Washington Leaders Respond to Oil Train Critics

In an op-ed published in today’s Times, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzy Knezovich and John Stuhlmiller, CEO of the Washington Farm Bureau, argue that efforts to ban oil train traffic in Washington would be risky for the region’s economy.

The authors argue that preservation of trade, the foundation of Washington’s economy, is crucial. They point out that the majority of the state’s top exports, namely agricultural products and aerospace products, are transported to market by rail. And in particular, they note the variety of agricultural products that depend on Washington’s rail network:

“Agriculture is the state’s second largest export category, and we are the third largest food and agricultural exporter in the United States. Our apples, grains, milk, cattle and other commodities all rely on safe rail transport to export terminals. And for more than 100 years, trains have safely carried those products, along with oil, through Washington and the western U.S.”

The authors also address the Spokane City Council’s recent attempt to levy a tax on oil and uncovered coal trains. The measure was ultimately retracted by the Council, and Knezovich and Stuhlmiller are quick to point out that efforts like these are largely pursued on behalf of special interests:

“Yet, because of pressure from interest groups, some local elected officials have taken to calling for oil train bans. Not only are these bans illegal and unconstitutional (railroads are stringently governed by federal law), but they jeopardize rail transport of commodities that drive our trade status and drive our economy.”

The authors close their argument by noting that rail remains a major employer in the state and directly supports thousands of Washingtonians with good-paying jobs. This is in addition to driving many related industries like agriculture and manufacturing.

This latest rebuttal is a good reminder of the indispensable role that infrastructure and rail plays in supporting the state’s trade-based economy. And failure to recognize this will bring consequences we can’t afford.

Read the full piece here.