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Oil Trains Represent Environmental Threat to Portland

Oil trains rolling through a town near you
Oil trains rolling through a town near you
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

It seems environmentalists in Portland always have a “cause celebre” to fight – but the prospect of dirty oil trains is almost worse than the dirty coal trains already being debated. After several oil train disasters in 2013 from the tar sands in Canada to the recent disaster in North Dakota – those with a green conscience have plenty to worry about. The looming threat of black mushroom clouds of burning oil similar to the shocking accident in North Dakota should be a concern for everyone in the Pacific Northwest.

Transporting oil by train is not a new thing in Portland, it has been happening since early 2012, but a new oil shipping terminal proposed in Vancouver represents a volume increase that is very disconcerting. The extremely controversial fracking methods used in North Dakota has released a huge trove of oil which presents a transportation challenge in the landlocked western plains region. There are no mega pipelines as there are in other parts of the country and no access to shipping lines either.

So the plan is to move long trains a mile and half long, each carrying enough crude oil which couldbe converted to a million gallons of gasoline. So, the bottom line is when the pipeline idea was shot down, the alternative is to create a pipeline on wheels rolling through our neighborhoods. Currently, there are already 600,000 barrels per month shipped to the Clatskanie terminal from North Dakota. If the Vancouver facility is built – that number will increase to over 9 million barrels monthly running through the Columbia River gorge. A disaster like North Dakota could be devastating to the entire Northwest if one of these trains were to have a major accident.

Environmentalists and green activists have plenty to fuel their resistance to this plan. The age of the trains is once concern, but so is the issue of tracks laid more than a hundred years ago. It is not a matter of if something could go wrong, but when. The entire ecosystem of the Northwest is dependent on the mighty Columbia. While we are finally in a recovery of salmon and eagles and the many species dependent on this delicate ecosystem, the humans should find a way to guard it carefully.