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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

No Oil Trains Through Derailment Site For Now As Groups Push For Longer Ban

Emily Schwing
Northwest News Network
In the wake of Friday's derailment, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called for a temporary moratorium on oil train traffic in the Columbia Gorge.

Following Friday’s derailment in the Columbia Gorge, environmental groups are petitioning the Obama administration to ban rail transport of the most flammable kind of crude oil. And Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said on the floor of the U.S. Senate Tuesday that it was clear that Oregon got lucky -- this time.

"This crash has left Oregonians wondering what ‘unlucky’ would have looked like,” Wyden said. “I can tell you, it doesn't take a lot of imagination.”

Wyden and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed onto a statement calling for a temporary moratorium on oil train traffic in the Columbia Gorge.

But the groups circulating the petition want more. They want Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to reject permits for any railroad infrastructure upgrades that would allow more oil to be hauled by rail through the Pacific Northwest.

Brown said she is pressing the Federal Railroad Administration to step up safety.

"I was on the phone this morning with (Federal Railroad Administration chief) Sarah Feinberg to talk about additional support for safety measures and the advocacy that we will take moving forward," Brown said Tuesday in Salem at an earthquake preparedness drill.  

There won't be any oil trains running through the site of Friday's derailment and fire on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge for now, according to Union Pacific Railroad.

Brett VandenHeuvel, the director of Columbia Riverkeeper, said he he would have liked to see the state ask a judge for a temporary restraining order, rather than relying on a promise by Union Pacific.

VandenHeuvel hopes the Mosier derailment could be "the impetus for federal action.”

“How many more people need to be threatened before action is taken?" he said.

Brown's main opponent in this year's Oregon gubernatorial race, Republican Bud Pierce, accused the governor of not paying attention to the issue soon enough.

"Governor Brown is not leading, but is reacting," Pierce said in a statement released by his campaign.