Mayor’s letter focuses on oil train concerns

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Steven Lane/The Columbian Rain didn't deter bargain-hunters from waiting all night at Vancouver's Best Buy store. A stabilizing economy and shorter inventories may prevent the extreme discounting seen in 2008 as Christmas approaches.

The City of Camas recently mailed a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee, raising concerns about oil train safety and supporting efforts to improve emergency preparedness efforts.

The letter signed by Mayor Scott Higgins was sent last week.

Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies are proposing to build an oil-transfer terminal at the Port of Vancouver. It would be capable of handling 360,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

“I recognize it’s out of our scope to directly influence, but putting a voice out there helps.”
— Greg Anderson, mayor pro-tem

“A major east-west railroad corridor passes through Camas adjacent to our downtown, residential areas, the Georgia-Pacific paper mill and the Columbia River and its tributaries,” Higgins’ letter states. “The number of crude oil railroad cars passing through our city continues to increase and if there is a terminal located in Vancouver, Washington, the numbers would significantly increase.”

According to Higgins, the Camas-Washougal Fire Department is not equipped to handle the type of train derailments and explosions that have happened in the rural areas of Illinois and West Virginia.

"I recognize it's out of our scope to directly influence, but putting a voice out there helps." -- Greg Anderson, mayor pro-tem

“If a similar event occurred in Camas or a comparable location, we risk significant loss of life and property damage,” he wrote. “We as a region need to be prepared and have the resources to respond to this type of event.”

He called for the railroad to be required to have enough liability insurance to cover all costs, should a similar major accident occur locally.

Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Anderson said he supports the content of the letter, adding that it should also be sent to the state’s senators and representatives.

“I recognize it’s out of our scope to directly influence, but putting a voice out there helps,” he said.

In February, the Washougal City Council passed a resolution expressing concerns about how the location of an oil terminal in Vancouver could cause safety and traffic issues. It was delivered to Inslee and the Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council, as well as local congressional representatives, state legislators and federal and state agencies.

Several local leaders are part of a coalition of elected officials across the Northwest, called the Safe Energy Leadership Alliance. Its mission is to understand and raise awareness of the safety and economic impacts of coal and oil trains.

Camas City Councilman Don Chaney and Washougal City Councilwoman Joyce Lindsay, as well as a handful of Vancouver city councilors, are listed as members of the group. It includes more than 150 people from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and British Columbia in Canada.

Meanwhile, a forum is being planned that will focus on the oil industry’s potential impacts on Southwest Washington.

The event, which will be moderated by Eric de Place of the Sightline Institute, will be held Wednesday, April 1, at 6 p.m., at Kiggins Theatre, 1011 Main St., in Vancouver. Doors open at 5:30.

Forum panelists will include Lauren Goldberg, attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper; Vancouver City Councilwoman Anne McEnerny-Ogle; Barry Cain of Gramor Development; Eric LaBrant of the Fruit Valley Neighborhood Association and a representative from Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Sponsors include the Sightline Institute, Columbia Riverkeeper and the Clark County Natural Resources Council.