Multi-car oil train derails in Oregon, no injuries reported

Oil train derails east of Portland

oil train

An oil train carrying Bakken crude derailed just west of Mosier, Oregon on Friday.  KGW.com photol

June 3 (Reuters) – A Union Pacific train carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire outside Portland, Oregon, on Friday, forcing the closure of an interstate highway and evacuation of a school in the first rail accident involving crude in a year.

Union Pacific Corp, which owns the line, said 11 rail cars from a 96-car train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed just west of Mosier, Oregon. It said oil was released from at least one rail car, which was burning. It said there were no injuries.

It was unclear who was shipping the product.

Black smoke and flames could be seen after the accident in the tiny city of Mosier along the Columbia River.

As emergency responders descended on the crash site, Interstate 84 was closed and students were evacuated from the nearby Mosier Community School. Television footage showed several cars perpendicular to the tracks.

“I looked outside and there was black and white smoke blowing across the sky, and I could hear the flames,” said Mosier resident Dan Hoffman, 32, who said he was ordered to flee his house.

“A sheriff’s official in an SUV told me to get the hell out,” Hoffman said.

The accident will likely renew the debate over the safety of transporting crude by oil even though rail shipments have dipped from more than 1 million bpd in 2014 during the crude oil price rout.

Since 2008, there have been at least 10 major oil-train derailments across the United States and Canada, including a disaster that killed 47 in a Quebec town in July 2013.

Last October, lawmakers gave rail operators until the end of 2018 to implement advanced safety technology, known as positive train control, or PTC, which safety experts say can avoid derailments and other major accidents.

Rail operators such as Union Pacific are required under federal law to disclose crude rail movements to state officials to help prepare for emergencies. The rule was put in place after a string of fiery derailments.

In its latest disclosure with the state, Union Pacific said it moved light volumes of Bakken crude oilalong its state network, which includes the Oregon line. In March, it transported six unit trains, which generally carry about 75,000 barrels each.

A railroad executive who owns a crude rail terminal said the tank cars in news photos of the accident were DOT 111s, the oldest models that the federal government is phasing off the country’s network.

Forestry departments have responded to the incident as flames traveled onto protected land, while Union Pacific hazardous materials workers were responding to the scene along with contractors packing firefighting foam and a boom for oil spill containment.

Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of the Columbia Riverkeeper advocacy group, said the crash should raise concerns about Tesoro Corp’s proposed 360,000 barrels per day railport in Vancouver, Washington state, which would be the country’s largest.

“We are very concerned about additional oil trains passing through our community because of their safety record, the risk of fires, of explosions, the risks of spills,” he said.

(Reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault, Jarrett Renshaw amd Devika Krishna Kumar in New York, Erwin Seba in Houston, Curtis Skinner in San Francisco and Eric M. Johnson in Calgary, Alberta; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Matthew Lewis)

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