Large Rail Fire Highlights the Danger of Fuel Transportation | Global Trade Magazine
U.S. Ports
  December 23rd, 2015 | Written by

Large Rail Fire Highlights the Danger of Fuel Transportation

Environmental Groups Say Portland Lucked Out Last Week

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  • A truck carrying fuel crashed into a line of train cars in the vicinity of the port of Portland, Oregon.
  • Energy company Tesoro proposes to build the biggest crude-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, Washington.
  • Environmentalist: Had the train contained Bakken crude, the explosion could have been devastating to Portland.

Environmental groups are seizing upon the fiery crash of a truck with a tanker train on the banks of the Willamette River in the vicinity of the port of Portland, Oregon, last week, to highlight the vulnerability of the U.S. fuel transportation system.

According to reports in The Oregonian, a commercial truck carrying fuel veered off of a road and crashed into a line of train cars at 8:45 a.m. on December 13. The fuel being carried in the tanker exploded and caught fire, and the driver lost his life. None of the cargo loaded in the train cars caught fire.

“While this is the first crash of this type I can recall in the harbor area,” said Travis Williams of Willamette Riverkeeper, “the result of this truck/train crash sheds light on some of the potential dangers related to our fossil fuel infrastructure, specifically the nearby tanks, and its relationship to river health, and the safety of our communities.”

Willamette Riverkeeper is a non-profit organization, whose mission is to protect and restore the Willamette River.

Williams also referred to a proposed crude-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, Washington, which is in the vicinity of Portland, Oregon, a project of the Texas-based energy company Tesoro. The Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council is currently reviewing the safety and environmental impacts of more oil trains while the governor of Washington Jay Inslee, a Democrat, will make the final yes or no decision.

“After dozens of oil train explosions, and now this frightening fire in Portland, it is reckless to permit more oil trains,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper, an organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the water quality of the Columbia River. “Had the tanker train contained explosive Bakken crude, the explosion could have been devastating to Portland. In addition, the large rail fire and explosion occurred approximately 400 feet from NW Natural’s Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) storage tank.”

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