Central Oregon Grapples With Rising Oil Train Safety Risks

May 20, 2014

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden will meet with emergency officials in Central Oregon this week to talk about oil train safety. For EarthFix, Cassandra Profita reports.

Michael Lang of Friends of the Gorge says each of the oil tanker cars he saw along the Deschutes May 4 had the telltale number 1267 – denoting crude oil cargo.
Credit Friends of the Gorge

A growing number of oil trains are crossing through Central Oregon on a regular basis – likely headed to refineries in California.

That's news to some officials in the region. Until recently, attention to oil train safety has been focused on the growing number of trains headed to terminals and refineries in Western Oregon and Washington.

Bend City Councilor Sally Russell says she didn't know the trains were coming through her town until a fisherman spotted one headed south on the Deschutes River a couple weeks ago. Now she's wondering whether her community is prepared to handle the kinds of derailments that have caused damaging and deadly explosions and fires elsewhere.

Russell: "I think for me the questions for me are what's our level of risk and given what's happened in other communities it appears that the catastrophe and the risk can be fairly high."

Senator Wyden is planning to meet with first responders in Central Oregon on Friday. He wants to know what they need to prepare for oil train emergencies.

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