Letter | BNSF chairman is wrong about the safety of tank cars

Sep 09, 2016

RE: “BNSF freight rail drives trade to Washington” by BNSF Executive Chairman Matthew K. Rose (Guest View, Sept. 1).

The author states that “Safety is the foundation of BNSF business” and “We have also worked with our customers to get the newest, safest tank cars on the railroad as quickly as possible.”

But these tank cars are not safe. Even with technology and careful maintenance, they can’t predict and prevent accidents, as demonstrated in the recent derailment and oil train fire in Mosier, Oregon, involving these improved tank cars that punctured, leaked oil and caught fire.

The head of DOT, Anthony Foxx, said on TV that these tank cars have been part of many oil train fire and explosion events, and that it remains a problem. Even with exceptional maintenance, these derailments, fires and explosions will grow with the increasing traffic, destroying lives, property and the iconic Northwest environment.

We don’t want our state turned into a conveyor belt of coal and explosive crude oil likely to be shipped to Asia and resulting in higher fuel costs at the pump, not lower.

The author commented that the recent Senate Energy Committee field hearing “would give the impression that Washington’s economy is currently plagued with unsafe freight movements of a product no one wants ....”

While BSNF transports important goods that are critical to the Northwest economy, the impression of unsafe freight movements has been proven true for Bakken crude shipments (14 derailments, fires and explosions in North America over past few years, 47 killed in Canada).

The greatest harm to the Northwest’s reputation “as a competitive center for international trade” is BNSF’s refusal to acknowledge the harmful and deadly impact on our community’s families from transporting dangerous coal and oil.

Further, neglecting to recognize the horrendous effects of changing weather and long-term, recurring unaffordable costs to rebuild devastated communities in our country.

Now is the time, especially in the Evergreen State, to start the transition from these dangerous and dirty fuels to renewable power, now affordable, an energy that generates three times the number of jobs as coal and oil.

Let’s start valuing our people and families more than short-term profits. The Northwest is the best place to start.

Dennis Lowenthal


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