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Pike Place Market vendors fear oil trains will explode beneath iconic landmark

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Oil trains


SEATTLE — The hustle and bustle of Pike Place market is what vendor Sharon Shaw

“I was appointed the mother of the market several years ago,” Shaw said Friday.

She worries the landmark and the thousands who visit every day could be a risk.

“It doesn’t take anything to do a derailment and then it’s an explosion,” Shaw said.

Up to three trains hauling highly flammable Bakken crude oil rumble by each day,  passing under the market and through highly populated areas of Western Washington.

On Friday, vendors came together to demand Burlington Northern Santa Fe stop hauling Bakken crude or reroute the trains.

The potential danger is real -- 47 people died in an inferno in Quebec, Canada, after a train carrying Bakken derailed.

There has been no explosion in Washington, but the state’s rail safety regulators are now threatening BNSF with a $700,000 fine. Regulators are accusing the company of failing to properly report more than a dozen hazardous leaks from its trains in the past three months.

“It’s a real sign of the reckless disregard that oil companies have that the railroads have,” former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said.

BNSF addressed the issue in a written statement:

“BNSF is currently reviewing the investigative report issued by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC). There is nothing more important to us than safely transporting all of the commodities we carry, and we are committed to complying with all applicable local, state and federal guidelines.

"In regards to reporting the what appear to be very small releases in Washington state that are referenced in the report, we believed we were complying in good faith with the requirements from our agency partners.

"Following guidance from the UTC in January 2015, BNSF reviewed its reporting notification process and updated its practices to address concerns identified by the UTC. We will continue to work closely with the UTC moving forward on this issue.”

Not a response Sharon wants to hear when she knows explosions like this
in both Canada and the U.S. are the worst-case scenario.

“The potential is so scary,” Shaw said.

City Councilman Mike O’Brien asked BNSF to retrofit the 100-year-old tunnel with sprinklers but the city on Friday say there is no indication BNSF will comply.

The City Council says it doesn't have the power to issue a moratorium on oil trains --  only the feds do.

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