Statement: Crude oil train derailment highlights risks of oil shipment through Whatcom County

December 22, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, December 22, 2020
Media contact: Eddy Ury, Climate & Energy Policy Manager, EddyU@re-sources.org, (206) 972-2001

Ferndale, Wash. — After a train carrying crude oil derailed near Ferndale on Tuesday, causing a fire with risk of explosion and a half-mile evacuation zone around the potential blast radius, RE Sources gives the following statement:

“We’re grateful first responders quickly helped people get out of harm’s way, and have brought this oil fire under control. It is a relief that the oil tank cars have not exploded, as we’ve seen occur in other oil train derailments. This incident is a stark reminder of the continuing risks from frequent crude oil train shipments concentrated through our area,” said Eddy Ury, Climate & Energy Policy Manager at RE Sources in Bellingham. “Though the oil fire is our first immediate concern, RE Sources will be monitoring the situation closely as the crude oil spill’s environmental damages become clear.”

Four oil refineries in Washington State receive crude oil unit trains, including two in the Cherry Point industrial zone near Ferndale, permitted by Whatcom County Planning in 2013. In June 2016, a crude oil train bound for Washington derailed and exploded along the Columbia River near Mosier, Oregon. In the weeks following that incident, Whatcom County Council introduced new policies to limit risks and hazards from oil shipment expansions, and enacted a moratorium on permits that would increase crude oil transshipment. The interim moratorium has been extended ten times, and currently remains in effect through May 2021. The County Council is expected to introduce an ordinance in early 2021 – nearing its final stages of policymaking after years of public process – that would limit hazardous shipment expansion projects by amending development rules for new and existing fossil fuel industries in the Cherry Point industrial zone.

Photo: Oil trains in Anacortes, Wash. (Paul K Anderson)

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