Spokane City Council unanimously passes resolution regarding exploding oil trains

During Monday’s weekly Council meeting, the Spokane City Council unanimously passed a resolution sponsored by Council President Ben Stuckart calling for stronger state and Federal regulations regarding the transportation of crude oil via rail.  Here’s all you need to know.

oil resolution vote 2014Becoming the first city in the western United States to adopt such a resolution, Spokane made it clear this week that it has concerns about the current and proposed increase of crude oil shipments through our community.  Spokane’s resolution calls on the Federal government to create stronger regulations for rail cars carrying crude oil, and also calls for the tracking of chemical composition of all transported fuels so local communities can better understand the risks associated with its transport. The resolution also calls on the state of Washington to publish a report of all oil transported throughout the state.

As you’ve heard me say, oil companies want to ship massive quantities of crude oil to current and proposed Oregon and Washington storage facilities, ports and refineries, putting Spokane and the Spokane River once again in the unfortunate cross hairs of dirty energy.  Since 2012, nearly a dozen plans have emerged.  Like with proposed coal export projects, the shipping of dirty crude oil through Spokane would leave Spokane and the Spokane River with all of the risks.

On December 9th, Spokane Riverkeeper along with The Lands Council, ForestEthics, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Sierra Club, Friends of Grays Harbor, Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team, Sound Action, Friends of Miller Peninsula State Park, League of Women Voters of Washington, Friends of the San Juans, and Citizens for a Healthy Baycalled on Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Ecology Director Maia Bellon, and Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark to declare a moratorium on permits for new oil transport infrastructure, pending a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that adequately describes the risk the new infrastructure represents–the same infrastructure that coal trains would use.  You can read more on this moratorium request HERE.

Then, late last month, City Council President Ben Stuckart testified at a Washington State House Environment Committee hearing saying, “I think we’re taking bombs through our cities,”

If you missed the City Council meeting on Monday, you can watch the whole thing HERE.  What you’ll need to do is click on that link, then click on the “City Council Meetings” button on the second row of options.  Then choose the “City Council Meeting | February 3rd, 2014”. The discussion around this resolution begins at the 46:00 minute mark of the video. You can fast forward through the first part of the meeting to that 46:00 mark.

I was out of town and unable to participate in the meeting, which was weird given how much time I’ve spent on this issue the last few months.  But it was great to watch from a far and see all of the great testimony and discussion that took place.  I want to personally thank Mike Harves who serves on the Spokane Riverkeeper Advisory Board for representing Riverkeeper so well.  Mike is the second person to testify on the resolution.  I also want to give a special thanks to Tim Connor who did a fantastic job with his testimony,and the wonderful Pauline Druffel who never ceases to amaze me.   Finally, an extra special thanks goes out to the Spokane Coalition Builders for organizing turnout, hosting the pre-meeting rally AND for being such rockstars! You can see their report and photos HERE

There was some decent media coverage following the hearing:

The Spokesman-Review 


Then, after the meeting, Spokane Mayor David Condon released the following statement:

“The safety of Spokane is my top priority. It is our responsibility to understand the risks and potential impacts associated with crude oil rail shipments so that we can plan accordingly. A collaborative, informed approach will yield the best results for our community.

We as a community must urge the appropriate federal agencies, the nation’s tank car owners and manufacturers, crude oil shippers, and freight railroads to adopt fleet standards for cargo movements.

I have taken several initial steps to better coordinate emergency planning and response in our community. Earlier this month, while in Washington, D.C., I had discussions with our federal Congressional staff. Ed Lewis, the new deputy director of emergency management for Spokane County, will join my Cabinet as a liaison to facilitate better emergency planning. I have also requested a briefing for the public safety committee of the City Council, to share information, identify any gaps and discuss potential next steps. And, later this week, I will be meeting with the federal Government Accountability Office to discuss freight traffic through our community.”

Another key component of this resolution was expressing concern over the recent oil train derailments and explosions. These traveling “bomb trains” have caused significant environmental destruction, human health concerns and in the case of Quebec this summer, death, as a result of the derailments. Spokane should not have to think that we may be next.oil train mosaic

The train derailment and explosions in Lac-Magantic, Quebec, Casselton, North Dakota and Aliceville, Alabama, the pipeline breach along the Kalamazoo River in 2010, and the grounding of the Exxon-Valdez tanker in 1989 are reminders that accidents happen and have devastating consequences when it comes to transporting oil. One Riverkeeper supporter said it best at a recent public hearing in Spokane over the proposed Tesoro Savage oil transit terminal in Vancouver, WA, “sending exploding oil trains through Spokane is a sure way to redevelop our motto from “Near Nature, Near Perfect” to “Near Nature, Near Disaster”

Please continue to follow developments on this issue by routinely checking Riverkeeper’s “Oil-by-Rail” website

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