MOSIER, Ore. (KOIN) — Unless there is an imminent danger, the Oregon state legislative director for the transportation division said he does not expect federal regulatory agencies to interfere with rail traffic resuming along the line where 16 oil cars derailed and caught fire June 3.
Randy Russ told KOIN 6 News it is standard after any derailments for crews to work as quickly as possible to get the rail lines back open.
On Sunday, Union Pacific spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said the cars filled with oil have been moved off to the side of the tracks. As a precaution, she said, operating trains will only pass through the area at speeds of 10 mph.
–8th Grade promotion will be rescheduled
— Oaks Park for MMS has been cancelled
— End of year celebration date TBA
The derailment sparked a fire that led to mandatory evacuations and damaged essential city services. Officials monitored Mosier’s waste water treatment plant and sewer system, which have not been operational since the derailment.
“This is an essential corridor,” Russ said Monday. “They’ve got trains stacked up.”
Russ said the only other option to move trains through a rail line to the south, but that would be expensive in both time and money.
This section of track is “our lifeline to the eastern United States,” he said. The work of the repairs may have been accelerated because of good access to the site.
Down the road, there will be “maintenance windows” on the track that are scheduled so crews don’t have to worry about working side by side as trains come through,” Russ said.
— 42,000 gallons crude escaped from 4 rail cars
— 10,000 gallons recovered from wastewater systemRemainder either:
— burned off
— captured by booms in Columbia River
— absorbed by oil
— some remaining in wastewater linesInformation from ODOT
Short term plan from Union Pacific
Union Pacific does not have any new crude oil trains scheduled to go through the Gorge, but tankers will be going through Mosier, said spokesperson Raquel Espinoza.
In the short term, the company will transfer existing oil tankers in the area to a staging spot in The Dalles. Those outbound oil cars will be put back on rail and sent off to their destination.
Espinoza said Union Pacific does not know when they will resume accepting new transports of crude oil.
She also said they “have a pretty good idea what contributed” to the 16-car derailment, but refused to divulge details. Union Pacific will file a report with the Federal Railroad Agency in the next week.What neighbors say
Jim Harvey, who lives near the spot where the oil cars derailed, told KOIN 6 News he’s not certain Union Pacific should be moving freight trains while the investigation and the oil unloading continues.
“It may have always been too soon for these oil trains,” Harvey said. “I think at the very least the train cars have to become safer very quickly. And I think probably the transport of oil this way should come to a halt until that happens.”
But Amy Conroy, who also lives nearby, said trains sometimes derail.
“It’s unfortunate that it was an oil tanker but if it had been a load of grain I don’t think people would have been so upset,” Conroy said.
Another resident named Jerry said, “I stand behind the railroads because they spend a lot of time and money to make sure these track are looking good.”The governor and the activists
In a statement released Monday, Columbia Riverkeeper Executive Director Brett VandenHeuvel said, “Three days after the oil train accident in Mosier, Oregon oil trains are still by the tracks. Last night, the City of Mosier passed an emergency motion calling on the Union Pacific Railroad to remove all oil from damaged cars before rail traffic is reopened (press release available here). Despite the resolution, Union Pacific pushed the derailed and damaged cars, some full of oil, to the side of the tracks and started the rail. As the federal government controls many aspects of railroad regulation, we are calling on Governor Brown to commit today to use all of Oregon’s powers to prevent oil trains and the risks they pose.”
Gov. Kate Brown said Monday she expects “federal authorities to conduct a full and thorough investigation of the cause of this accident, assess the response to see what improvements should be made, and evaluate ways to reduce risks to communities and the environment.”
The governor noted some federal rules are either being challenged or haven’t yet been adopted. Brown said she is “calling for the strongest possible measures from federal policymakers and regulators to bolster rail safety.”