Canadian Oil Train Tragedy Draws Attention To Rising Oil Train Traffic In Pacific Northwest

Jul 9, 2013

A train loaded with oil exploded in Eastern Canada over the weekend. There are 13 confirmed deaths and dozens more missing. The train was carrying oil from the massive Bakken Oil Fields of North Dakota.


Aerial view of charred freight train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada. The photo was taken Sunday, a day after the train of crude oil derailed. As of Monday the death toll had reached 13 and about 50 people remained missing and unaccounted for.
Credit Transportation Safety Board of Canada

  Ashley Ahearn reports Bakken oil is also traveling through the Northwest in increasing amounts.

There are now three sites in Washington and Oregon receiving oil by train from North Dakota, with 8 more in the permitting process.

Curt Hart is with the Washington Department of Ecology.

Hart: These kind of incidents absolutely give us pause but we don’t have a lot of regulatory authority over railroads.

The Department is instead focusing on preparing for a possible clean up, and has been conducting spill response drills.

Frank Holmes is with the Western States Petroleum Association. He says that despite the recent tragedy, the increase in oil trains in the Northwest isn't cause for concern.

Holmes: “I don’t know that there’s anything unique about crude oil in rail tanks. The railroad moves thousands of different products every day.”

Each train can carry up to 3 million gallons of oil.

The largest new oil terminal is proposed for Vancouver, Washington. It would move more than 350,000 barrels of oil per day from trains onto ships bound mainly for West Coast refineries.

The Port of Vancouver is set to vote on that proposal on July 23rd.

Copyright 2013 Northwest Public Radio