Latest: A Washington county puts the brakes on a new oil-train facility

In the wake of recent oil-train derailments, Skagit County wants Shell to do a full environmental review.

  • Don Briggs
 

BACKSTORY
Railroad cars full of flammable crude oil are rattling through the West, hauling more than six out of every 10 barrels produced in the Bakken to refineries, according to a 2014 report. Washington state has already seen a major uptick in oil-train traffic and at least one derailment. Shell Oil wants to build a new facility north of Seattle that would take in six 100-car locomotives per week (“Flash point,” HCN, 11/24/14).

FOLLOWUP
Last month, following West Virginia’s massive oil train derailment and explosion and reports of a Bakken train leaking oil in Washington, Skagit County blocked Shell’s proposed facility until the company completes a full environmental review. The U.S. Department of Transportation predicts an average of 10 oil train derailments per year over the next two decades. But the recent drop in oil prices means fewer trains are rolling out of the Bakken; perhaps — at least for now — there’s less chance of another disaster.