Almost a dozen new crude oil terminal and refinery infrastructure projects currently proposed for the Oregon and Washington coasts could drastically increase the amount of oil trains moving across northern Idaho and Spokane, as these rail shipments escalate across the country . The most advanced in the permitting process, Tesoro Savage plans to construct and operate the largest crude oil storage and transfer facility of all, at the Port of Vancouver, Washington, to transport nearly half the capacity of the Keystone XL pipeline: 380,000 barrels of oil per day .
The fracked Bakken shale oil fields in North Dakota and surface and the in-situ and surface tar sands mines in Alberta supply this volatile crude “pipeline on rails.” Continent-wide, over 30 accidents on such conduits have occurred during the last year. A Bakken oil train derailed, exploded, and killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, this summer, and an Alabama wreck burned for days and ruined wetlands in November . The British Petroleum oil drilling rig blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and the Enbridge tar sands pipeline breach along the Kalamazoo River in 2010, and the Exxon Valdez oil tanker grounding and spill into Prince William Sound in 1989 all serve as reminders that transporting oil guarantees accidents with devastating consequences. Although state, county, and city agencies do not currently have emergency response plans for oil train accidents in place, it is not a matter of if, but when, similar disasters could happen in the interior Northwest.
Additional rail traffic carrying dangerous crude oil through the region raises numerous community concerns about conditions similar to coal train passage, such as the impacts of diesel exhaust and coal dust on human and environmental health, of vehicle congestion and strained rail line capacity on regional commerce, and of infrastructure upgrades on public funds. More coal trains and coal dust on the same tracks could compromise their integrity and stability and cumulatively increase the probability of hazardous rail scenarios. Continue reading