The Mosier, OR, city council president, Emily Reed, pretty much summed up the lesson from Friday’s oil train derailment and explosion:
"This isn’t a one-off," she told the Associated Press. "It’s happening in my town, but next time it will be somebody else’s town."
That "somebody else" might be everyone living in Sandpoint, which is on the route the ill-fated train took from the Bakken oil fields and through Canada, before heading south and west through Idaho.
The Union Pacific train derailed in the middle of Mosier, in the Columbia River Gorge about 70 miles east of Portland. An elementary school and about 100 people were evacuated, but allowed to return late Sunday.
The city’s sewage system was contaminated with oil, forcing it to shut down for several days. A boil order is in effect for drinking water, and agencies are also dealing with cleaning up an oil spill on the river.
Fortunately, no one was killed or injured in the incident, but it highlighted the dangers of hauling crude oil by rail. The local fire chief, for instance, found that the firefighting foam provided by the railroads was pretty much ineffective until the tanker cars were sufficiently cooled by water.
Track failure is the most likely cause of the derailment. Authorities continue to investigate while Union Pacific worked to reopen the tracks to continue shipping freight – and oil.
The Mosier City Council passed an emergency resolution Sunday calling for UP to keep the tracks closed until the derailed oil tanker cars are removed from the side of the track, and until the investigation is complete. Oregon’s governor and Congressional delegation weighed in with a call to temporary halt oil train traffic in the Columbia River Gorge. And Spokane’s city council weighed in Monday.
The tracks were reopened, however, Monday morning, though trains were traveling at just 10 mph. In response, the Stand Up to Oil Campaign (of which ICL is a member) launched a special petition, calling on the governors of Oregon and Washington and President Obama to ban oil terminals on our coastlines.
This is another reminder of the importance of our work in partnering with organizations across the Northwest to prevent the increase of oil by rail and to make existing traffic safer. You can help this effort by making a donation to support our work on oil and coal train traffic – just check “special gift” and write “match” for what inspired you and your donation will be matched by a generous $1,500 gift, doubling its impact! Thank you.