Letters to the Editor for Feb. 18, 2014

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category icon Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Coal, oil pose health, safety risks

There is a present and future danger in the Columbia Gorge which all of your readers should consider. There are already coal and oil trains passing through the Columbia Gorge — almost all on the Washington side of the river.

Coal travels in open cars and about a pound of coal dust per mile is lost from the those trains. Besides getting into the river and causing pollution that coal dust settles in the ballast supporting the tracks, makes it slick and causing it to shift — increasing the likelihood of derailments.

Proposals now being considered would increase coal train traffic by 20 trains per day, greatly increasing the amount of coal dust getting into the ballast. Also planned is an oil terminal in Vancouver, which will bring four 100 car oil trains per day through the Columbia gorge on the tracks made unstable by the coal trains.

Oil train derailments are devastating in that they almost always result in fire and explosions which have carried debris up to one-half mile from the wreckage site. Even without fire, a derailment in the Gorge would dump tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into Gorge waterways and contaminate acres of Gorge lands.

The proposals being considered, if approved, represent a significant threat to health and safety, to life and limb. They are also a threat to the economic well-being of communities in the Gorge in that the National Traffic and Safety Board says that under present law local communities, not the railroad, would have the responsibility for cleaning up after any derailment. They would have to provide fire and emergency services as well. Through mutual aid agreements, fire and emergency services on the Oregon side of the river would be involved in any major derailment. No Gorge fire department is equipped or trained to deal with an oil train fire or a coal train derailment in a Gorge community or alongside a major highway.

Gov. Kitzhaber, the Oregon State Land Board, Gov. Inslee, and The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, need to hear from citizens about these threats to health, safety, and economic well-being of the residents of both states.

Peter Frothingham, Odell, Ore.

DOE is right

I was just watching Peter Yarrow on AM NW singing “This Land is Your Land” with his son. What an inspiring song!

Then I thought of how this land of ours is being plundered and spoiled by the fossil fuel industries, who are only concerned about how much money they can make right now. They apparently have no stake in the future of our land or the generations to come who will suffer as a result of their selfishness and greed.

Every now and then, we see a glimmer of hope. The Washington State Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County just announced a broad scope of their Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed coal export terminal in Longview. For this, they have my heartfelt thanks.

DOE is right to insist that all impacts to all communities be studied. The vast harms to health, economy and livability affect every community along the rail route.

Thank you DOE and Gov. Jay Inslee.

Alona Steinke, Vancouver

Impressed with City of Washougal

I would like to commend the City of Washougal for their excellence in our city road maintenance, especially during our recent snow storm.

I live on Mount Norway and we experienced wind drifts that, in some cases, made traversing nearly impossible. The city was out day and night plowing and de-icing, keeping our roads as safe as possible during these horrible conditions. I am truly impressed.

Patty French, Washougal

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