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Winlock turns down resolution calling for oil-by-rail reforms

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The Winlock City Council has declined to pass a resolution supporting state efforts to question the transportation of Bakken crude oil through local rail systems, on the grounds such a resolution would produce no net benefit for the city.

Considered during their Aug. 11 meeting, the council had been given a resolution identical in language to one passed by the City of Chehalis July 28, which supported Governor Jay Inslee's efforts to examine Washington's rail systems for potential hazards brought by Bakken crude oil transportation.

In the resolution, Bakken crude oil, a type of raw petroleum found mainly in North Dakota, was identified as playing a role in "catastrophic" explosions during train derailments in Alabama, Virginia, North Dakota and Canada, with the resolution also describing how "the vast majority" of tankers carrying such oil are "known to puncture upon impact."

If the plans of oil and rail companies proceed uninterrupted, according to the resolution, oil from North Dakota will be transported by rail to refineries and proposed transfer stations at the Port of Vancouver and Port of Gray's Harbor, subsequently increasing the volume of such cargo passing along local rails.

The resolution called upon Inslee to ensure transportation methods for all crude oil comply with the "highest standards possible" and for rail companies to conduct their own investigations into the potential effects of modern oil transportation methods.

However, some council members said they felt a call for these kinds of studies and standards might place Winlock in a political struggle it does not need to be a part of.

"This is all stuff that they're doing anyway," said Council Member Aaron Mummert of the rail and oil companies' intentions. "To me, it seems like we don't need to make more enemies than we possibly have now."

Mummert said he felt, in the event of a derailment, such companies would already be on the hook for any financial losses suffered by or within the city and, if higher transportation standards are set in place, these industries would pass their added cost on to consumers.

"We are going to be paying fuel costs that are outrageous--more than what we're paying now," he said.

Other officials were not so much against the resolution but rather the way in which rail companies are posing a greater number of hazards to local communities without providing assistance in advance for potential derailments.

"It'd be nice to tap into some of that money that they have running up and down the rails," said Council Member Sam Patrick, indicating Winlock could pursue charging an impact fee for trains traveling through the city.

When asked what the result would be of approving the resolution, Mayor Lonnie J. Dowell said doing so would not change city policy or commit any public funds, but would simply include Winlock with communities calling for a reform of crude oil transpiration.

"It's just another city adding their name to the pot of other cities that have concerns with the trains going through," he said.

When it was moved by Mummert that the council vote down the resolution, all four members present (Council Member Barbara Pedersen had been absent) voted to do so, though Patrick expressed some reluctance, stating again he was more concerned with finding a way to produce income from the trains coming through the city.

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