A public forum scheduled for Wednesday aims to continue Grays Harbor’s dialogue on transporting crude oil by rail, with a focus on the oil projects proposed at the Port of Grays Harbor.
The program, titled “Coastal Washington: The Oil Industry’s Sacrifice Zone,” is a free event organized by opponents of the proposals to ship oil through Grays Harbor. It will feature speakers from organizations including the Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association, Citizens for a Clean Harbor and the Quinault Indian Nation.
Eric de Place, policy director for the Sightline Institute, a Seattle organization that advocates for sustainability in the Northwest, will headline the event. De Place compiled the first inventory of oil-by-rail projects in the region, he said.
“The view I tend to bring to these forums is sort of an overarching regional picture and some discussion of why this is happening here and why this is happening now,” de Place said, “because there are reasons why we’ve seen this rush of proposals in the last few years.”
Those reasons, de Place said, include a large volume of fossil fuel reserves in the middle of the country that are being shipped to Asia. Using the Washington coast, he said, puts the region at risk.
The railroads that haul oil tank cars, de Place said, are underinsured, and spills or explosions caused by accidents would leave communities using their own funds to clean up the mess.
“That is one of those sort of perverse subsidies that we, as a public, provide to the oil industry,” he said. “To me, that’s not right.”
De Place said his goal with Wednesday’s forum is not to argue against the proposed terminals at the port, but rather to provide attendees with the information necessary to make decisions.
“I think these projects are a bad idea — I’m pretty frank about that,” he said. “But regardless of where people land on yes or no, I would hope that we can improve the level of discourse and improve the level of public understanding about the risks.”
Though the event is free, organizers ask that attendees RSVP at the event’s listing on Sightline’s blog at sightline.org. Tammy Domike with Citizens for a Clean Harbor is fielding questions about the event at firstname.lastname@example.org.