Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Sept. 30, 2020

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Rail safety on agenda for Port of C-W

Draft resolution takes aim at worries about oil train traffic


A draft resolution on rail safety headed to the board of the Port of Camas-Washougal on Tuesday calls on government agencies and railroads to address any possible negative effects from increased oil shipment through the east Clark County communities.

While not opposing a rail-to-marine oil transfer terminal at the Port of Vancouver, a draft resolution says the three-member commission “supports the full mitigation of negative impacts to our safety, mobility, environment, and to other sectors of the our region’s economy” from the increased movement of oil trains through the region.

The draft resolution also calls for the Washington Department of Transportation and the Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board to “analyze and study the potential economic effect of this oil train traffic on the displacement of existing economic activity, the potential loss of access to rail transport by local and regional shippers, as well as by commuter services (Amtrak), and the economic damages to the public resulting from accidents on the rails.”

The proposed resolution revives a discussion at the port that fell dormant last fall when the commission declined to pursue a resolution backed by Commissioner Bill Ward that would have expressed concerns about increased oil train traffic. The makeup of the commission changed this fall with the appointment of John Spencer to fill a seat that became empty with the death of Commissioner Mark Lampton, who died in August after a battle with cancer. Spencer expressed interest in considering a resolution on oil transport issues, said David Ripp, the port’s executive director.

Ripp said the commission’s intent with the proposed resolution is not to take a position on the oil transfer terminal proposed at the Port of Vancouver by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos., but to make sure that any impacts from increased oil shipments in the Camas-Washougal community are addressed. The resolution notes that rail lines through Camas and Washougal would deliver oil to several other proposed oil facilities in Western Washington.

The resolution offers support for a number of oil transport safety measures including:

• A national standard for the maximum volatility of crude oil.

• A national standard for rail tank car performance and the immediate phase-out of all cars not meeting that standard.

• A national standard related to the inspection of rail ties, rail beds, rail cars, and rail operating systems.

• Expansion of an existing oil spill response tax beyond waterborne vessels to include rail tank cars.

• Equipping and training of local and regional responders, including regularly scheduled mandatory drills.

The draft resolution also urges rail carriers to collaborate to develop inventories of emergency response resources. It favors a requirement that rail carriers file plans with each state that address worst-case scenarios and that identify “the approximate number of trains, routes and volume of commodity through states.”

The port commission will consider the resolution at its regular meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1 at the port’s offices, 24 South A St. in Washougal.