Washington gubernatorial candidates touched on the topic of oil trains during their first debate of the season in Spokane Wednesday.
Republican challenger Bill Bryant said oil trains are something he and incumbent Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee agree on.
“If they are going to be bringing in highly flammable material and bringing in oil, they better be bringing it in on cars that meet safety standards and on rails that are safe enough to transport that commodity,” Bryant said.
If elected, Bryant said he’d put a moratorium on any new state regulations. That’s why Inslee said he disagrees with his opponent.
“The very first thing I heard my opponent say today is ‘all regulations are bad.’ This is the only way we are going to get more safety on railroads,” Inslee said. “These sound bites can come back to prevent us from making progress.”
Inslee called for reduced train speeds, improved track inspections and support for electronic braking systems.
Spokane’s city council has spent the last month wrestling with whether local government can regulate the shipment of volatile crude oil within city limits. Debate over that question has grown since an oil train derailed in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge in June.
The candidates also debated over an economic development project west of Spokane that includes a casino. Inslee signed off on the project in June. He said the Spokane County project is part of his larger effort to bolster rural economies.
“It’s gonna be decades of work, there’s gonna be tons of economic development associated with this,” Inslee said.
The Spokane Indian Tribe expects to break ground next month on the casino, as well as shops, restaurants, a cultural center — and it’s happening a mile from Fairchild Air Force Base.
Inslee said he had meetings with high-ranking officials before he signed off.
“I was not going to build a casino and lose Fairchild. I was not going to do that,” Inslee said. “The guy in the Pentagon told me that and I’m taking that to the bank.”
Fairchild is the largest employer in Spokane County. Inslee’s Republican Challenger Bill Bryant expressed concerns about base expansion in the future.
“One thing I learned from the apple industry is you better make sure what you’re planting today, is what you want to harvest in four or seven years,” he said.
If elected, Bryant suggested he might develop a 10-year plan to work with the military.