For months, Grays Harbor residents have raised questions regarding the safety of shipping crude oil to Grays Harbor by rail. Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney joined their ranks Monday when he announced at a Hoquiam City Council meeting that he’s scared of what crude oil shipping facilities could do to local communities.
“Earlier, I thought that there were a lot of scare tactics being used in the negativism for these projects, but they’re come true,” Durney said, referencing recent train derailments in Aberdeen.
Durney said he’s especially concerned about the city’s ability to react to any catastrophes crude-by-rail could cause. He said that Hoquiam and neighboring cities simply don’t have the resources to deal with rail car explosions.
“What do they expect us to do?” he asked. “We don’t have the training, the equipment, certainly we don’t have the manpower.”
He said the city government can’t do much to regulate rail transportation or prohibit oil shipping terminals from operating on the Port of Grays Harbor, he plans to operate within his parameters to make sure that facilities built locally are as safe as possible.
The mayor said he plans to submit a letter articulating his concerns to the state Department of Ecology — which is in the process of working with the City of Hoquiam and a private contractor to create an environmental impact statement for two crude oil shipping facilities proposed by Imperium Renewables and Westway Terminal Co.
A third company, U.S. Development, has also submitted a proposal, and the impacts of the third facility will also be considered.
Durney also encouraged city council members to voice their opinions on the projects by drafting a resolution to submit to Ecology. Councilman Greg Grun said he’s working on a measure, and hopes to have the draft completed by the May 27 council meeting.
Councilman Darrin Moir also addressed the issue.
“I’m in support of this development, but it’s got to be safe,” Moir said.
For about a year, citizens have taken the microphone at city council meetings and asked local officials to get involved in stopping the proposed projects. Dennis Gregory thanked Durney for taking a stand, but said he hopes to see more resistance.
“I’m glad you’re doing something, and I wish you would do more,” Patterson said.
Arnie Martin, who expresses his dissent for the projects at most Hoquiam City Council meetings, agreed. He argued that local railroads aren’t maintained properly, causing the recent derailments.
“Think of what’s going to happen if they all of a sudden have twice the amount of traffic,” Martin said.
Hoquiam City Council meetings are held 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of each month at Hoquiam City Hall. Because of Memorial Day, the next meeting will take place Tuesday, May 27.