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Portland City, County Leaders Call On Governor To Help Stop Oil Trains


Portland Mayor Charlie Hales calls on Gov. Kate Brown to help stop dangerous oil trains from traveling through Oregon.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales calls on Gov. Kate Brown to help stop dangerous oil trains from traveling through Oregon.

Meerah Powell/OPB

Leaders with the city of Portland, Multnomah County and Columbia River tribes spoke out in opposition to oil trains and the proposed oil terminal in Vancouver on Tuesday.

They’re asking Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to work with Congress and President Obama to permanently ban oil trains from traveling through the state. 

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales says the oil train derailment in Mosier earlier this month proves that crude oil cannot be safely transported by rail.

“This is a fundamentally bad idea to move really flammable materials, like oil or propane, by rail car through places where people live,” he said. “It’s just never going to be safe.”

Hales was joined by Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission Director Paul Lumley, as well as Mosier Fire Chief Jim Appleton, Jared Smith of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 4, and several doctors with the group Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Regna Merritt with Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility speaks about the dangers of transporting oil by rail.

Regna Merritt with Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility speaks about the dangers of transporting oil by rail.

Meerah Powell/OPB

Kafoury said she worries about the damage a derailment would cause in Portland, where 25 percent of the population lives within a half mile of the railroad tracks.

“That same train that derailed in Mosier was headed here,” she said. “More crude on our rails means more danger in our community.”

Kafoury said oil train traffic has already increased, and more and more trains are carrying the more volatile Bakken crude oil.

“This oil is too dangerous to ship, and I’m asking Gov. Brown and our congressional delegation to work with President Obama to put a halt to the shipment of Bakken crude oil until we know it can be transported safely,” she said.

Lumley said a derailment on the tracks along the Columbia River would devastate tribal communities and the fisheries they depend on. 

“We need to do everything we can to stop these bomb trains,” he said.

The Portland City Council and Multnomah County Commission have passed resolutions opposing the proposed Vancouver oil terminal and all oil trains traveling through their jurisdictions.

“The tragic events of Mosier have illustrated that that’s good public policy and we want that public policy to be shared by other governments: by other local governments, by our state governments and by our nation government,” Hales said.

Hales and Kafoury are asking Governor Brown to join them in opposing the Vancouver oil terminal and deny all state permits that would allow additional oil trains to travel through the state.

Brown’s office issued a statement Tuesday saying the governor shares their concerns.

“That’s why one of the first steps I took after the accident in Mosier was to join members of Oregon’s congressional delegation in calling for a moratorium on oil trains through the Columbia Gorge until we know that they are safe and first responders have the tools that they need,” Brown said.

In her statement, the governor said she is “closely monitoring” Washington’s recommendations to Gov. Jay Inslee about siting the Vancouver oil terminal. But she didn’t declare opposition to the terminal project. Brown said she is still pressing federal agencies for new rules that would improve rail safety.
 
“I will continue to push the U.S. Department of Transportation and other federal authorities to take action that puts fewer Oregonians at risk of a dangerous crash in their backyards,” she said.

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