Senators want to put brakes on oil trains

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley, both of Oregon, are asking for a stop to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe oil trains going through the Columbia River Gorge. The lawmakers say things are just too fragile there due to the Eagle Creek and Archer Mountain wildfires.

The two Democrats sent a letter to Chief Executive Officer Matthew Rose asking that the company halt the shipment of all hazardous materials through the area, especially in light of fears of flash flooding and landslides.

They praised BNSF for stopping those shipments when the Eagle Creek Fire first began to burn. However, Wyden and Merkley wrote that they feared resumption of the trains passing through the gorge was too premature.

“We are concerned that prematurely resuming service and the movement of oil, or other hazardous materials, by train while the fires are still burning could put local communities at further risk of harm,” the letter states.

The Eagle Creek Fire, at almost 49,000 acres, is 46 percent contained. The Archer Mountain Fire, which began when the first blaze jumped the river to Washington state, is 100 percent contained.

Wyden’s office said the senators did not issue a similar call to Union Pacific because it halted all oil train travel while wildfires burn in the gorge.