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The weather is warming and vacation season approaching.

And, just as predictably, the price of gasoline is rising. It does that every spring as refineries switch to more expensive summer blends.

But this year, the seasonal price bump is getting an extra bounce. Gasoline is costing consumers about 5 percent more than last year at this time, even though oil supplies are abundant. Why?

Experts say U.S. retail prices are nudging higher in large part because Gulf Coast refineries are sending more gasoline to other countries.

EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

HOQUIAM, Wash. — More than 100 people gathered at the local high school Thursday night with questions and concerns about proposals to build train-to-ship oil terminals in their community.

Environmental regulators in Washington state are expecting a lively crowd Thursday in the coastal city of Hoquiam.

Louisiana's coast is disappearing at the rate of about a football field an hour. Since the 1930s, the Gulf of Mexico has swallowed up an area the size of Delaware.

You can see the water encroaching in Delacroix in St. Bernard Parish, less than an hour southeast of New Orleans. Here, a narrow crescent of land known locally as the "end of the world" is where the road abruptly comes to a dead end; in the distance, you see the tops of now-submerged trees.

Nearly 30 percent of the gas released during crude oil production in the Bakken oil fields is flared off – burned into the air and essentially wasted.

This week, a Houston-based company proposed building a terminal in Longview, Wash. that would collect some of those gases and export them.

EarthFix Photo/Tony Schick

Fellow U.S. senators are calling on Washington’s Patty Murray to support major investments in oil train safety, but first she wants some answers.

U.S. Coast Guard

A US Coast Guard investigation blames Shell Oil's complacency and risk-taking for an oil rig running aground on a remote Alaskan Island on New Year's Eve 2012.

Courtesy of State of Alaska/Dan Lawn

Twenty five years ago today the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, Calif., ran aground in Prince William Sound.

Eleven million gallons of oil spilled out, polluting 1,300 miles of Alaska’s coastline.

It's been 25 years since the Exxon Valdez ran aground off the coast of Alaska, spilling millions of gallons of oil into Prince William Sound.

The impact on wildlife was devastating. Cleanup crews poured into the nearby port town, also called Valdez, where an animal rescue center was set up.

"The chaos is incredibly difficult to describe or even imagine," says LJ Evans, a local resident who volunteered to help. "Somebody came back with the first bird — the reporters were so frantic, somebody got in a fight trying to take a picture of this poor little oiled bird."

EarthFix Photo/Katie Campbell

Neither states nor the federal government have oversight over how railroads plan for responding to spills from trains carrying crude oil, meaning environmental regulators cannot identify gaps in the plans or verify a railroad’s abilities to carry them out.

Oregon Says Coal Export Project Will Need To Lease More Land

Mar 18, 2014

Developers of the Morrow Pacific coal export project on the Columbia River already have land leases with the Port of St. Helens and the Port of Morrow.

But according to the Oregon Department of State Lands, they're going to need a couple more.

In Oregon, the state owns all the land submerged in water -– including riverbeds.

SEATTLE -- More oil is moving through Washington state from the Bakken oil fields, putting public pressure on elected officials to pass laws protecting public health and the environment.

Bakken oil from North Dakota and Montana has proven extremely flammable, causing several explosions in North America, including one that killed 47 people in Quebec last July.

Flickr Photo/Russ Allison Loar (CC BY-NC-ND)

Have you been wondering about the Port of Portland’s position on oil by rail? If so, you’re not alone.

As more and more oil by rail developments crop up around the Pacific Northwest, the port has received “numerous inquiries” about whether it, too, would be willing and able to receive shipments of crude from the Bakken oil fields.

Opponents of a planned oil-by-rail terminal urged Port of Vancouver USA commissioners at their meeting Tuesday to cancel its lease with terminal companies Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies, raising several arguments against what would be the largest oil-to-marine terminal in the Northwest. But that terminal might not be the biggest factor affecting oil train traffic through the city.

Courtesy of Transportation Safety Board of Canada

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued an emergency order requiring crude oil from North Dakota and Montana to be tested before being transported by railroads.

Tuesday’s order follows several fiery derailments involving shipments of crude oil. It is intended to ensure greater safety when the highly flammable liquid is being shipped.

EarthFix Photo/Katie Campbell

Train traffic will dramatically increase in the Pacific Northwest, if proposed coal export terminals and crude oil terminals are built. That’s the conclusion of an updated report from the Western Organization of Resource Councils.

Flickr Photo/Raymond D. Woods Jr. (CC BY-NC-ND)

Powerful members of the Washington state Senate are on board with a plan to tax crude oil shipped into the state by rail.

The money raised would pay for oil spill response and clean up.

Crude Oil Terminal Planned In NW Portland

Feb 18, 2014

PORTLAND -- A national fuel storage company has plans to turn an asphalt plant near the Willamette River into a rail and marine terminal for crude oil.

Flickr Photo/EcologyWA (CC BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds talks with Lisa Copeland, communications manager for the Washington State Department of Ecology, about the cleanup efforts of the 2,000 gallons of oil that spilled in Hood Canal on Monday.

The Navy is blaming a failed pump for its spill of nearly 2,000 gallons of oily wastewater into Puget Sound.

Tom Danaher, spokesman for Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, said the Navy was using a pumping system on one of its piers to remove oily bilge water from a ship late Monday.

Flickr Photo/EcologyWA

Officials are responding to an oil spill in Washington’s Puget Sound. The spill occurred at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor and has spread 10 miles north to Hood Canal.

Tesoro To Upgrade To Safer Oil Tankers

Feb 10, 2014

A company that’s shipping crude oil through the Pacific Northwest has announced it’s upgrading its fleet to safer tanker train cars. The announcement comes after several derailments, fires, and explosions prompted safety concerns, including an explosion in Quebec last summer that killed 47 people.

In Olympia, state lawmakers are going down divergent tracks in how to respond to the rapid increase of crude oil trains crossing the region.

A remarkable transformation is underway in western North Dakota, where an oil boom is changing the state's fortunes and leaving once-sleepy towns bursting at the seams. In a series of stories, NPR is exploring the economic, social and environmental demands of this modern-day gold rush.

North Dakota's oil boom isn't just about oil; a lot of natural gas comes out of the ground at the same time. But there's a problem with that: The state doesn't have the pipelines needed to transport all of that gas to market. There's also no place to store it.

Wyden, Merkley Take Railroads To Task Over Oil Train Safety

Jan 27, 2014

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley asked railroad company executives Friday to address mounting concerns about oil train safety in Oregon.

Following several oil train derailments and related emergencies in the past six months, the senators gathered in Portland with public officials officials and rail industry representatives.

SEATTLE -- Washington lawmakers took up a proposal Wednesday to require more transparency from companies that transport oil through the state.

The hearing on House Bill 2347 played out before a packed committee room in Olympia. The new bill would require oil companies to file weekly reports with the state Department of Ecology detailing how much oil is being transported, what kind of oil it is, how it’s being moved and what route it’s traveling through the state.

Few Railcars Carrying Flammable Oil Get Inspected

Jan 14, 2014
oil train, transportation
Flickr Photo/Russ Allison Loar (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/aqtNAn

As we researched a recent story about train shipments of oil, we asked Washington and Oregon officials: How many of the trains coming through the Northwest are inspected?

Transportation Safety Board of Canada

The oil-by-rail boom is underway, and with that, several high-profile, fiery derailments.  

But state officials don't have the information they need to prepare for an oil train mishap because railroad and oil companies are not required to disclose much on shipments or response strategies.

Flickr Photo/Roy Luck

An alert, issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday said that the crude oil coming out of the Bakken formation of North Dakota poses a “significant risk” because it is more flammable than traditional heavy crude.

A massive load of oil equipment is on its way to Canada, along a winding route that began near Hermiston, in northeast Oregon. 

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