Emergency Responders Prepare For Higher Risk Of Oil Spills In The Northwest

Nov 19, 2013

Northwest emergency responders are meeting in Portland Tuesday to discuss the increased potential for oil spills in the region.

Several oil-by-rail projects have been proposed in Washington state. The largest of those would be built at the Port of Vancouver if it is approved.

Capt. Sean MacKenzie is the deputy sector commander for the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. He says those projects represent a significant increase in the amount of crude oil traveling by rail through the region.

"That means there's physically more trains coming," he says. "There's physically more oil getting transferred to barges on the water and so the potential of a spill is greater when you have a larger volume coming in."

Bruce Gilles is a cleanup program manager for Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. He says he's worried about the potential for an oil train derailment.

"I lay in bed at night sometimes," he says. "I get concerned about a landslide putting an entire oil train into the Columbia River."

Tuesday's meeting includes emergency responders from the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, Oregon, Washington and Idaho environmental agencies, railroads and oil companies.

The agenda features an in-depth discussion of how to respond to an oil train derailment.

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