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Washington Governor Asks Union Pacific To Halt Oil Trains

Ted S. Warren/AP

Gov. Jay Inslee asked the Union Pacific Railroad on Friday to halt oil train shipments through Washington until the company does more walking inspections of its railroad track.

Inslee joins Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who has repeatedly called for a moratorium on oil train traffic after a fiery oil train derailment in Mosier, Oregon, on June 3.

Union Pacific said it will continue operations.

“We are required to transport crude oil and other commodities for our customers, as long as the customers deliver those packaged in conformity with U.S. Department of Transportation requirements,” said Union Pacific Spokesman Justin Jacobs in response to Inslee’s statement.


New Report: Union Pacific Failed To Maintain Track, Resulting In Oil Train Derailment

Federal regulators blamed Union Pacific for the 16-car derailment, saying the railroad failed to maintain its track.

Union Pacific had inspected the track in Mosier before the derailment, but failed to find multiple broken bolts that led to the crash.

In a report Thursday, the Federal Railroad Administration said inspections done by walking instead of driving are a more effective method of detecting rail defects like broken bolts.

“A moratorium should be placed on any oil trains in Washington using track that is not inspected to these rigorous standards,” Inslee said in a press release. “I will continue pressing federal regulators and the railroads for swift action.”

Union Pacific said it has conducted walking inspections of 533 miles of curves in its system since the Mosier derailment.

“Our goal remains that of operating trains safely,” Jacobs said.

Inslee met Friday with Sarah Feinberg, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, to discuss the derailment. The governor called for additional safety measures, including slower train speeds, a better brake system, and the phase-out of older, puncture-prone tank cars.


Oil Train Derailment: Q&A With Federal Railroad Administration Head

Inslee’s announcement came just days before the state weighs a project that could significantly increase oil train traffic in Washington.

The governor has the final say in whether the state will permit a proposal for the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country at the Port of Vancouver.  That project, proposed by Tesoro Savage, would route up to an additional four oil trains per day through the Columbia River Gorge.

Washington state begins its public review of the proposal Monday.

The state will use five weeks of hearings to determine how to move forward with the Vancouver Energy Project.

The oil terminal would move an estimated 360,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Bakken Region of North Dakota to the Port of Vancouver. From there, the oil would be transferred onto ships and sent to ports on the West Coast.