Climate Protesters Shut Down Houston Ship Channel

Image courtesy Greenpeace

By The Maritime Executive 09-12-2019 02:01:49

Protesters with Greenpeace closed off access to the upper reaches of the Houston Ship Channel on Thursday by suspending themselves from the deck of the Fred Hartman Bridge, which spans the channel near Baytown, Texas. 

U.S. Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston received notification of the action at 0630 hours Wednesday. A Coast Guard response boat crew is on scene to monitor the situation. The channel is closed to marine traffic between Light 102A and Light 104, effectively closing off access to the channel's upper reaches in the cities of Baytown and Houston. As of 0730 hours, one inbound vessel and two outbound vessels were queued and waiting to transit under the span. 

The action has temporarily cut off access to the Baytown Refinery, the Valero Houston refinery, the Shell Deer Park refinery, the LyondellBasell Houston refinery and the Chevron Pasadena refinery, which together have a combined capacity of nearly 1.5 million barrels per day. However, the protest's planned duration means that it is unlikely to have a material effect on refinery operations.

Greenpeace said that the demonstration will last 24 hours - a period that will coincide with the third set of televised Democratic Party presidential primary debates, which will be held Thursday night at Texas Southern University. Greenpeace confirmed the connection between the debates and the direct action protest, challenging "every candidate on stage [Thursday] to promise to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable if they become president."

The Harris County Sheriff's Office told the Houston Chronicle that it has no intention of interfering with the protest. "If it becomes a health or safety issue, we may be forced to help them," said HCSO chief of law enforcement Tim Navarre. "We don't want to create a situation that would cause harm to them or death."