Letter to the Editor for May 24, 2016

An Open Letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

Honorable Gov. Jay Inslee:

The most significant element of the entire potential oil train depot question concerns the threats to the citizens of Washington.

Let’s first agree that Bakken crude oil, which is the unstable substance that the rail-to-marine oil terminal will carry, is just plain dangerous.

Even the article, “State trains for Bakken crude disaster amid rise in oil trains” on the Washington Military Department website, makes this abundantly clear.

Presumably, the major argument for establishing the United States’ largest rail-to-marine oil terminal is to provide more money for Vancouver’s coffers. But how would Washington government use that money? Its purpose would naturally be to make life better somehow for the people of southern Washington. That would be in direct conflict with the dangers and significant inconveniences this project would foist on the people for whom you are responsible.

As the Camas/Washougal representative on Portland International Airport’s Community Advisory Committee, I am increasingly impressed with PDX’s deliberate efforts to protect the public from airport impacts. This stance of protection for the public, plus serious environmental stewardship, should be a model for all public-service agencies, including the Office of the Governor.

Abraham Maslow, one of the most famous and well respected psychologists of our time, shows clearly in his hierarchy of needs that the most important things for people are food and shelter. I other words, safety and an increased likelihood of survival are paramount. Economic success and other such things are and should clearly be secondary motivations, particularly for politicians charged with protecting us in the public.

Let’s make Washingtonians safer as our highest priority. A new park or sprucing up city streets pale in comparison and with saving lives and providing minimally-impeded access to our homes and businesses.

As the planners of the upcoming Cascadia Rising earthquake response exercise recognize, the earthquake potential on our vicinity is high. Having a monstrously-large oil terminal brimming with explosive Bakken oil during an earthquake could produce a conflagration that would wipe out large sections of southern Washington and northern Oregon. Please do not permit this, Gov. Inslee.

I recently met with Washougal Mayor Sean Guard on an unrelated issue. Yet during that meeting, two things happened that really struck me. Mayor Guard told me that some Bakken oil was already flowing across Washougal and Camas, and he offered me a look at a test-tube-sized container of it. I was afraid to touch it because of its explosive qualities. My feel for the communities along the planned train corridor is that we are all fearful of the heavy snake of death that would increase dramatically in size and threat if the oil terminal is approved.

The other was that Mayor Guard and I discussed measures Washougal might take to ameliorate extreme traffic impediments the additional oil trains would engender. The funding for such an important traffic mitigation project is virtually unreachable with local monies.

Both serious adverse impacts would be minimized if you do not approve the creation of the terminal.

It appears that you, Gov. Inslee, will have the most significant single voice in this issue. That means that you are in the position to protect the residents of southern Washington significantly more than anyone else on this planet. I plead with you to take the true, life-threatening dangers and the horrendous inconveniences such an oil terminal wood foist on Washington residents as your primary guiding thought in reaching your decision.

Thank you for your consideration.

Dr. Steven Mark Sachs, Washougal resident