The fallout from Friday’s crude by rail crash in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon is intensifying after numerous local elected officials called for a temporary halt to the so-called “bomb trains” through the area until the cause of the crash is known and wreckage cleared.
However, the company involved, Union Pacific, has blatantly ignored their concerns and started running trains again, even though the clean-up of the crash site is still ongoing.
In a statement released yesterday, Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, Governor Kate Brown and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici said: “It is too soon to resume oil train traffic through the Columbia River Gorge … Oil train tankers are still lying on their sides in Mosier, the ground and water have yet to be cleaned up, and there’s still no good explanation for the cause of Friday’s crash.”
They added: “A train full of toxic crude oil derailing, burning, and exploding near homes, schools, and businesses is a worst fear realized for people who live in Mosier and in other communities along the tracks throughout the Gorge”.
They argued that the local communities “deserve to know that the causes of this derailment have been both identified and fixed, and there should be a moratorium on oil train traffic until they get those explanations and assurances.”
In addition, Mosier City Council approved a motion on Sunday demanding that oil be removed from derailed cars before any traffic is restarted in the Gorge.
Feelings were running high in the town, with many local residents protesting about crude by rail trains over the weekend.
But in a severe rebuttal to the Politicians and local community, Union Pacific began running trains on Sunday through the Gorge, even before the burnt-out wreckage from Friday had been cleared. Yesterday, some thirteen tanks remained by the rail side, with the majority still containing oil.
Locals were outraged. Mosier’s Mayor, Alrene Burns said in a statement: “Restarting trains before the high-risk carnage of their last accident is even cleared from the tracks is telling Mosier they are going to play a second round of Russian roulette without our town. It’s totally unacceptable.”
“The tracks are no safer today then the day that this derailment happened and now we have large tankers of fuel sitting between the track and our town,” complained Emily Reed, Mosier’s council president.
“This is all about money. They’re willing to risk us blowing up again for their money to keep coming in,” added Loretta Scheler, who lives nearby. “It’s just insane.”
The company defended its actions, saying that it was different rolling stock, not crude oil tanks that had started passing through the Gorge: “We will not run any crude-oil trains through this area any time soon,” Union Pacific spokesman Justin Jacobs said yesterday. “The community is at the forefront of our efforts, and we’re absolutely aware of their concerns.”
But he was contradicted elsewhere by another company spokesperson who is quoted in the local press saying the fact that no crude by rail trains had passed through was “more a function of scheduling” than any “deliberate action” taken by the company.
Normal operations would be resumed soon, they added.