Proposed Washington oil spill safeguards criticized at public hearing; train derails, burns 100 miles away

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VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — The Washington Department of Ecology on Friday held a public hearing to discuss its proposed new rules to protect the environment from oil spills during a train derailment.

Some in the audience in Vancouver, Washington, questioned whether the agency was doing enough, The Columbian newspaper reported ( ).

The public hearing was held less than a hundred miles from Friday’s oil train derailment in the Columbia River Gorge.

The proposed rules outline contingency plans, emergency drills, equipment and other requirements for railroads that want to ship oil by rail through the state of Washington. The rules would be phased in over time, giving small railroads, for example, up to a year to secure equipment contracts and up to two years to fill equipment gaps.

Currently Ecology is taking public comment on the proposed contingency plan rules. The comment period ends June 10.

A district fire commissioner who spoke at the meeting pointed out some holes in the plan, saying local fire officials could not take care of a fire caused by an oil train derailment.

Skamania County Fire District 4 Commissioner Tim Young commended Ecology for taking action where the federal government has taken virtually none, but he said the steps don’t go far enough.

He cited a study done by the Department of Homeland Security that estimates it would take 80,000 gallons of water and 1,500 gallons of foam carried by 32 tanker trucks to stop a fire involving just tree cars. However, he said the four most recent derailments and fires involved 11 cars.

Young said five of the seven miles of railroad go through wooded parts of the county that would be inaccessible to firefighting equipment.

“It’s a myth a fire department could take care of the fire. Not even a suburban or urban fire department could handle it,” he said.

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