Letters to the Editor

Why invite the risk of a Phillips 66 oil train catastrophe

A protest against the approval of oil trains coming through San Luis Obispo County was held at Mitchell Park in San Luis Obispo, Saturday July 9, 2016. Protesters march with signs down Santa Barbara Street in San Luis Obispo toward the Amtrak train station.
A protest against the approval of oil trains coming through San Luis Obispo County was held at Mitchell Park in San Luis Obispo, Saturday July 9, 2016. Protesters march with signs down Santa Barbara Street in San Luis Obispo toward the Amtrak train station. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

Imagine a pristine day in downtown SLO: Folks walking down Monterey Street, some stopping to enjoy a cup of coffee or just window-shopping on Marsh Street.

And then in a flash, there’s a cataclysmic explosion and a fireball with black smoke darkening the sky from a derailed Union Pacific train carrying tar sands crude to the Phillips refinery.

It can’t happen here? Well, that’s what the folks in Mosier, Oregon, thought. In June, a Union Pacific train carrying crude oil derailed in Mosier. Fourteen rail cars came off the tracks and four exploded over a five-hour period. It took more than 12 hours to stabilize the scene.

The fire chief of Mosier, Jim Appleton, said in the past that he had tried to reassure his town that Union Pacific has a great safety record and that rail accidents are rare.

Appleton no longer believes shipping oil by rail is safe, saying: “I hope that this becomes the death knell for this mode of shipping this cargo … shareholder value doesn’t outweigh the lives and happiness of our community.”

The folks in Mosier thought it couldn’t happen there, but it did.

Why invite the risk?

Laurance Shinderman, Nipomo

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