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Oregon Derailment Shows Danger of Schools in the 'Blast Zone'

"It was luck and a windless day alone that kept the Mosier incident from turning tragic."

Approximately 42,000 gallons of oil spilled when the Mosier derailment happened last Friday. (Photo: KPTV)

Less than a week after an oil train derailment and explosion in the town of Mosier, Oregon, an advocacy organization has released an analysis reiterating the dangers so-called "bomb trains" pose to students and communities across the Pacific Northwest. 

The report from Stand (formerly ForestEthics), released Thursday, is based on the organization's own mapping tool as well as data from the U.S. Department of Education. It shows that 259,698 students in Oregon and Washington state are enrolled in 748 schools within the "blast zone"—the one-mile evacuation area in the event of an oil train derailment and fire.

That includes the 220 students who were evacuated from Mosier Community School after Friday's derailment took place just 250 yards away. The building remains closed this week.

Mosier District Fire Chief Jim Appleton said Monday that had it been windier on the day of the derailment, "I have a high degree of confidence that the school building would have been at a minimum effected if not completely incinerated."

Added Matt Krogh, Stand extreme oil campaign director: "It was luck and a windless day alone that kept the Mosier incident from turning tragic."

Given the immediate dangers as well as long-term health impacts of oil-by-rail, Stand is doubling down on its calls for:

  • An immediate ban on oil trains;
  • Denial of permits for further oil train infrastructure expansion, such as those pending in both Oregon and Washington state; and
  • A swift transition to clean energy

"The Union Pacific oil train that derailed and exploded in Mosier was 250 yards from a school filled with young students who heard and felt the explosion," said Krogh. "No student, no family should have to live with that experience. President Obama must ban oil trains—they are simply too dangerous for the rails. Governors [Jay] Inslee and [Kate] Brown must deny permits and leases for oil projects that would mean more trains in Oregon and Washington."

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