2016 Spokane, WA Blessing Stop

srx Oil Trains Downtown

A westbound train carrying crude oil toward the coast passes through downtown Spokane Monday, July 18, 2016. JESSE TINSLEY jesset@spokesman.com

Oil trains, coal trains, and oil pipelines all travel through Spokane, WA. Coal and oil are transported by rail from Sandpoint, ID to Spokane on a 70-mile segment of rail known as “The Funnel,” the second busiest rail corridor in Washington. Once in Spokane, the trains pass right through downtown, putting thousands of residents at risk. Importantly, rail lines in Spokane are disproportionately located in marginalized communities, with 26% of minorities living within the oil train blast zone. An oil train disaster in Spokane risks contaminating the Spokane River, a resource that provides both recreation to locals and a habitat for many fish in the area, including the redband trout, a subspecies of rainbow trout that are already on the decline. Contamination of the Spokane River would also pollute the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, a body of water identified by the EPA as the “sole source” of drinking water for Spokane County. Therefore, an oil spill would jeopardize the water supply of nearly half a million people, along with the region’s biodiversity that relies on these water sources.

Currently, about 19 oil trains pass through Spokane every week. Proposed fossil fuel terminals, such as Tesoro Savage in Vancouver, WA, would increase oil-by-rail traffic and thus the likelihood of an oil train disaster in Spokane. The Tesoro Savage Vancouver Energy project would handle 360,000 barrels of crude oil per day by rail, increasing the average number of oil trains in Spokane from two per day to eight or more per day. The proposed Shell Refinery expansion in Anacortes would add an additional six oil trains per day to the tracks. Importantly, Spokane’s City Hall, which would serve as the command center in the case of a derailment, is located within the 1-mile blast zone of the rail tracks, therefore limiting the ability of public officials to address a fire in the case of an oil train disaster in downtown Spokane. With a network of pipelines that carry natural gas, gasoline, jet fuel, and other fuels along the Spokane River, Spokane’s resources are at risk for a disaster from a number of fossil fuels projects, and the need to mitigate and eliminate these risks are eminent.

~Naomi Price-Lazarus, Stand.earth

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