OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The issue over the growing number of trains coming through Washington state loaded with oil from North Dakota's booming Bakken formation continues to draw controversy.
The second of two meetings was held Thursday by the Washington State Department of Ecology seeking public input as it continues to draft recommendations for Governor Jay Inslee and the legislature to deal with oil train concerns. Those concerns include the potential for derailments resulting in oil spills, as well as fires and explosions.
Thursday's meeting was moved to the Red Lion Hotel on Evergreen Park Drive after it became clear that there wouldn't be enough room to hold it at the Department of Ecology offices in Lacey, said Lisa Copeland, the agency's communications manager. A meeting was held in Spokane earlier this week, a city also seeing growing train traffic.
But the Department of Ecology has also become a target of protest. Thursday morning, the Raging Grannies from Seattle blocked the driveways at the agency's Lacey headquarters for five hours. The oldest protester is her 90s.
The oil boom is also raising concerns among the state's fire departments and small cities. Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the railroad that hauls crude on its own tracks to Western Washington from North Dakota, is raising the number of local fire departments it's helping train to deal with the possibility of an accident.
In addition to oil, railroads have hauled a wide range of hazardous chemicals and fuels for generations, including propane and fertilizers. The railroad says it hasn't had a single fatality since 1981 involving hazardous materials, although there have been some oil derailments, including a serious one in Thurston County.