Letters to the Editor for Dec. 16, 2014

City councils should oppose oil terminal

An Oregonian reporter did a ride-along with an oil train inspector and wrote that when the Oregon state inspector got close to the tank car, he heard hissing.

That was in August of 2013. A tank car that holds 30,000 gallons of crude oil, was waiting to be unloaded to barges near Clatskanie, Ore., downstream from Longview.

I assume, this hissing was coming from a pressure release valve that prevents the pressure from building too high. Those valves are similar to the ones on pressure cookers.

“The inspector checked 80 oil tank cars that day and found dozens of issues. A valve that would keep oil from leaking out in a derailment was open. Another wasn’t plugged. Others were loose, easily turned by hand.”

Those vapors are methane, ethane, propane, and butane. According to my industry sources, between 0.5 percent and 3 percent of the crude oil is lost in transit due to vapor releases.

That amounts to an average of 300 gallons lost per tank car per trip. Propane and butane are heavier than air and on a calm day could find a spark.

When oil trains park in front of Jemtegaard Middle School in Washougal, the danger increases.

Our governor has the sole authority to deny permits for the oil terminal in Vancouver and the three oil terminals in Grays Harbor.

But he is more likely to do that if the City Councils of Washougal and Camas ask him.

Don Steinke, Vancouver