City and fire officials from Mosier, Ore., drove more than an hour Tuesday to send a clear message to Port of Vancouver commissioners: The oil train derailment and fire that happened in their town could happen anywhere along tracks carrying crude.
“Right now we feel it’s Russian roulette,” said Arlene Burns, mayor of Mosier. “It’s not just our community that we’re standing up for, it’s all the communities along the tracks in Oregon and in Washington.”
Burns was among almost two dozen people who spoke against oil-by-rail transport during the open forum portion of the Port of Vancouver Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning. Later in the hearing, Commissioner Eric LaBrant, an oil terminal opponent who had faced criticism for not taking action against the terminal, moved to cancel the port’s lease with Vancouver Energy. The motion died after it wasn’t seconded by either of the commission’s other two members.
On June 3, a train of 96 cars carrying crude oil derailed within Mosier city limits, leading to an evacuation of the tiny town after four cars caught fire and darkened the Columbia River Gorge skies with black clouds of oil smoke.
And Mosier, the city’s mayor said, dodged a bullet.
“What if it had been windy like it was the day before, the day after? What if it had been August, when everything is a tinderbox ready for a flame? What if it had been 2 miles down the tracks and all of that crude would have gone into the Columbia River, into salmon habitat?” Burns asked.