oil

This week’s fiery oil train derailment in West Virginia has lawmakers thinking about oil-by-rail safety through the Northwest. There has been a dramatic increase in oil trains traveling through the region to reach West coast refineries.

Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, stands on the docks as tribal crabbers unload their catch. The tribe has vowed to fight the oil train-to-ship terminals  proposed for Grays Harbor.
KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

HOQUIAM, Wash. — Grays Harbor, with its deep-water berths and fast access to Pacific Ocean shipping routes, has all the ingredients to be a world-class port.

Trains carrying mass loads of heavy crude oil from Canada’s tar sands have begun moving through the Northwest, creating the potential for an oil spill in parts of Oregon and Washington where environmental agencies have no response plans or equipment in place.

Union Pacific now moves between seven and 10 of these mile-long trains of Canadian crude per month through Northwest states, according to railroad spokesman Aaron Hunt. They can carry more than a million gallons of oil.

tesoro workers anacortes
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

About 200 workers at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington, are on strike. They've had a 24-hour picket line at the plant's main gate for more than a week.

Chris Hickey lives on three acres in Washougal, Washington with his wife, son and two massive dogs.

“We get salmon and steelhead up here in the creek. It’s one of the cool things about the house," Hickey said while walking across a metal footbridge above the fast moving water.

The creek is surrounded by a bamboo grove so thick the leaves practically block out the sky.

Legislation Would Mandate Bigger Crews On Oil Trains

Feb 4, 2015

A growing number of oil trains rolling through Washington has emergency responders and rail workers calling for bigger crews on board to better protect human health and the environment.

Shell Oil wants to build more tracks at its refinery in Anacortes, Washington, to receive oil by rail. At a packed hearing in Skagit County on Thursday, more than 100 people turned up to comment on the proposal.

Shell's refinery in Anacortes is the last of Washington's five oil refineries to apply for permits to receive oil by rail from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota.

A survey by the Oregon State Fire Marshal found 81 percent of the state's fire departments don't have the equipment they need to respond to an oil train accident.

In a report to Gov. John Kitzhaber's office, the fire marshal tallied up $2.7 million in "start-up" costs for the additional equipment, personnel and training needed for the state to prepare for a crude oil incident.

The governor's office says it's unclear where that money would come from, but the governor is working with lawmakers to bridge the gap.

Hundreds of people attended a Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission meeting Tuesday as it considered a zoning decision for a controversial propane export terminal.

The Canadian company Pembina has proposed building a $500 million propane export terminal at the Port of Portland on the Columbia River by 2018.

U.S. Coast Guard/Travis Marsh

The Seattle Port Commission decided on Tuesday to let Shell Oil's Arctic drilling fleet use West Seattle as its home port.

Shell's drill rigs and barges would overwinter at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5 in West Seattle while the terminal is being renovated.

File photo of oil train tankers in a Portland, Ore. railyard.
EarthFix Photo/Tony Schick

SEATTLE — For the past few years, a growing number of trains have been bringing “rolling pipelines” of oil from North Dakota to ports and refineries in the Pacific Northwest.

And in that time, the Washington and Oregon legislatures have failed to come up with the money to pay for the cost of responding to the increasing risk of oil spills in their states. That could change in 2015.

An oil tanker and a container ship about to cross paths near Seattle.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Oil tankers bring about 15 million gallons of oil every day into Washington state. Starting Jan. 1, those ships are required to have double hulls.

The oil-spill prevention measure has been in the works for decades, ever since Capt. Joseph Hazelwood ran the Exxon Valdez onto Alaska's Bligh Reef in 1989. Eleven million gallons of oil spilled into Prince William Sound, killing thousands of seabirds and sea otters, devastating the region's fisheries and unleashing action in Washington, D.C.

According to AAA, the last three months have been the longest stretch of declining gas prices they’ve ever recorded in the U.S.

Astroturfing is when interest groups run a campaign that’s designed to look like it’s grassroots in nature.

Northwest lawmakers voted along party lines as the U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to reject a plan to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

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