Washington City Rejects Massive Oil Train Project, Citing ‘Unacceptable Risks’

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"Washington City Rejects Massive Oil Train Project, Citing ‘Unacceptable Risks’"

Railway cars carrying crude oil in Lac-Megantic, Quebec derail, causing explosions. Residents of Vancouver, Wash. are worried a similar tragedy could occur if large unit trains of crude oil were allowed to come through their city on a daily basis.

Railway cars carrying crude oil in Lac-Megantic, Quebec derail, causing explosions. Residents of Vancouver, Wash. are worried a similar tragedy could occur if large unit trains of crude oil were allowed to come through their city on a daily basis.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Paul Chiasson

Flanked by hundreds of concerned residents, the City Council of Vancouver in southwestern Washington State voted early Tuesday morning to formally oppose what would be the Pacific Northwest’s largest crude oil train terminal, saying the project poses “unacceptable risks” to the city’s population of 160,000.

The council’s decision came after six hours of testimony from more than 100 residents, most of them opposed to Tesoro Corp.’s plan to develop a large train terminal at the Port of Vancouver, which would receive up to 380,000 barrels of North Dakotan crude oil per day and transfer it to ships bound for West Coast refineries. That amount of oil, which would come through the city on four separate unit trains per day, is just less than half the daily amount that would be transported by the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

“The Council’s opposition … [is] due to the unacceptable risks posed to the citizens of Vancouver by the terminal and the related transportation of Bakken crude oil through the city,” the resolution, passed 5-2, reads.

The broad, non-binding resolution opposing Tesoro’s proposal also included language that formally opposes any proposal that would result in an increase of crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale being hauled through Clark County. Last July, 47 people were killed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, when a train carrying Bakken crude derailed. The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has warned Bakken crude could be more flammable than regular oil, due to either its unique properties or because of added chemicals from the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract it.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also recently made recommendations that crude oil trains stay far away from urban population centers, citing the increasing rate of fiery accidents involving crude oil trains.

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt and Councilor Bill Turlay were the two that voted no against the proposal, with Leavitt saying he didn’t want to make a “political statement” against a single project without having all the facts.

“It’s kind of like back in the Old West, [when] Judge Roy Bean said, ‘We’re going to have a fair trial and hang the guilty bastard’,” Turlay said, according to a report in the Columbian. “Now, that’s not exactly how I want to present this.”

Turlay and Leavitt did join the other councilors in voting for a resolution that would allow the city to actually have a say in the decision-making process over Tesoro’s proposed project. That resolution allowing intervention in the decision-making process gives Vancouver officials the right to present evidence against the project and appeal any decision, which will ultimately be made by the state’s sitting governor, currently Gov. Jay Inslee.

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