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Spokane Voters Say No To Local Coal, Oil Train Regulation

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Voters in Spokane, Washington, are saying no to an initiative regulating coal and oil shipments through the heart of the city. The initiative would have fined companies that ship uncovered coal and certain types of oil through the city.

Railway and oil companies like Burlington Northern-Santa Fe and Tesoro, funded Better Spokane’s campaign opposing the measure. Michael Cathcart, the group’s executive director, said the vote should lay the issue to rest. 

“It is not a local government issue,” he said. “It is a federal issue and that’s where it belongs.”

Opponents argued rail shipments are governed by federal law and that the initiative was unlikely to withstand a legal challenge. 

But supporters say the fight is not over. 

“There are possibilities such as a statewide initiative,” said Jim Lee, who led the grassroots campaign for Safer Spokane. “We’re convinced that the idea is legal and enforceable.”

Lee and others say coal and oil cars pose a safety risk to the city. For now, trains carrying both will continue to travel through Spokane daily.