Coal and oil train controversy heads to November ballot

Coal and oil train controversy heads...
Coal and oil train controversy heads to November ballot

Should oil and coal trains be fined for traveling through downtown Spokane? That’s the question Spokane voters will answer on November’s ballot.

Spokane City Council voted to let the public decide on Proposition 6, which aims to make Spokane safer by adding restrictions to coal and oil trains which pass through the city each day.

Safer Spokane, the group behind the ballot measure wants to fine rail companies transporting oil not conditioned to reduce flammability. It would also require coal trains to be covered. The group argues coal dust can make railroad tracks slippery, increasing the risk of a derailment.

Opponents argue the true threat isn’t a derailment, but instead the lawsuits that could cost taxpayers in legal fees. Opponents say local governments cannot lawfully regulate railroads, which are federally controlled. On Monday, Spokane City Councilmen Mike Fagan agreed with those opposing the measure.

“This is going to be a train wreck. It truly will be,” Fagan said.

Those in support of the measure say the real train wreck would be a derailment. Safer Spokane says the city is unprepared for such disaster and that congress does allow for local government to intervene with matters of public safety.