Sandwiched between those two cities, Camas has silently waited on the sidelines as the Vancouver City Council has maintained a series of moratoriums on crude oil facilities. Meanwhile, the Washougal School District asked Gov. Jay Inslee to strike down plans to build the country’s largest oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, and the Washougal City Council adopted a resolution expressing serious concerns about oil spills, explosions, derailments and other potential train-related disasters.
Well, this month, we finally got our first word from Camas, when Mayor Scott Higgins sent a letter to Inslee about oil trains. Here’s a copy.
Higgins ultimately tells Inslee the railroad shouldn’t be able to pass the buck to Camas for any cleanup or disaster-related costs. As Higgins notes, he was inspired to reach out to the governor after reading about recent oil train accidents in rural areas of Illinois and West Virginia.
“Whether there are a lot more (accidents) or not, I don’t know, but we definitely hear about them more,” he told The Columbian. “We don’t have the fire resources to deal with these kind of issues should they happen in our community.”
You’ll notice Higgins stops short of outright asking Inslee to stop Tesoro-Savage from building a terminal in Vancouver. That’s because, in this case, the mayor had to admit he was a bit powerless.
“I’m sure we’d take a different approach if the proposed terminal was in our city,” Higgins said. “We understand that the railroad has complete autonomy. There’s nothing we can do in the city of Camas that would stop or prevent the railroad from driving down the tracks.”
For the record, Washougal Mayor Sean Guard made the same point last weekend at a town hall meeting with Sen. Ann Rivers.