Oil train accident draws attention to need for local emergency preparations

By Dick Mason, The La Grande Observer, @lgoMason

A violent but critical wake-up call.

This is how Norm Cimon of Oregon Rural Action views the impact of the oil train derailment on Friday in Mosier.

Oregon Rural Action has sought to heighten awareness of the danger posed by oil trains passing through the region. Cimon, who lives in La Grande, said this accident has done just that.

“To see what happened in Mosier, unfortunately, brings home the need to have everything in place for an emergency response,” Cimon said on Sunday.

Cimon said oil train traffic in the Northwest has fallen recently because of low gas prices. He anticipates that gas prices will be rising in the future, resulting in increased oil train traffic because it becomes more economically feasible to ship oil when prices rise.

Another reason to anticipate increased local oil-by-rail traffic is a proposal to make the Port of Vancouver, Washington, an oil terminal. Should Vancouver become such a terminal, large amounts of oil would be sent there by train so that it could be shipped to refineries.

Cimon said that the proposed oil terminal would have the capacity to process four fully loaded 125-car oil trains a day.

“That would be 1,460 trains a year,” he said.

Cimon said that presently
La Grande has relatively limited oil train traffic but that this would change if the Port of Vancouver begins taking in oil shipments at full capacity.

He wants counties and cities in Northeast Oregon to work together to develop emergency plans and purchase the resources necessary to deal with emergencies caused by oil train accidents. Cimon believes that the railroads and oil companies should contribute funding to counties and cities for emergency preparedness.

“There needs to be equity in bearing the cost,” Cimon said.

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The La Grande Observer
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