oil trains

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An initiative that would have fined rail cars carrying uncovered coal and certain kinds of oil through the heart of Spokane failed last Tuesday. Opponents of the measure say voters were concerned about the local economy, while supporters say they were simply outspent.

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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.

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Spokane voters will decide in November whether to allow the shipment of coal and oil by rail through the city. The city council voted in favor of a special election in November.

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Coal and oil trains pass through Spokane daily, but that could change by the end of the year. Spokane’s city council will take public testimony Monday on a proposed ballot initiative that would prohibit coal and oil shipment by rail through specific areas of the city.



U.S. Department of Transportation

Lawmakers in Olympia heard a set of bills Monday, that would enhance regulations around oil transportation by rail, water, and pipeline.

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Seven environmental groups want to prove coal being hauled by rail is polluting Washington’s waterways. If they are successful, the outcome could have huge implications for the way trains are regulated going forward.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in Seattle Monday.

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An initiative proposed for next year’s ballot in Spokane, Washington, would restrict coal and oil transport through the city by train. But now a hearing examiner for the city of Spokane says the proposal cannot be enforced.

Emily Schwing / Northwest News Network

A new proposed ballot initiative in Spokane, Washington, could prohibit coal and oil companies from transporting their products through the city by rail. It comes after the city council rolled back a similar effort last month.

This time around, the proposal targets the owners of the rail cars and not the railroad companies tasked with transporting them.

Campaign photos

Washington gubernatorial candidates touched on the topic of oil trains during their first debate of the season in Spokane Wednesday.

Emily Schwing / Northwest News Network

A measure that was added to the November ballot less than a month ago would have imposed fines on rail cars transporting fossil fuels through the heart of Spokane. On Monday night, the city council opted to withdraw it.

U.S. Department of Transportation

Two weeks ago, the Spokane City Council approved a ballot measure that garnered national attention. It would impose a fine on every rail car that transports coal or oil through the heart of the city.  Monday the council could consider its withdrawal.

Washington Department of Ecology

If it had to happen, the worst case scenario couldn’t have played out more smoothly. That’s the sentiment in Mosier, Oregon, where a train loaded with highly volatile Bakken crude oil derailed two months ago.

Emily Schwing / Northwest News Network

Spokane’s City Council Monday voted on a November ballot initiative that would make the shipment of oil or coal by rail through the city a civil infraction. If it passes, every rail car carrying oil or uncovered coal will generate a $261 fine.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wants oil trains to slow down and safety improvements to speed up. Inslee said Wednesday that he personally delivered that message to the CEO of Union Pacific and the executive chairman of BNSF over the last 48 hours.

Emily Schwing / Northwest News Network

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.

Washington Department of Ecology

Friday’s oil train derailment and fire comes as Washington state prepares to put new oil shipment safety rules into effect. In fact, the derailment in the Columbia Gorge happened just as the first public hearing on those rules was wrapping up in Vancouver, Washington.

Emily Schwing / Northwest News Network

As information about Friday’s oil train derailment in Mosier, Oregon, trickled in, officials did not immediately offer any information on the condition of the city’s water system.

But according to a press release Sunday, investigators discovered Mosier’s “waste water treatment plant and [the city’s] sewer lines are now non-operational as a result of damage from the train derailment.”

Emily Schwing / Northwest News Network

As crews worked to clean up overturned oil tanker cars and answer questions about the cause of Friday’s train derailment in Mosier, Oregon, the Hood River community gathered to protest oil transport by rail.

Emily Schwing / Northwest News Network

A press briefing midday Saturday included spokespeople from the Union Pacific Railroad Company, officials with various environmental agencies from both Oregon and Washington, the county sheriff and even Richard Franklin, a federal-level official with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Oil Train Fire Tests Oregon's New Response Plan

Jun 3, 2016
Columbia Riverkeeper

Black smoke billowed high into the sky above Interstate 84 Friday afternoon after 11 oil train cars derailed near Mosier, Oregon. At least one of the derailed cars spilled oil and caught fire.

The oil train fire in the Columbia Gorge is the first one since Oregon lawmakers approved funding for a hazardous materials incidents plan last year.

U.S. Department of Transportation

Washington’s rail safety regulator says there are about 3,000 rail crossings in the state that inspectors have never looked at. That's because they're on private land.

U.S. Department of Transportation

The coast has generally been considered the area of the Northwest most at risk for a catastrophic oil spill. But the rise in oil moving through the region by rail has raised the stakes for some inland areas.

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BNSF Railway said Friday it will comply with Saturday's federal deadline to provide states with information about the frequency and routes of oil trains from North Dakota and Montana.

Raymond D. Woods Jr. / Flickr - tinyurl.com/oyg9znx

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

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Powerful members of the Washington state Senate are on board with a plan to tax crude oil shipped into the state by rail.

Raymond D. Woods Jr. / Flickr - tinyurl.com/oyg9znx

In Olympia, state lawmakers are going down divergent tracks in how to respond to the rapid increase of crude oil trains crossing the region.

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The biggest railroad in the Northwest forcefully defended the safety of oil trains Wednesday.

Walter Siegmund / Wikimedia

A fuel terminal developer has unexpectedly scrapped a project at the Port of Tacoma that was intended to receive crude oil by rail.

Port of Vancouver USA

Many of the same groups that oppose coal exports from the Northwest are lining up against a new foe: crude oil trains and the associated marine terminals.

That was evident Thursday when two corporations outlined their plans for a big new crude oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver, Washington. One critic likened it to the Keystone pipeline controversy. Here as there, jobs and energy independence are in play.

Port of Vancouver USA

Oil refiner Tesoro and a terminal operating company named Savage detailed plans Thursday for the biggest crude oil shipping terminal to be proposed in the Northwest. It would be located on the Columbia River at the Port of Vancouver, Washington.

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