, unacceptable safety risks to people in Portland. The burdens of the fossil fuel industry fall disproportionately on communities of color and low-income communities. These harms are inextricably linked to decisions we make in Portland. We are determined to make sure that those decisions are made with the interest of protecting public health and safety as well as our shared environment. Oil trains pose a serious environmental justice concern for our communities and for future generations.
  7. Massive Ongoing Community Opposition: Since the moment the community became aware of Zenith’s bait and switch—from asphalt to tar sands and crude—there has been massive public outcry and opposition. The efforts have been incredible: a beautiful representation of a better vision for the future in the form of a “Victory over Fossil Fuels'' Garden; an impressive float in the St. John’s parade (2nd-place prize!); a 60-hour vigil at the site; years of documenting operations; countless hearings, rallies, actions, webinars, and workshops; hours of testimony and community outreach; caravans led by a fire truck warning about the dangers of Zenith; creative handmade cards; and so much more. Many people put their lives on hold and their bodies on the line to protect our community from this threat. Thousands of people have shown up repeatedly to protect what they love. Elected officials should fulfill their promises to protect Portland from the threats of oil-by-rail.
  8. A Disaster Waiting to Happen: Zenith is located in NW Portland in what is now known as the Critical Energy Infrastructure Hub—a strategically placed sacrifice zone that stores millions of gallons of fuel, chemicals, and other toxic substances—located on the banks of the Willamette River. Unfortunately, this six-mile stretch of aging tank farms—reaching from the southern edge of Sauvie Island to the Fremont Bridge— is smack dab in the middle of a liquefaction zone. Liquefaction occurs in saturated soils, when the space between individual particles of soil is filled with water. This means, if there is an earthquake, the ground would turn to the consistency of cake batter—a recipe for disaster for the millions of gallons of dangerous substances at Zenith.
  9. Big Oil is Over: The writing is on the wall: big oil is a dying industry and the faster we can make the transition to cleaner energy, the better. Here’s the good news: we have cleaner energy options available now! The quicker we move toward a just transition, the better equipped we will be for the uncertainties we face.
  10. We Can Do It! The power we have when we come together to demand safer, healthier solutions is so inspiring! We have the power to inspire City Council to take swift, protective action that will prioritize the health and safety of our communities and will allow us to build resilience as we face the climate emergency.

Let’s make this the summer we end dangerous oil-by-rail in Portland!

Additional Zenith Resources


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Portland, Oregon: City of Oil-by-Rail?