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Multnomah County takes stance against oil by rail

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Following in the footsteps of the Vancouver and Portland city councils, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Jan. 21 to oppose crude oil shipments by rail through its jurisdiction.

The county resolution directs its Office of Sustainability to send a copy of the measure to the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which is considering approval of the Tesoro Savage oil terminal in Vancouver.

The terminal is proposed by Vancouver Energy, a joint venture between Tesoro Corp., a Texas oil company, and Savage, a Utah-based supply chain management company. They hope to haul crude oil from the Bakken formation in North Dakota, via what amounts to an oil pipeline on wheels — four daily trains with up to 120 cars each arriving from North Dakota, perhaps via tracks along the Columbia River Gorge. The oil would then be shipped up the Columbia River by boat and delivered to West Coast oil refineries.

The Vancouver facility would be equipped to handle 360,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

The resolution states several reasons for the county’s opposition to oil shipments by rail:

“Risks posed to Multnomah County residents from oil by rail shipments include the potential for oil train explosions, fires, and/or spills as a result of derailment; increased particulate emissions from locomotive exhaust; congestion and collision along roadways and rail lines; and associated health impacts including injury and death.

Nine significant train derailments have occurred in North America since July 2013, one of which resulted in multiple fatalities and injuries.

In case of an oil train fire, the half mile surrounding the incident should be considered for evacuation.”