Mosier, Ore., fire chief speaks out on oil

Town was hit by oil train derailment

I am the chief of the Mosier, Ore., Fire District. I was first on scene and the incident commander for the derailment, spill and fire of a Union Pacific oil train in our town last June.

I write in opposition to the Westway Expansion Project.

I speak for my constituents in sharing the horror of our experience — the evacuation of our school which still bears scars, the hellish disruption of weeks of clean-up, the lingering sense of vulnerability. And the fact that we will be known forever as the town that almost got blown up.

If the disaster taught me anything, it is that the risk of transporting oil by rail is simply too great for any community to handle. There is no acceptable level of “safe” when it comes to oil train derailments.

As the City of Hoquiam and the Washington Department of Ecology decide the various permits required for the proposed Westway Expansion Project they would do well to consider the “significant and unavoidable environmental impacts to health and safety if a crude oil spill, fire or explosion occurs.” This wording comes directly from the official Final Environmental Impact Statement.

For those of us living in the Columbia River Gorge, those “significant and unavoidable” impacts are now a reality. The thought of Westway adding to those impacts in our towns and threatening our irreplaceable mother Columbia is unacceptable to us. We hope it is also unacceptable to good people up and down the line.

Jim Appleton

Chief, Mosier Fire District