MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - Washington State is experiencing a boom when it comes to transporting crude oil by rail, but environmental activists are out to stop it in its tracks.
They fear disasters that have happened around the U.S. and Canada could easily happen in the state.
Tens of millions of barrels of oil are expected to be shipped around the state this year alone.
The Northwest Clean Air Agency held a public hearing Wednesday morning.
The agency is currently considering renewing the Shell Anacortes refinery draft air operating permit.
The agency enforces federal, state and local air pollution regulations in Skagit, Island and Whatcom Counties. It does not issue permits for the transportation of crude oil by rail.
Still, activists from around Western Washington showed up at a public hearing to voice their concerns about the environmental impacts and disasters shipping crude oil by train could bring.
“What’s happening in the state of Washington is unprecedented growth of crude coming in by rail with little examination, very little understanding of what the implications are for communities and the risk that are associated both with the trains themselves and their propensity to explode,” said Matt Krogh with Forest Ethics.
Several people spoke at a packed public hearing and said they want more oversight when it comes to oil production and transportation.
The agency pointed out Shell has had a significant drop in emissions since 2001, but residents aren’t buying it.
“Shell’s Puget Sound refinery was the second most fined Clean Air Act violator in 2012,” said resident Peggy Bridgman.
Other residents are concerned about safety. One man said he asked his town’s fire chief what the plan is if there is a derailment and explosion, he said: “In an emergency over here we’d be asked to shelter in place which he said means: take as much plastic and duct tape as you have and find it in a room, seal it off as best you can and wait it out . I thought this is really the plan?”
The Northwest Clean Air Agency says it will take all the public comments and consider changes to the five year permit issued to the Shell refinery.