Transportation Officer Calls For Oil Train Moratorium

By Roy L Hales


The lag bolts whose failure caused the recent oil-by-rail accident at Mosier were “relatively new.” According to Hal Gard, Administrator of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Rail and Public Transit Division, “new rail was installed at this location in 2013.” In a newly surfaced email to the Federal Rail Administrator for Region 8, this Oregon transportation Officer calls for an oil train moratorium.

Transportation Officer Calls For Oil Train Moratorium

The June 8, 2016, document is important enough to be reprinted:

“While it is clear the investigation into this incident is ongoing, preliminary indications point to broken Rectangular Head Timber Coach Screws. There were a number of broken Rectangular Head Timber Coach Screws found at the accident site, many of which exhibited evidence of having been broken for a significant amount of time prior to the derailment.

“Given the nature of this defect, it was not detectable by normal inspection methods, with physical (Holm’s late April 2016 CORTEX Inspection) or by recent GRMS (Gage Restraint Measurement System( tests conducted by the Union Pacific by hyrail.

“It is unclear if the broken Rectangular Head Timber Coach Screws are the result of defective metal or manufacturing, over torquing during installation, or if the fastening system is insufficient for the types of loads in this vicinity. New rail was installed at this location in 2013, so these fasteners are relatively new.”

“Until the underlying cause of the body failure is understood, and a means of detecting this defect is developed, we request a moratorium on running unit oil trains over sections of track that contain track fasteners of this material within the state of Oregon.”

Statement Of Support

While the response to this email is not known, Rebecca Ponzi, Director of the Stand Up To Oil campaign, released a statement in support:

“The Stand Up To Oil campaign thanks the Oregon Department of Transportation for calling on the Federal Railroad Administration to issue a moratorium on unit oil trains traveling through the state on tracks that contain the same type fasteners as in the derailment in Mosier, OR.

We applaud ODOT for joining the call of tribal nations, fire fighters, mayors, city councils, and citizens across the region to stop oil trains that put our communities and waterways at risk.

We call on elected officials across the Pacific Northwest to follow suit and ultimately to deny all terminal proposals that would increase the amount of oil traveling through our region.”

Port of Vancouver Commission Vote

The Mosier fire also prompted a vote at the Port of Vancouver Commission’s June 16 Meeting.  Mosier Mayor Arlene Burns, City Council President Emily Reed, and Fire Chief Jim Appleton all testified. After they finished, Commissioner Eric LaBrant moved that the proposed Tesoro Savage project’s lease be terminated. None of the other commissioners were willing to second the motion and it failed.

It has been five months since the Stand Up To Oil delivered 276,296 comments opposing this oil-by-rail project to the  Washington’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council.

Photo of the Mosier Train Derailment shorty after the accident – Courtesy Columbia Riverkeeper