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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Following a major oil-train disaster in Columbia River Gorge, elected leaders work together to protect Northwest communities

Summary

In the wake of a major oil-train disaster that occurred in the Columbia River Gorge, elected leaders gathered in Vancouver to discuss strategies to protect communities across the Pacific Northwest from the risks and impacts of coal and oil transport.

Story

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Five months after a 96-car train carrying Bakken crude derailed in the Columbia River Gorge – triggering a major fire, causing the evacuation of a nearby school and contaminating the groundwater – elected leaders gathered to discuss strategies to prevent a similar disaster from occurring in the Northwest.

King County Executive Dow Constantine – who is also chair of the Safe Energy Leadership Alliance – brought elected leaders from Washington and Oregon together in Vancouver following a tour of the crash site in Mosier, Ore. Had the train derailed closer to its destination, the blast zone would have covered parts of Tacoma, one of the largest population centers in the region.

"After years of seeing major oil-train disasters devastate communities in other parts of Canada and the U.S., the Pacific Northwest has now experienced it first-hand," said Executive Constantine. "Oil and coal companies reap the profits, while local communities are left with the cost and the risk. That's why we stand united as cities, counties, states and tribes to protect our people, our economy, and our environment."

The alliance includes 165 elected leaders from five Northwest states plus British Columbia pushing federal regulators to consider the full risks and impacts that transporting coal and oil have on local communities. That includes the impact on public health, public safety, traffic, and treaty rights. They also support state and federal legislation to improve safety along rail and barge lines.

The tide has turned against coal-export terminals in recent years. Six years ago, there were proposals to build six terminals across the Northwest. Today, only one of those proposals is being considered, in Longview, Wash. Earlier this year, the U.S. Corps of Engineers denied a permit request to build a large coal-export facility near Bellingham, Wash., upholding the treaty rights of Lummi Nation.

There is still a proposal to build a major oil-export terminal in Vancouver, which would be the largest facility of its kind in North America. If the Tesoro Savage Terminal is approved and built, more than 360,000 barrels of flammable crude would arrive in Vancouver each day.

"We are invigorated to action not only by the June 3rd derailment, but also by the daunting realization that the Columbia River Gorge could become a superhighway for fossil fuel transportation if these terminals are allowed," said Arlene Burns, Mayor of Mosier, Ore.

"The continued transportation of crude oil by rail threatens our community of Hood River and every other community along the rail line within the blast zone," said Peter Cornelison, a City Councilmember in Hood River, Ore. "The unsafe condition of the rail lines and tank cars -- which are not designed to withstand high impact -- further increase the danger. We are literally playing Russian roulette with the safety of communities next to railroads."

During today's meeting, alliance members will discuss how new safety regulations signed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will be implemented. They will also be briefed on the Mosier crash, plan for the next state legislative sessions and discuss the status of proposed coal- and oil-transport facilities.


Relevant links


Quotes

After years of seeing major oil-train disasters devastate communities in other parts of Canada and the U.S., the Pacific Northwest has now experienced it first-hand. Oil and coal companies reap the profits, while local communities are left with the cost and the risk. That's why we stand united as cities, counties, states and tribes to protect our people, our economy, and our environment.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

We are invigorated to action not only by the June 3rd derailment, but also by the daunting realization that the Columbia River Gorge could become a superhighway for fossil fuel transportation if these terminals are allowed.

Arlene Burns, Mayor of Mosier, Ore.

The continued transportation of crude oil by rail threatens our community of Hood River and every other community along the rail line within the blast zone. The unsafe condition of the rail lines and tank cars -- which are not designed to withstand high impact -- further increase the danger. We are literally playing Russian roulette with the safety of communities next to railroads.

Peter Cornelison, Councilor of Hood River, Ore.

For more information, contact:

Chad Lewis, Executive Office, 206-263-1250


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

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