Mosier Was Lucky, No One Was Killed

The ECOreport gives an update from the Columbia River after yesterday’s explosion. The town of Mosier was Lucky, no one was killed.

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1The flames have been put out and a tweet from the Washington’s Department of Ecology says the air quality is good.  Four railway cars, carrying approximately 120,000 gallons of oil, ruptured in yesterday’s incident. No one knows how much oil spilled out, or made its’ way into the Columbia River. (As you can see in the photo above, there was a sheen on the Oregon shore this morning.) No one can flush their toilets, or drink the water, because the town’s sewer plant was directly affected. A local resident said Mosier was Lucky, no one was killed.

Mosier was Lucky

Derailed railway cars at Mosier - Courtesy State of Washington Department of Ecology
Derailed railway cars at Mosier, note the fire damage on four of them – Courtesy State of Washington Department of Ecology

A Union Pacific spokesperson apologized to the residents of Mosier for the inconvenience

“This was more than an inconvenience. This was more like being narrowly grazed by a bullet to the head. If there had been typical 20 to 30 mile an hour winds, we would have had a fire that would have been out of control, raging 30 or 40 miles downstream,” said Peter Corneilson a city councillor from the neighbouring city of Hood River .1

“I am grateful to local first responders, HazMat teams, and other state agencies for doing their best to keep the community of Mosier safe. I am closely monitoring the situation and ready to make every state resource available as needed. I ask that travelers seek alternate routes away from this area until further notice. The Oregon Department of Transportation will provide continuous updates on travel condition,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown, in a press release.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee also issued a statement, “acknowledging, “Today’s derailment of a train carrying Bakken crude oil in the Columbia River Gorge is yet another reminder of the risks and concerns of crude-by-rail transport in our region.”

The Columbia River towns of Hood River, The Dalles, Mosier, North Bonneville, Stevenson have all previously voiced their opposition to, or at least expressed concerns about, the oil-by-rail traffic passing through their boundaries. Many have also down this for coal trains.

The Hood River Rally - Courtesy Columbia Riverkeeper
The Hood River Rally – Courtesy Columbia Riverkeeper

“This could have happened in any of our communities,” said Corneilson.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that Governors Inslee and Brown have to take concerted actions to protect the Pacific Northwest,” said Dan Serres, from Columbia Riverkeeper.2

Ban Oil-By-Rail Shipments In The Gorge

Between 150 and 200 people held a rally in Hood River, calling on Federal and state leaders to ban oil-by-rail through the Columbia River Gorge. They sang songs, like “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land,” and “Roll on Columbia”

A number of City government officials, tribal representatives, faith leaders, environmental groups and first responders addressed the gathering.

Emily Reed, the President of Mosier’s City Council as among them. She expressed her distress as a mother, when the explosion took place so close to her son’s school. Her husband was one of the firemen who rushed off to fight the blaze. Her father one of the small cherry orchard owners who could not ship out their crop.

The Rally in Hood River - Courtesy Peter Corneils
The Rally in Hood River – Courtesy Peter Corneils

After they were finished talking, Corneilson led them in a march down Hood River’s main street up a grassy hill to the library.

One of the participants, who did not wish to be identified, said, “It was a lovely way to acknowledge what had happened and involve the community in a very public way.”

The leaders of the rally issued a joint statement:

“The use of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area as a fossil fuel export corridor is simply unacceptable for our communities. It’s unacceptable for any community – and if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. We call on Oregon and Washington to do everything in their power to stop the use of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area as a fossil fuel export corridor.

“This is a tragic moment that has lived in the minds of many community members for a number of years.  The escalation of oil trains in the Gorge and throughout the Pacific Northwest has been opposed by many city governments, faith communities, tribal councils and community organizations precisely for the reasons we are experiencing today as a result of the Mosier derailment. Health and air quality, water contamination risks, fire risks and community safety are all being jeopardized.

The Rally at Hood River - Courtesy Columbia Riverkeeper
The Rally at Hood River – Courtesy Columbia Riverkeeper

“As we enter the hot summer season tomorrow, we are also reminded of the reality of global warming and the role that fossil fuels play in endangering the future of all who live and breathe on the planet.

“We will ask President Obama and our federal elected leaders to support a ban on high risk oil train shipments through the Columbia Gorge and other U.S. communities. And we will call on Governor Brown, Governor Inslee, and federal leaders to deny proposed oil train terminals in the Pacific Northwest, proposals that would dramatically increase dangerous oil trains through our region.

“The Mosier exit, off the I-84, is still shut down. Serres observed a frustrated resident asking one of the police when it was going to open up. Local businessmen were concerned about the fact their loss of business during the height of cherry season.”

Top Photo Credit: Oil within the containment boon, on the Columbia River – Courtesy State of Washington Department of Ecology

  1. Roy L Hales interview with Peter Corneils, Hood River city councillor and member of Friends of the Columbia Gorge
  2. Roy L Hales interview with Dan Serres, from Columbia Riverkeeper

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