oil

The federal government's new rules aimed at preventing explosive oil train derailments are sparking a backlash from all sides.

The railroads, oil producers and shippers say some of the new safety requirements are unproven and too costly, yet some safety advocates and environmental groups say the regulations aren't strict enough and still leave too many people at risk.

Dean Smith, who retired from the NSA, now tracks oil trains. He has gotten more information to the state in one week than oil companies have in three years.
EarthFix/KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

EVERETT, Wash. – Dean Smith, 72, sits in his car by the tracks north of Seattle.

It’s a dark, rainy Tuesday night, and Smith waits for an oil train to come through town. These trains are distinctive: A mile long, they haul 100 or so black, pill-shaped cars that each carry 30,000 gallons of crude oil.

Shell Oil's Polar Pioneer left the Port of Seattle for Alaska on the morning of June 15, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Brian Gregory

Protesters in kayaks dogged Royal Dutch Shell’s huge oil drilling rig Polar Pioneer as it sailed out of Seattle’s Elliott Bay early Monday on a long voyage to the Arctic Ocean.

Dozens used kayaks to form lines in front of the 300-foot-tall rig as it left under heavy Coast Guard escort.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — has led to widespread pollution of drinking water. The oil industry and its backers welcome the long-awaited study, while environmental groups criticize it.

The Polar Pioneer and hundreds of kayaking protesters on Seattle's Duwamish Waterway on May 16, 2015.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Shell Oil has rejected state officials' position that parking an Arctic oil rig at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5 violates the state constitution.

Shell's Polar Pioneer rig has been at the port since mid-May. Its arrival in environmentally-minded Seattle has sparked protest and government scrutiny at various levels.

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

State officials said Friday that it's unconstitutional for Shell Oil to store its Arctic drilling rig at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5.

The Polar Pioneer oil rig in Terminal 5 at the Port of Seattle.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Marcie Sillman talks to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray about the Shell Arctic drilling rig newly docked at the Port of Seattle.

Tesoro Announces Rail Car Upgrades

May 19, 2015

Oil company Tesoro announced Monday it’s upgrading the fleet of tank cars it uses to carry crude oil by rail.

The company moves crude oil by train through the Pacific Northwest to its refinery in Anacortes, Washington.

Officials with the company said it will add 210 “enhanced” tank cars. According to Tesoro executives, the new tank cars exceed federal standards announced earlier this month.

John Ryan / KUOW

Seattle planning officials say the Arctic drill rig at the Port of Seattle has to leave or get a new permit by June 4. 

The city issued a notice of violation to the Port of Seattle, Shell Oil and Foss Maritime on Monday afternoon.

The notice says the port's permit is only good for cargo ships, not oil rigs like the Polar Pioneer.

Foss Maritime tugs pull the Polar Pioneer past downtown Seattle on the way to Terminal 5 on Thursday, May 14, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Environmental activists in kayaks paddled into the middle of Seattle's Elliott Bay  on Thursday afternoon to meet -- or, as they say, "un-welcome" -- a huge Shell oil rig.

The arrival of the Polar Pioneer could raise the stakes in the battle over Shell's oil exploration plans in the remote Arctic Ocean.  

Seattle City Council members heard testimony on a resolution Tuesday urging the Port of Seattle to reconsider its controversial decision to host Shell Oil’s Arctic drill rigs.

The resolution warns that allowing Shell to use Terminal 5 in West Seattle will cause “disruption, division and direct conflict with the Port’s stated values and policies.”

The Shell Oil drilling rig Polar Pioneer arrived in Port Angeles weeks ago.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

The city of Seattle said Monday that a new permit is needed for Shell Oil's Arctic drilling fleet to dock at Terminal 5, a stance that could bring more conflict with the port.

Oil trains are getting stronger tank cars, better brakes, slower speed limits and possibly new routes. Many in the Northwest say that’s still not enough.

Northwest emergency responders have complained about receiving little information about oil train movement through their community. They’re about to get even less.

Oregon’s U.S. senators want to put a $175 fee on each older model railroad tank car used to ship flammable oil.

Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley joined four other Democrats in introducing a bill Thursday that would create a surcharge on each DOT-111, a tank car model known to be flawed and puncture-prone.

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