‘Textbook example of what can go wrong with oil train’

11 cars derailed near Mosier in the Columbia River Gorge

A train derailed in Mosier along I-84 in the Columbia River Gorge, June 3, 2016 (Courtesy: Silas Bleakley)
A train derailed in Mosier along I-84 in the Columbia River Gorge, June 3, 2016 (Courtesy: Silas Bleakley)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — Just hours before an oil train derailed in the Columbia River Gorge, a public hearing was held on safety rules for transporting oil-by-rail through the state.

The incident involved 11 cars filled with oil, and at least one caught fire near Mosier, said Oregon Department of Forestry spokesperson Ken Armstrong. The 96-car train was carrying Bakken crude oil to Tacoma, from Eastport, Idaho. Bakken crude is known for being highly volatile.

The public hearing addressed 2 rules: One would require railroads moving crude to submit oil spill response plans, the other about notice requirements for facilities receiving bulk deliveries to be subject to reporting standards.

Dan Serres with the Columbia Riverkeepers, June 3, 2016 (KOIN)
Dan Serres with the Columbia Riverkeepers, June 3, 2016 (KOIN)

“This is a textbook example of what can go wrong with an oil train,” said Dan Serres, the conservation director for Columbia Riverkeeper. “We’ve been saying for years that the risks of having these oil trains barreling down the Columbia River was too great. And what’s happening today is both a disaster and a wake-up call that we need to stop any more expansion of oil train traffic coming down the Columbia River.”

He said the Columbia Riverkeeper has been working for years to persuade the state of Washington to nix the proposed large oil terminals.

“Today is one of those days that we really feared might occur,” he told KOIN 6 News.

train derailment aa 06032016He noted the irony of being at a public meeting talking about how the state can require railroads to plan for a derailment along the Columbia River. “Up until this time the railroads haven’t been required by the state to have response plans on file,” Serres said.

He said he is concerned for the residents in Mosier because of the toxic chemicals in the burning oil. “We’re very concerned for the health of the Columbia River and I’m concerned for the people that were involved in the accident.”

The proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver would transfer roughly 360,000 barrels of Bakken oil from trains to boats every day.

“This is just an unacceptable level of risk to have trains carrying 3 million gallons of crude oil coming down the Columbia River in places where they can derail,” he said.

Supporters say it could bring hundreds of jobs. Opponents say the dangers — like what happened in Mosier — are not worth it.

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