Category Archives: Washington State

Washington State: BNSF discloses weekly variations in number of oil trains

Repost from The Columbian

BNSF reports drop in Washington oil train shipments

By Phuong Le, The Associated Press, July 7, 2014

SEATTLE — The latest disclosure from BNSF Railway shows a drop in the number of volatile oil train shipments that moved through Washington state in a single week.

BNSF Railway previously reported as many as 19 trains of Bakken crude oil traversed the state during the week of May 29 to June 4. They updated those numbers to show as many as 13 oil trains during the following week.

State officials released the updated information Monday in response to a public records request from The Associated Press.

While the actual weekly counts fluctuated, the average high and low reported by BNSF remained the same.

On average, as many as 18 trains move through Washington state. The trains traversed 16 counties, with Lincoln County topping the list with an average weekly high of 18 and a low of 15. King County, on average, sees as many as 13 and as few as 8 a week.

The railroad had sought to keep information about oil train shipments from the public, but the state declined to sign a confidentiality agreement and provided it under the state public records law.

BNSF spokeswoman Courtney Wallace said freight traffic can fluctuate daily or weekly. “There are ebbs and flows. It depends on the market demand and the needs of our customer,” she said Monday.

Kerry McHugh, a spokesman for the Washington Environmental Council, said the oil shipments pose a risk to communities and waterways.

“If you think about the amount of oil traveling through Washington versus in 2010, it’s a dramatic change. You have to look at it as an overall change, not on a week-by-week basis.”

A lot of information is coming out, but it’s only a start, McHugh added.

Gov. Jay Inslee last month directed state agencies to the risk of accidents along rail lines, assess the relative risk of Bakken crude oil compared to other forms of crude oil, and begin developing oil-spill response plans for affected counties. The Department of Ecology is expected to come up with budget recommendations and initial findings by Oct. 1.

In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an emergency order requiring railroads to notify state officials about the volume, frequency and county-by-county routes of trains carrying 1 million or more gallons of crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada.

The order requires railroads to tell state emergency managers if oil train traffic increases or decreases by 25 percent, which prompted BNSF’s latest notification.

For the week of June 5 to June 11, 13 oil trains passed through BNSF tracks in eight counties: Adams, Benton, Clark, Franklin, Klickitat, Lincoln, Skamania and Spokane.

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Washington State: three derailments in three weeks

Repost from Indian Country Today Media Network

Grain Car Derailment Could Have Been Oil: Quinault Raise Alarm Again

ICTMN Staff  |  5/19/14

KXRO:  If this grain were oil…. The third train-car derailment in as many weeks has Pacific Northwest tribes that oppose oil-rail transport on edge.

It has happened again, this time not with oil but with grain.

However, the Quinault Nation pointed out on May 16, the derailment of a grain train in Grays Harbor County is all the affirmation needed to show that transporting something more hazardous, namely oil, in this manner has too much chance of ending badly.

“Another train derailment in Grays Harbor County? Three in three weeks? Rails ripped up, Cars tipped over. Cargo spilled out,” said Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp in a statement. “That cargo may have been grain this morning, but it might just as well have been oil, and that would have been disastrous.”

Sharp was alluding to a May 15 incident in which seven cars carrying grain tipped over when 11 cars on the train they were part of derailed. It was the third such occurrence in as many weeks on the network of tracks operated by Puget Sound & Pacific Railway in the Grays Harbor area, the Quinault statement said. This came right on the heels of two earlier derailments—one on April 29, when a grain car tipped over in Aberdeen, and another on May 9 in east Aberdeen, when some cars came off their tracks, the Quinault said.

The cargo was different, but the propensity of train cars to derail no matter what they were carrying says that transporting oil via this method is not safe, the Quinault said. Around the country and in Canada, derailments of trains bearing crude oil, much of it from oil sands and deemed especially flammable, have resulted in destruction and even death.

However, Puget Sound & Pacific Railway, a division of Genessee & Wyoming, said it was investigating the cause of the derailment.

“This series of minor derailments is a highly unusual, unacceptable occurrence and subject to a rigorous investigation,” company spokesperson Michael Williams, Genesee & Wyoming, told radio station KXRO on May 16. “The first two derailments were caused by localized failure of railroad ties that were saturated with moisture from recent heavy rains. Other locations experiencing this issue have been identified and are being corrected prior to receiving another train. The cause of yesterday’s derailment is still being determined.”

Several tribes in the Northwest are opposing railroad terminals in or near their territory that would handle oil and coal. Oil traffic in particular has troubled the Quinault.

“Now, one-two-three, it’s as easy as that. Any argument in favor of bringing Big Oil into our region has been knocked out cold,” said Sharp in the statement. “As we have consistently stated, our people and our treaty-protected natural resources are jeopardized by these oil shipments. This danger is real. We have invested millions of dollars to protect and restore the ecological integrity of our region, and we will not allow Big Oil to destroy it.”

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