Washougal Council discusses oil train draft resolution

Amended version could be approved Monday

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The Washougal City Council recently had an opportunity to comment on a draft resolution that expresses concerns about the potential for an increase in the number of oil trains traveling through the city.

An increase in oil train traffic is expected to occur locally if an oil terminal is built at the Port of Vancouver. Vancouver Energy, a joint venture of Tesoro Refining & Marketing Company LLC and Savage Companies, 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.

The council is expected to authorize City Attorney Don English to represent Washougal in the Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council process for the proposed project.

The resolution, written by Councilman Brent Boger, said an increase in oil train and other train traffic threatens economic development by crowding out other train traffic that is necessary to serve industry that provides more high-paying jobs than an oil shipment facility would.

During the Jan. 26 council meeting, council member Michelle Wagner said she favored some of the specifics that she saw in a Stevenson City Council resolution. That included the city requesting BNSF Railway Company submit an emergency environmental cleanup plan in case of a derailment.

The Stevenson resolution also urges the federal government to implement safety regulations regarding train speeds and rail car designs.

The Washougal draft resolution, which mentions the possibility of derailments, spills and explosions, states the impacts on Washougal must be mitigated if the Tesoro Savage project is approved. Mitigation measures include eliminating at-grade crossings and providing funding for enhanced safety equipment.

Boger said eliminating at-grade crossings would serve as a mitigation measure by not blocking the tracks.

“There would still be a crossing, but it would go over or under the tracks,” he said later.

Councilman Dave Shoemaker said the city should not try to recommend what the mitigations would be.

“We’re not the safety experts, but we’re sure as heck the people who would be impacted,” he said. “Let’s tell them to mitigate the impacts, and give them a free hand to do it.”

The council is expected to discuss a revised resolution during its next meeting Monday, at 7 p.m., in the council chambers at City Hall, 1701 “C” St.

If approved, the resolution would be sent to the offices of Gov. Jay Inslee and EFSEC, as well as local congressional representatives, state legislators and federal and state agencies.