A Union Pacific train carrying volatile Bakken crude oil derailed in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge Friday afternoon, sparking a large blaze and prompting evacuations and road closures around the nearby town of Mosier. No deaths or injuries were reported.
KATU TV reported that as many as four rail cars ended up engulfed in flames. A Union Pacific spokesman said oil leaked from at least one car, though according to an Oregon Department of Transportation statement released last night, “no oil or fire suppression water has reached Rock Creek, the Columbia River, or its tributaries.” ODOT officials added that Union Pacific crews had placed booms across Rock Creek and the mouth of the Columbia River as a preemptive step.
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The derailment generated a large fire, and plumes of smoke filled the sky. Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, observed the blaze. In a statement sent to ThinkProgress, he characterized the incident as “a terrible situation.”
News of the derailment about 70 miles east of Portland comes just days after the state of Washington released a report finding that an oil train accident in the Columbia River could cause more than $170 million in environmental damage and take decades to mitigate.
As ThinkProgress has detailed, 2015 was the costliest year on record for oil train accidents. According to Department of Transportation data, oil train incidents resulted in $29.7 million in damages last year, up from $7.5 million in 2014. New federal safety rules went into effect in 2015, but they’re not a cure-all — tests shows that oil cars can be punctured traveling at less than 20 miles an hour, but the speed limit for trains is 50 miles an hour.
Jared Margolis, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity in Eugene, Oregon, told the Associated Press the most recent derailment is a reminder that “moving oil by rail constantly puts our communities and environment at risk.”