Sunday, September 21, 2014

Trains...Oil....Listed Species?

PHOTO: Bend Bulletin
Had some concerned members contact us a while back about the trains on the Deschutes and the increased oil transport [ <The Oregonian article> ] they are providing through the region – similar to scenes playing out in the Klatskanie and Puget Sound areas, the concern is for an outdated plan of response and ensuring sufficient and timely access to personnel and equipment when/if something were to happen [think BOEING FUSELAGE acting as Large Woody Debris]. The OCTU met in May when this was brought up and we just got an update from Tom Wolf...........
Tom is our Intrepid Man of Everything Political – and the Executive Director of the Council and writes that since that initial discussion he, representing TU, has made sure:
  • TU contacted both the DEQ and local office of EPA to find out more about issue and what is being done. Found out EPA sets standards for oil trains and talked more to their staff and relayed concerns with them that current standards were not strong enough.
  • Though DEQ is not the lead on this situation – a formal complaint was filed with DEQ.
  • Talked with Michael Lang, conservation director of Friends of the Columbia Gorge. TU remains in contact with him on this issue on regular basis for updates.
  • Contacted National TU (Rob Masonis) in hopes of them taking the lead since this is a federal issue. Rob explained that because National TU staff basically fund themselves for specific purposes, TU National was unable to get involved. OCTU will follow up on this response in hopes of more involvement.
  • TU has opened dialogue with several Oregon legislators about this issue – though because it is a federal matter, they are unable to do anything but try to get special proclamation.
  • TU spoke with staff of Senator Merkley and Wyden's to get them involved. Though, we have not heard back on action taken, follow-up is planned.
Tom also noted that through his discussions with Michael Lang/Friends of the Columbia Gorge he has been notified that the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Columbia River Gorge have given a 60 day notice of intention to sue the EPA for insufficient plans to deal with oil spills on the Columbia and Puget Sound areas and all waters of Oregon, Washington and Idaho [including of course, the Deschutes River]. Because of the proposed lawsuit, there is a strong possibility the EPA will open up rule making on the trains carrying the oil. TU will be watching that and remains in contact with both groups about the lawsuit to learn more – especially as the EPA responds. This will better help form a direction for any potential actions.

Tom did note that this effort is occurring along with the other many important regional issues that Oregon is facing – both the State and the upcoming Legislature for 2015 – including: ODFW reform, state natural agencies proposed budgets, Elliot state Forest issue, ODF new proposed state forest FMP, search for new ODFW Director, preparing for 2015 legislative session. This is all in preparation for a more concentrated plan to involve our members and volunteers in Salem during the next session and upcoming election campaigns.

Boeing Fuselage in Clark Fork River in Montana - July 15 photo  USA Today credit - Photo: Brock Sarbeck/Wiley E. Waters Whitewater Rafting via AP