Eight months ago an oil train derailed and burst into flames in Mosier, Oregon, shutting down the city and sending oil into the Columbia River. Federal investigators concluded that Union Pacific Railroad’s failure to maintain its tracks led to the oil train derailment. You and thousands of people across the Pacific Northwest demanded action to protect our communities and the Columbia River from the growing threat of oil-by-rail. We know that oil-by-rail is inherently unsafe, but until it’s stopped Oregon needs to do everything in its power to protect our rivers and our communities. The Oregon Legislature is back in session now and it’s ready to act.
Two bills have the potential to expose the risks of dangerous oil trains and compel railroads to carry insurance to cover a worst-case spill. House Bill 2131 and Senate Bill 7, what we’re calling the Mosier Acts of 2017, are commonsense bills that require:
- Contingency plans and training for oil train-related spills;
- Fees on railroads to build Oregon’s Oil Spill Contingency Fund; and
- Proof that railroads carry adequate insurance to address a worst-case oil train spill and fire.
As currently proposed, HB 2131 and SB 7 would require roughly $750 million and $1 billion, respectively, in insurance coverage for railroads like Union Pacific. This is a great start, but we know that the derailment in Lac Megantic, Quebec killed 47 people and cost over $2 billion in damages.
We expect HB 2131 to be heard soon in the House Committee on Energy & Environment, and so it’s important for our legislators to know we care about this issue. Send a message today!
While HB 2131 and SB 7 are a good start and worthy of our support, they do not address the oil-by-rail terminals that drive oil train traffic. On this front, cities like Portland and Vancouver have taken the lead by passing ordinances prohibiting major new oil infrastructure. One very bad bill – HB 2480 – aims to preempt municipalities’ right to pass local ordinances such as Portland’s landmark fossil fuel ordinance. We strongly oppose HB 2480, which undermines local authority.