Earth Day Protest Targets Military’s Largest Fuel Depot

May 1st, 2023 - by Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action

Peace Activists Protest on Earth Day
At Pentagon’s Largest Gas Station
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action

(April 28, 2023) — On Earth Day 2023, peace activists and environmental activists came together at the Pentagon’s largest gas station to bear witness to the madness of burning massive amounts of fossil fuels in the name of National Security while the world is on fire due to global warming/climate change.

Organized by Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, activists gathered on April 22nd at Manchester Fuel Depot, known formally as the Manchester Fuel Department (MFD), to protest hydrocarbon use by the US Navy and the Department of Defense. The Manchester depot is located near Port Orchard in Washington State.

The Manchester depot is the largest fuel supply facility for the US military, and is located near major earthquake faults. Spillage of any of these oil products would impact the fragile ecology of the Salish Sea, the world’s largest and biologically rich inland sea. Its name honors the first inhabitants of the region, the Coast Salish peoples.

Members of The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, 350 West Sound Climate Action, and Kitsap Unitarian Universalist Fellowship gathered at Manchester State Park Saturday April 22, and made their way to the Fuel Depot gate on Beach Drive near Manchester, Washington.

There they displayed banners and signs calling on the US government to:
1) secure the tanks from leakage and the threat of earthquakes;
2) reduce the Defense department’s carbon footprint;
3) change the United States’ military and diplomatic policies to rely less on armaments and the fossil fuels whose consumption exacerbates the climate crisis.

The demonstrators were greeted at the gate by guards and security personnel, who welcomed them (in an ironic twist) with bottled water, and statements that they were protecting the protesters’ rights and that they respected their [activists] freedom of speech.

After a brief vigil the group then drove to the dock at the Port of Manchester where they unfurled a banner stating, “THE EARTH IS OUR MOTHER – TREAT HER WITH RESPECT”, in sight of the ships at the Fuel Depot’s refueling pier.

The Manchester Fuel Department (MFD) is the Department of Defense’s largest single-site fuel terminal in the United States. The depot provides military-grade fuel, lubricants and additives to US Navy and Coast Guard vessels, and to those from allied nations like Canada.  Records available from 2017 show over 75 million gallons of fuel stored at MFD.

The US military has approximately 750 military bases around the world and emits more carbon into the atmosphere than 140 nations.

If the US military were a country, its fuel usage alone would make it the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, sitting between Peru and Portugal.

Conflicts induced or exacerbated by climate change contribute to global insecurity, which in turn, increase the chance of nuclear weapons being used.  The effects of climate change can also feed the ambitions among some states to acquire nuclear weapons or different types of more useable or tactical nuclear weapons.

While climate change and the threat of nuclear war are the two major threats to the future of humankind and life on our planet, their solutions are similar.  International cooperation to solve one of the problems—whether to abolish or tightly reduce nuclear weapons or to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—would greatly help with the solution of the other.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force in January 2021. While the treaty’s prohibitions are legally binding only in the countries (60 so far) that become “States Parties” to the treaty, those prohibitions go beyond just the activities of governments.

Article 1(e) of the treaty prohibits States Parties from assisting “anyone” engaged in any of those prohibited activities, including private companies and individuals who may be involved in the nuclear weapons business.

Ground Zero member Leonard Eiger said “We absolutely cannot adequately address the climate crisis without also addressing the nuclear threat.

President Biden must sign the TPNW so that we can immediately start to shift the massive amount of necessary money, human capital and infrastructure away from preparations for nuclear war to dealing with climate change. Signing the TPNW would send a clear message to the other nuclear powers, and ultimately improve cooperation with Russia and China. Future generations are depending on us making the right choice!

Our proximity to the largest number of deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S. at Bangor, and to the “Pentagon’s largest gas station” at Manchester, demands a deeper reflection and response to the threats of nuclear war and climate change.

A 2020 Freedom of Information Act response from the Navy to Ground Zero member Glen Milner showed that most of the fuel from the Manchester depot is sent to local military bases, presumably for training purposes or for military operations.  The vast majority of the fuel is sent to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.  See!Al8QqFnnE0369wT7wL20nsl0AFWy?e=KUxCcT

One F/A-18F, similar to the Blue Angels jets that fly each summer over Seattle, consumes approximately 1,100 gallons of jet fuel per hour.

The Pentagon, in 2022, announced the planned closure of a fuel depot near Pearl Harbor in Hawaii that was built during the same time period as the Manchester depot.  The decision by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was based on a new Pentagon assessment, but was also in accordance with an order from Hawaii’s Department of Health to drain fuel from the tanks at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.

The tanks had leaked into a drinking water well and contaminated water at Pearl Harbor homes and offices. Nearly 6,000 people, mostly those living in military housing at or near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam were sickened, seeking treatment for nausea, headaches, rashes and other ailments. And 4,000 military families were forced out of their homes and are in hotels.

The Manchester depot sits on approximately two miles of Salish Sea shoreline, storing petroleum products in 44 bulk fuel tanks (33 Underground Storage Tanks and 11 Aboveground Storage Tanks) on 234 acres.  Most of the tanks were built in the 1940s. The fuel depot (tank farm and loading pier) is less than six miles west of Alki Beach in Seattle.  

An ironic bit of historical perspective: Manchester State Park was developed as a shore defense installation over a century ago to defend the Bremerton naval base against attack by sea.  The property was transferred to the state of Washington and is now a public space of stunning natural beauty and recreational opportunities.  With proper foreign policy and spending priorities.  It is part of the vision of activists with hope for the future that military sites such as these can be converted to places that affirm life rather than threaten it.

ACTION ALERT: Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action’s next event will be on Saturday, May 13, 2023, honoring the original intention of a Mother’s Day for Peace.