On Friday, June 3rd, an oil train derailed in the town of Mosier, along the Columbia River Gorge. Eleven cars carrying highly volatile crude oil from the Bakken Oil Fields in North Dakota, Montana, and Saskatchewan came off the tracks, and several of them caught fire.
When crude oil from Bakken burns, it reaches white-hot temperatures and cannot even be approached by firefighting crews.
Some oil did reach the Columbia River.
Jim Appleton, the fire chief in Mosier, Ore., said in the past, he’s tried to reassure his town that the Union Pacific Railroad has a great safety record and that rail accidents are rare.
He’s changed his mind.
After a long night working with hazardous material teams and firefighters from across the Northwest to extinguish a fire that started when a train carrying Bakken crude derailed in his town, Appleton no longer believes shipping oil by rail is safe.
“I hope that this becomes death knell for this mode of shipping this cargo. I think it’s insane,” he said. “I’ve been very hesitant to take a side up to now, but with this incident, and with all due respect to the wonderful people that I’ve met at Union Pacific, shareholder value doesn’t outweigh the lives and happiness of our community.”
Federal regulators say oil from the Bakken region is more flammable and more dangerous, than other types of crude. It’s been involved in a string of rail disasters, including a tragedy that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.
Shipments through the Columbia River Gorge have dramatically increased in recent years and oil companies have proposed building the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country 70 miles downstream from Mosier, at the the Port of Vancouver.
Deep Green Resistance opposes shipping oil by rail. In fact, we oppose shipping oil by any method—along with extracting, refining, and burning it.