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Washington State Senator: Oil Trains 'Going To Be With Us For A While'

Raymond D. Woods Jr.
Flickr -

Environmental regulators in Washington state are expecting a lively crowd Thursday in the coastal city of Hoquiam.

The public gets a chance there to weigh in about increased crude oil train traffic.

Developers are proposing side-by-side marine terminal expansions on Grays Harbor along the Washington coast. They would receive crude oil by rail from the Northern Plains and send it out by barge and tanker to West Coast refineries.

This would add to the already fast-rising number of crude oil trains crossing the Northwest. Environmentalists, shellfish growers and coastal tribes are organizing in opposition. But one powerful state senator asserts that oil trains are "going to be with us for a while."

Republican Doug Ericksen represents a district in northwest Washington that is home to two oil refineries.

"Simply saying no -- coming to a meeting and saying we just don't want any oil coming through Washington state -- that's not realistic. It's not going to happen," he says. "That would actually be devastating to our economy, trying to prevent these crude oil stocks from moving to our refineries."

Ericksen agrees oil train safety is a legitimate concern. Environmental campaigners argue many of the rail cars carrying crude across the region are old and unsafe and pose grave risks to rail-side communities.

The City of Hoquiam and Washington Department of Ecology are jointly leading the environmental review of the planned crude oil terminals in Grays Harbor County. The public can take a look at the proposals and offer comments at Hoquiam High School this Thursday night. A second public meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday at Centralia High School.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.