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Greenpeace Climbers Block Houston Ship Channel, Halting Oil Industry Operations Ahead of Democratic Debate

WASHINGTON - Twenty-two Greenpeace USA climbers have formed a blockade from the Fred Hartmann Bridge in Baytown, Texas, shutting down the largest fossil fuel thoroughfare in the United States ahead of the third Democratic primary debate in nearby Houston. The climbers intend to remain secured in place for 24 hours, preventing the transport of all oil and gas through the channel. Their action is a bold call to leaders to imagine a world beyond fossil fuels and embrace a just transition to renewable energy.

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Greenpeace USA Activist Mike Herbert, one of the 22 climbers blocking the Houston Ship Channel, said:

"I grew up in the East Texas Oil Field, a place where the oil industry touches everything. I know how much power oil executives have over our democracy. That's why I'm taking action to shut down the Houston Ship Channel, the largest fossil fuel thoroughfare in the country. The oil industry has spent millions of dollars to convince the American people — including the community I grew up in — that we can't thrive without them. This just isn't true. We are here because we believe a world beyond oil is possible, we just have to fight for it.

"To the presidential candidates gathered in Houston today, we need you to know there is no middle ground to stand on. Will you champion a Green New Deal and ensure a just transition away from fossil fuels? Or will you side with the corrupt billionaires trying to wreck the planet for their profit? Millions of Americans are waiting on your answer."

The shores of the 52-mile Houston Ship Channel are home to the second-largest petrochemical complex in the world. On an average day, 700,000 barrels of oil pass through the location the climbers have blocked, more than any other export channel in the United States. Industry expansion plans could increase that amount to 2 million barrels in a matter of years [1].

Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard said:

"We're in a climate emergency created by fossil fuel CEOs and made worse by Trump. We can either take bold action to combat the climate crisis today or suffer the consequences — more floods, more mega-storms, and more fires — for years to come.

"Here’s what can happen when we finally choose renewable energy over fossil fuels: We can create millions of high-paying, union jobs. We can keep our air and water clean and safe. And we can safeguard our climate against catastrophe. We can’t afford to screw this up, and we won’t let oil executives do that for us."

The action comes as presidential candidates gather in nearby Houston for the third Democratic primary debate. The climate crisis has emerged as a top issue in the 2020 election. A majority of registered voters now say climate change is an "emergency" and 67 percent believe that the United States under the Trump administration is not doing enough to address the problem [2]. In recent weeks, multiple Democratic candidates have released plans to phase out fossil fuels, hold industry executives accountable for their role in the climate crisis, and create jobs and opportunity in the renewable energy economy [3].

The action also sets the stage for next week's youth climate strike. On September 20, three days before the UN Climate Summit in New York City, millions of people across the US and the world will participate in youth-led strikes to demand transformative action to address the climate crisis. Youth leaders are calling on elected officials to say yes to a Green New Deal and no to fossil fuel expansion.


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