oil trains

Neighbors Hope To Derail Vancouver Oil Terminal

Jan 26, 2015
Conrad Wilson / OPB

An oil company wants to build the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country on the banks of the Columbia River. The Vancouver Energy Project would ship oil daily from the Port of Vancouver, Washington to refineries along the West coast. The companies backing the project promise jobs. But, neighbors are worried.

Linda Garcia drives along the streets of the Fruit Valley neighborhood in Vancouver, Washington. For almost the last 20 years, it’s the place she’s called home.

“My neighborhood is my family.”

Karen Richards

Oregon's U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley were both in Eugene on Monday. They led a forum on the Department of Transportation's proposed changes to oil train transport.

Bakken shale oil production in the Dakotas has transformed railroad tank car movement across the west. Volumes have increased four thousand percent since 2008, according to the Association of American Railroads. Senator Ron Wyden says rules regarding safety and preparedness have not kept pace:

Michael Werner

Crude oil shipments by rail increased by more than 80 percent, nationally, last year.
Most of it is coming from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. That crude is more flammable than other types of oil, and has been shown to catch fire and explode when trains derail. More than 15 trains of Bakken oil move through some parts of the Northwest each week, en route to refineries and terminals in Washington and Oregon. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway transports the majority of that oil.

More oil is moving along Northwest railways. The Bakken Oil fields of North Dakota are booming. But Bakken oil is explosive at relatively low temperatures. There have been several oil train accidents since the boom began, one of them costing the lives of 47 people in Quebec.

That’s prompted KUOW’s EarthFix team to take a look at how prepared the Northwest is for the rise of oil train traffic. Ashley Ahearn reports.