Oil Check Washington

Coal and oil trains just got 150 officials to agree on something

It’s easy to be cynical about politics. Posturing and partisanship take precedence over policy, important issues get caught up in gridlock from the state houses to DC. We can fall into the trap that we can't agree on anything. But city and county elected officials from Boise to Blaine, Salem to Seattle, Vancouver to Vancouver and throughout the greater Pacific Northwest are united in their opposition to coal export and oil trains rumbling through their communities.

While individually these officials couldn’t stand up to fossil fuel companies, collectively, as the newly formed Safe Energy Leadership Alliance, they could be a force to be reckoned with.

"We're small fish really," said Milwaukie Councilor Mark Gamba in a recent KUOW story. "When you're going up against the railroads, you don't have a chance in hell. But when you're talk about 150 city councilors and county commissioners and tribal leaders and legislators and metro councilors, that all of a sudden is something to be reckoned with."

They were major backers of Washington State bill HB-1449, which increases safety standards and disclosure for oil trains as well as charging oil companies a fee for potential disaster clean up.

They’ve also reached out to Governor Kate Brown in Oregon to voice their concerns about the potential dangers these projects hold for the region.

Back in February, the Department of Transportation predicted that oil train disasters would cause $4 billion in damages over the next two decades, with an estimated 10 derailments a year. The Northwest is quickly becoming the final destination for an unprecedented amount of oil traffic much of it by rail. With the remaining two coal export terminal project proposals, we could see 94 million tons of coal, that’s 30 miles of coal trains a day.

Oil and coal companies have long since had a stark choice to make. They could see the rise of clean energy and the damages the fossil fuel system can bring and begin to shift their portfolios with what Northwesterners want. Instead they are doubling down on the dirtiest forms of energy and trying to divide local officials along their routes to export.

This is a daunting future to look at. It can seem hopeless and even leave us cynical at times. But if 150 tribal leaders, county executives and representatives can come together and agree this is a raw idea, I’m feeling pretty good about our chances.

Nick Abraham - editor and Lead contributor of Oil Check Northwest

[email protected]

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