Opinion

City council, county commissioners should follow island’s lead | In Our Opinion

The Bainbridge Island City Council is making its collective voice heard on one of the most important issues facing the Puget Sound region: The massive increase in oil-by-rail shipments and the potential damage that a train derailment could pose to public safety and the environment.

The Poulsbo City Council and Kitsap County Board of County Commissioners should follow Bainbridge’s lead.

In July, the Puget Sound dodged a bullet when a train carrying nearly 100 cars of crude oil went off the track beneath the Magnolia Bridge in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood. Fortunately, there was no leak. But there have been five major derailments since July 2013, and a derailment and explosion in Quebec killed 47 people.

The Bainbridge City Council gave initial approval of a resolution calling for increased regulations on the design of oil tank cars at last week’s meeting.

A final council vote on the resolution — which includes a call for the state to assess the impact of oil trains on public safety, the environment and the economy — is expected this week.

The resolution pulls no punches, and that’s good. It asks the governor and state agencies to hold off from permitting projects that would expand the capacity of out-of-state oil exporting projects that would increase the number of trains, vessels or pipelines carrying oil near Puget Sound until safety and environmental impacts can be studied and addressed.

City officials note that trains carrying fracked crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota have been running to ports and refineries in Washington state since 2012. The trains run the full length of Puget Sound, and officials report there are 10 crude oil-by-rail projects being planned, built or already in operation. In 2013, oil shipments totaling 17 million barrels were transported in Washington. That number is expected to triple this year.

Other cities — Edmonds, Bellingham, Mukilteo, Seattle, Spokane — have already passed resolutions voicing concerns about oil trains. An oil spill in the Puget Sound region will affect all Puget Sound region communities, including those on the Kitsap Peninsula. The Poulsbo City Council and Kitsap County Commission would serve residents well — and our environment well — by raising their collective voices on our behalf.

 

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