Oregon senators call for oil-by-rail reforms after train derailment

Oregon senators call for oil-by-rail reforms after train derailment
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Oregon’s two Democratic senators on Tuesday said lawmakers should reform the way oil is transported by rail after a derailment in their state last week. 

In a floor speech, Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Energy: Trump to visit California wildfire victims | Head of Park Service climate program resigns | Dems rip Trump pick for energy panel Dems slam Trump’s energy regulator nominee Grassley defends acting AG against calls for recusal MORE highlighted a bill he introduced with Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyMerkley seeking to change Oregon law so he can run for president and Senate in 2020: report ICE has record number of people in custody: report Schumer’s headaches to multiply in next Congress MORE and others to help local communities reroute portions of rail lines away from populated areas and to conduct more rail inspections. 

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He said Oregon residents were “lucky” last week’s train derailment happened away from a heavily populated area. Fourteen cars in an oil train derailed near Mosier, Ore. on Friday, and several caught fire. The city is still mostly shut down this week as clean-up continues, the Oregonian reported on Tuesday. 

Wyden said the wreck could have been worse if the train had been moving faster or if it had derailed in a river or in the suburbs of Portland. 

"This crash has left Oregonians wondering what unlucky would have looked like. I can tell you, it doesn't take a lot of imagination,” he said. 

“What people in small communities in Oregon really want to know and what they deserve to know is what happens next. What is Congress going to do to start fixing the problem?”

Merkley added: “What the citizens of Mosier are thinking and citizens along the gorge are thinking [is] our concerns about these rolling explosions hazards are confirmed and we need to take serious measures so that one of these trains does not blow up in our community in the future."

Wyden, Merkley and other Oregon Democrats yesterday called for a moratorium on oil trains in the Columbia River Gorge as a result of the derailment.

Oil by rail safety has been a major issue for lawmakers and regulators given the rash of derailments around the country over the last few years.

The Senate last month unanimously approved a bill to increase training efforts for first responders to rail car accidents, and the Obama administration last year released new safety guidelines for the trains.