Video: How Oil Trains Put the Northwest At Risk

Sightline featured in new video on oil trains.
This post is 17 in the series: The Northwest's Pipeline on Rails

Why should the Northwest worry about the oil-by-rail projects that are cropping up around the Northwest? In three-and-a-half minutes, here’s your answer:

This is a beautiful piece of work (and I’m not just saying that because I’m featured in it).

Big thanks to Portland-based filmmaker Trip Jennings who produced the video, as well as to the folks at Columbia Riverkeeper and ForestEthics who made it possible.

We are a community-supported resource and we can’t do this work without you!



  1. David Hopkinson says:

    Exploding oil trains are dramatic, but a focus upon oil tank cars is misplaced. The problem is that by federal law, commerce precedes all other concerns. I saw nearly adjacent tank cars near a residential area, one had liquid natural gas, the other liquid chlorine. Imagine what a derailment could do, with a breeze to carry the cloud of gas blown high into the air. The law allows such bombs – and others – to pass through town. The issue is that we have no rights, as compared to corporate rights which supercede ours, not whether there are going to be more of these rolling bombs. If terrorists wanted to roll bombs through our towns, there would be outrage.

    • Phil says:

      Well said. That the end game is to export these profitable & unstable ‘bombs’ East to Asia & India for corporate profit is even more offensive.

      • Ted says:

        Federal law prohibits the export of US crude oil. The rail to barge oil terminals are intended to feed California refineries that are setup to receive Alaskan Crude from ship already.

  2. Harve says:


    Blame it on the good bergers of the Chambers of Commerce. Those are the idots that wanted to have trains come right down town.

    They didn’t believe in a dedicated passenger rail system for the country. They just never thought that carrying freight would be more profitable than overcharging people.

    So now we have very dangerous cargos rolling through and under the cities we live and work in.

    Lets hope the next big thing to come along we actully have tough regulators with balls enough to tell the ninnies to shove off.

  3. EJ says:

    1. The fracking chemicals added to the Bakken crude turn it sour, by adding hydrogen sulfide, and therefore make it more susceptible to combustion. Some pipelines refuse to transport fracked Bakken crude because it is too dangerous

    2. The oil tank cars are mostly the old DOT-111 type (105 & 112 are safer.

    In a 2012 letter, Deborah Hersman, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), wrote that 69% of rail tank cars used for crude transport are DOT-111 type, which have “a high incidence of tank failure during accidents,”.

    3. Desired increases in oil and coal rail transport will double 2010 rail volume in Washington.

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