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Denial of train track expansion upheld

THE DALLES, Oregon – The Columbia River Gorge Commission says a decision by the Wasco County Board of Commissioners to deny Union Pacific from adding more tracks through Mosier stands. UP was challenging the ruling which came after an oil train derailed and spilled oil at the site.

“The city of Mosier is still recovering from last year’s Union Pacific oil train derailment,” Friends of the Columbia Gorge staff attorney Steve McCoy said in a prepared statement. “Today’s decision will help ensure that future rail traffic in the gorge is managed both responsibly and safely.”

Union Pacific had proposed a more than four mile rail expansion project near and within Mosier. The commission upheld Wasco County’s November rejection of that proposal and also rejected the railroad’s arguments that it is exempt from the federal laws that protect the gorge as a National Scenic Area.

In addition to the Friends of the Columbia Gorge, environmental groups arguing to support Wasco County’s ruling included Columbia Riverkeeper and Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. Among others participating in the case were the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Yakama Nation, the city of Mosier, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, and Oregon Wild.

The derailment in June of last year saw a fire and spill that leaked 47,000 gallons of crude oil, contaminating the groundwater in Mosier. The Federal Railroad Administration released a report earlier this month finding UP at fault for the accident because it failed to adequately maintain its tracks.

The written decision will be issued by early September. It can be appealed to the Oregon State Court of Appeals. Appellants will have 60 days after the written decision is issued to appeal the decision.

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