Port of Camas-Washougal Commission discusses oil trains resolution

Commissioners do not take any formal action

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The Port of Camas-Washougal Commission has decided not to pursue passage of a resolution that would have expressed concerns regarding an increase in oil train traffic.

The increase is expected, if an oil terminal is built at the Port of Vancouver.

The resolution that was under consideration would have urged the Washington Department of Transportation and the Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board to analyze and study the potential economic effect of oil train traffic on the displacement of existing economic activity, loss of access to rail transport by local and regional shippers and economic damages resulting from accidents on the rails.

The resolution referred to explosions, spills and deaths due to derailments of tankers carrying Bakken crude oil in Quebec and New Brunswick, Canada, as well as North Dakota, Alabama and Virginia.

Port of C-W Commissioner Bill Ward favored the resolution, but Mark Lampton and Bill Macrae-Smith questioned whether passing the paperwork would produce any results.

“You might as well throw it into the river and see how fast it gets to the I-5 bridge,” Macrae-Smith said.

Lampton described resolutions as opinions.

Ward said he wanted the transportation of oil to be limited until it could be done safely.

“A resolution is a start,” he said.

Richard Hamby, of Washougal, said the port commission represents the community.

“These are legitimate local concerns,” he said.

Larry Keister, of Washougal, said 11 communities in the Columbia River Gorge need to work as a group to determine how to pay for fire fighting equipment, foam for fighting oil fires and river booms to contain oil and manage risks associated with increased oil train traffic.

Ryan Rittenhouse, conservation organizer with the Friends of the Columbia Gorge, said he favors a moratorium on new oil terminals.

Bruce Fuerstenberg said he wants to see the oil terminal built.

“I want to see the jobs,” he said.

The Sept. 16 port commission meeting included a presentation by Jared Larrabee, general manager of Vancouver Energy, a joint venture of Tesoro Refining & Marketing Company LLC and Savage Companies.

According to company documents, Vancouver Energy will accept and ship crude oil that originates in North America and arrives at the Port of Vancouver by rail. The oil will be temporarily stored in storage tanks, then transferred to double-hulled vessels, shipped to West Coast refineries and converted into transportation fuels for American consumption.

Larrabee’s presentation materials mentioned Vancouver and Clark County will benefit with approximately 320 full-time jobs during the construction of the oil terminal, in addition to 616 jobs to operate the facility.

Draft rail traffic measure will be presented to Washougal City Council

The Washougal City Council is expected to consider a resolution, expressing concerns about the potential increase in rail traffic.

During the Sept. 8 council workshop, Keith Brown, of Washougal, said an oil train derailment could cause a fire and have a devastating impact on the area.

He is hoping the council will request Gov. Jay Inslee stop the oil terminal from being built.

Teresa Robbins, of Washougal, said she is not against business, but she opposes the “continual glut of toxic, explosive materials through the gorge.”

Washougal has five, at-grade crossings.

John Wagoner, of Washougal, said an increase in trains would cause traffic problems. He mentioned Hathaway Elementary School is located near train tracks, and he wondered if the oil terminal would provide construction jobs for local residents.

City Councilman Dave Shoemaker said he wants to focus on safety issues, pertaining to oil trains.

“I’m not anti-oil or coal,” he said.

Councilman Paul Greenlee said the city’s primary water supply is located less than 150 feet from the rails.

While he would be concerned about the additional traffic caused by oil trains, “public health and safety trumps all,” he said.

A draft resolution will be brought before the council Monday, Oct. 13, at 5 p.m., at City Hall, 1701 “C” St., with a potential vote on Oct. 27.