Tag Archives: Columbia River Gorge

Spokane City Council Nixes Proposed Oil And Coal Train Ballot Measure

Repost from Oregon Public Broadcasting
[Editor: Background: City proposes fining railroad.  Also, BNSF, Union Pacific lawsuit. – RS]

Spokane City Council Nixes Proposed Oil And Coal Train Ballot Measure

By Emily Schwing, Northwest News Network | Aug. 16, 2016 4:45 p.m., updated 6:56 p.m.
 In June, a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota derailed in the Columbia River Gorge near Mosier, Oregon.
In June, a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota derailed in the Columbia River Gorge near Mosier, Oregon. Northwest News Network, Emily Schwing

A measure that was added to the November ballot less than a month ago would have imposed fines on rail cars transporting fossil fuels through the heart of Spokane. On Monday night, the city council opted to withdraw it.

Council President Ben Stuckart said weeks of further review raised questions about whether the measure he co-sponsored could stand, were it to face a legal challenge.

“I don’t think that’s a good use of the citizen’s dollars,” he said.

In the weeks since the measure originally passed, Stuckart said a conversation about how to more safely transport fossil fuels has become a region-wide.

“A couple other cities have contacted us and they’ve suggested that we form a regional group here in Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington to try to work through these issues and see how we can affect state and national policy,” Stuckart said.

The measure itself was prompted by a number of accidents involving oil trains since 2012. In June, a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota derailed in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

On a near-daily basis, oil trains pass through the heart of Spokane past two major hospitals, a handful of schools and across an aquifer that serves nearly half a million people.

Please share!

NPR: In The Pacific Northwest, Oil Train Derailment Highlights Potential Dangers

Heard on All Things Considered
By Conrad Wilson, August 12, 2016 4:31 PM ET

The number of trains carrying oil along the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington could dramatically increase.

There’s a plan to ship more oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota to a proposed oil terminal in southwest Washington state.

An oil train derailment earlier this year has shown the potential danger faced by the region.

TRANSCRIPT________________________________________________

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In the Northwest, the number of trains carrying oil along the Columbia River could dramatically increase, and that’s sharpened a debate over oil train safety in Washington state and Oregon. There’s a plan to ship more oil from the Bakken region to a proposed oil terminal in Washington. As Conrad Wilson of Oregon Public Broadcasting reports, a recent derailment has shown the potential danger the area faces.

CONRAD WILSON, BYLINE: On a Friday in early June, more than 40,000 gallons of Bakken crude spilled in a fiery oil train derailment that burned for 14 hours.

EMILY REED: It is an incredibly scary thing to have something like this happen so – and within our city limits, so close to our school.

WILSON: Emily Reed is the city council president in Mosier, Ore., the town where the derailment took place. About 500 people live in Mosier, and 100 of them were forced to evacuate when the oil train derailed. Reed points out the town’s deep in the Columbia River Gorge, a canyon with steep cliffs, where winds can reach 40 miles per hour during the summer.

REED: If the wind had been as it is today or more, we would have had a fire going up more than four of those cars, all the way through town and wiping out our town.

WILSON: Union Pacific was to blame for the derailment that caused the oil spill, according to a preliminary report by the Federal Railroad Administration. It says Union Pacific didn’t maintain its tracks properly. However, an inspector certified by that same federal agency checked the tracks and gave them the OK a little more than a month before the derailment.

JERRY OLIVER: It was unfortunate for the community.

WILSON: Jerry Oliver is a port commissioner in Vancouver, Wash., and a vocal supporter of what would be the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country, known as the Vancouver Energy Project.

OLIVER: It’s also unfortunate because it gives a tremendous black eye to anything related to fossil fuels.

WILSON: If built, the terminal would more than double the number of mile-long oil trains traveling along the Columbia River, to about 46 trains per week. Serena Larkin is with the Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that opposes the oil terminal. She says until Mosier, oil train derailments were the kind of thing that happened somewhere else.

SERENA LARKIN: Mosier proved that we’re not any different. We are just as vulnerable. We are facing the exact same risks from oil trains that everyone else in North America is facing right now.

WILSON: Despite low oil prices, proponents of the project say the terminal is needed to reduce foreign imports and move domestic oil. For now, it’s relying on oil trains because there aren’t enough pipelines to move oil from North Dakota to the West Coast. Larkin says Mosier’s a turning point in the debate surrounding the Vancouver oil terminal and one that will weigh heavily on whether the project gets permitted.

LARKIN: It showed what the Vancouver oil terminal is really asking Northwest communities to shoulder in risk.

DAN RILEY: I strongly believe that all accidents are preventable.

WILSON: Dan Riley is vice president of government affairs for Tesoro, an oil company behind the project. Since the derailment in Mosier, he says there has been more scrutiny.

RILEY: I think that the criticism is not of the project, but of the rail system.

WILSON: Reilly says Tesoro has also pledged to only allow tank cars with thicker shells and other safety features designed to withstand a derailment into the Vancouver facility. But that’s done little to ease the safety concerns of firefighters and environmental groups. Ultimately, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has the final say on whether the project gets approved. That decision could come later this year. Inslee’s acknowledged the risk oil trains pose. He says the Mosier derailment is among the things he’ll consider when determining whether or not he’ll permit the oil terminal. For NPR News, I’m Conrad Wilson in Vancouver, Wash.

Please share!

Vancouver oil terminal hearings wrap up, decision expected late 2016

Repost from Hood River News

Gorge leaders oppose Vancouver oil terminal as hearings wrap up

By Patrick Mulvihill, August 5, 2016
ERIC STRID, of White Salmon, speaks out against an oil terminal proposed in Vancouver. Hearings before the state energy council wrapped up this week, marking a tonal shift as opponents and proponents await the council’s decision, expected in late 2016.
ERIC STRID, of White Salmon, speaks out against an oil terminal proposed in Vancouver. Hearings before the state energy council wrapped up this week, marking a tonal shift as opponents and proponents await the council’s decision, expected in late 2016. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Columbia Gorge

Gorge leaders spoke out against a proposed oil-by-marine terminal in Vancouver as hearings over the project’s fate came to a close July 29.

Washington State’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) heard closing arguments for an environmental review of the terminal proposed by Vancouver Energy, a venture spearheaded by Tesoro Corp.

EFSEC is charged with recommending whether Washington Gov. Jay Inslee should approve or reject the 360,000-barrel per day oil hub at the Port of Vancouver, and panel’s decision is expected in late 2016.

At Friday’s hearing — the final chance for public oral testimony — local elected leaders and environmental advocates evoked the recent memory of Mosier, where a crude oil bearing train derailed and caught fire on June 3.

Arlene Burns, mayor of Mosier, gave the panel a stark depiction of the aftermath.

“We’re really still exhausted,” she said. “This is going to be an ongoing, long-term process that we’re going to be dealing with,” Burns said.

She noted that Mosier’s groundwater had been contaminated by oil during the spill. Drinking water has been declared safe, but concerns remain for the rainy season washing out remaining oil in the ground.

Peter Cornelison, a Hood River City Council member and field representative for Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, argued the risks of a new terminal — and boosted train traffic — would affect all river communities.

Proponents of the terminal highlighted economic benefits and stressed a need for United States’ independence in the oil industry. They said the terminal would be held to regulatory safeguards.

“We believe the evidence has demonstrated that this project is necessary to secure a strong sustainable reliable supply of energy for the citizens of Washington,” Jay P. Derr, an attorney representing Tesoro, said.

“We ask the council to recognize and remember the benefits the Port of Vancouver provides, and work hard to avoid … hurting those structures and processes that allow the port to provide those benefits to the community,” said David Bartz, a port attorney.

Most testimony disagreed with the terminal’s backers about the project’s safety and economic value.

Washington Attorney General’s Office came out last week against the terminal. Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the potential benefits of the project are “dramatically outweighed by the potential risks and costs of a spill.”

The cities of Vancouver and Spokane also voiced opposition, a sentiment expressed in recent months by letters and resolutions by tribes, advocacy groups and governments throughout the region.

Lauren Goldberg, staff attorney with Columbia Riverkeeper, said the local group hopes in light of the Mosier derailment, EFSEC will recognize the risk of another fiery oil train wreck in the Columbia Gorge.

Both sides in the issue will now file closing written briefs, ending testimony. EFSEC is expected to issue a decision in late 2016. From there, Inslee will make a decision that can be appealed in state supreme court.

Please share!