Spokane City Council Sends Rail Measure for Signature Verification

Measure to ban fossil fuels by rail another step closer to Nov. 7 ballot

SPOKANE — Despite strong public testimony against the initiative, the Spokane City Council voted 6-0 Monday night to send a ballot measure banning rail transport of coal and oil through the city to the auditor for signature verification.

Once verified, the measure would receive an additional public hearing before the council, at which time it could be added to the list of initiative measures on the Nov. 7 ballot.

If eventually approved by voters, the ordinance would amend the Spokane Municipal Code to make it a class 1 civil infraction for any person or entity to allow a rail car it owns to ship uncontained coal and some types of oil by rail through the downtown Spokane corridor, or within 2,000 feet of a school, hospital or the Spokane River. The measure would impose a civil fine of $261 per car on the owners of the railcars shipping the prohibited fossil fuels through the city limits.

Michael Cathcart, executive director of Better Spokane, said he hopes the council will consider protecting taxpayers by presenting a legal challenge.

“The city hearings examiner and the council’s policy advisor have both concluded this is illegal, unconstitutional and unenforceable,” said Cathcart. “Rail is an integral part of our local, state and regional economy. Our state depends on an efficient rail network that does not discriminate based on specific commodities, which this measure clearly does,” he said. “Initiatives like this are politically motivated by a small group of people who are against fossil fuels. But it’s the taxpayer who will ultimately foot the bill for it. That’s irresponsible and wrong.”

Lee Newgent, executive secretary of the Washington Building & Construction Trades Council, said, “Washington is one of the most trade dependent states in the nation with 40 percent of our jobs tied to trade. The Building Trades build the infrastructure that allows Washington to be a trade hub. If cities in Washington become hostile to the free movement of goods this harms our state’s reputation, economy and ability to create jobs.”

About Keep Washington Competitive
In 2014, AWB and representatives from labor, business, agriculture and other trade organizations formed Keep Washington Competitive, a coalition united to protect trade from overreaching regulations. KWC works to promote bi-lateral trade growth in Washington state through sound state policies and fostering a regulatory environment that encourages investment in our state trade industries. To learn more, visit http://keepwashingtoncompetitive.com/.