Media Contact: Kai Huschke or 509-607-5034

SPOKANE – Today, a proposed “right to a healthy climate” citizen initiative was filed with the City of Spokane.  The initiative would amend the city charter to establish the people’s right to a healthy climate and public safety by prohibiting coal and oil trains from passing through Spokane.

The initiative was filed by long time Spokane physician Gunnar Holmquist, M.D.  Holmquist explained, “The biggest public health and safety risk to Spokane, our region, and the entire planet is climate change, yet despite knowing this for decades, we’ve done little of significance to confront that reality.”  He added, “Today, by filing this initiative, real action is taken.”

Though city councils across the Northwest, including in Spokane, Seattle, and Hood River, have adopted non-binding resolutions stating opposition to coal and oil trains, no community in the United States has adopted a law banning such fossil fuel transportation. For too long conventional law has prevented localities, like the City of Spokane, from taking action on rail shipments as only the federal government has had the authority to regulate rail traffic.

“This charter amendment is an assertion of the people of Spokane’s fundamental right of local community self-government, directed specifically at elevating the community’s right to a healthy climate and public safety over rights claimed by the railway corporations and the federal government.  If passed, it would ban coal and oil trains as a violation of those rights,” stated Thomas Linzey, chief legal counsel for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, who assisted in the drafting of the charter amendment. “There’s no dodging the law here. Spokane has been deliberately divested of lawmaking powers in this arena. The only recourse is to face the law head on by asserting the people’s right to stop that which is harming them.”

The proposed amendment contains a provision which would protect the use of nonviolent direct action to stop coal and oil trains from passing through Spokane, if the city or courts fail to uphold the amendment.

Holmquist explained, “The scientific evidence is unassailably clear, our planet is being cooked, primarily by the burning of fossil fuels.  If we continue to allow coal and crude oil to move through Spokane, on their way to be burned in Asia, the results will harm every living thing on Earth. I refuse to sit idly by and accept this injustice, and I know that many others here in Spokane feel the same way. We have alternatives that would solve the climate crisis, but we can no longer afford to wait for someone else to do something. We must act now and from where we live.”

The right to climate charter amendment is backed by Direct Action Spokane.


Featured image reprinted from

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