Spokane voters will be asked to OK a measure that will cost taxpayers dearly when legally challenged. That’s the reality behind Proposition 2, the measure to fine coal and oil trains passing through downtown.
Proponents say the proposal to fine shippers of coal and oil is all about public safety and safety is a top priority. However, there are no safety guidelines outlined in the measure. Proposition 2 is driven by a narrow political agenda that would actually jeopardize our safety and could significantly damage our long-term ability to attract job-creating investments.
The fact is, this would inevitably end up in court if it were to pass. Even the city policy adviser and city hearing examiner said the measure is illegal and unconstitutional. Yet, scarce city tax dollars will be needed to defend court challenges, diverting tax dollars away from more important civic priorities.
It also likely means lost jobs and potentially bigger economic impacts.
Spokane’s manufacturing base and the Inland Northwest’s agricultural community rely on our rail network to move goods for domestic and foreign use. A proposal like Proposition 2 would disrupt the rail lines, and that unpredictability is bad for our trade-based economy. More than 500 people work for BNSF in Spokane; those jobs would also be compromised because of this politically motivated effort to stop fossil fuels.
The fact remains: Trains are the safest, most environmentally friendly and most cost-effective means of moving coal and oil.
The alternative – transporting coal and oil via our roads and highways – would only add to traffic congestion and increase safety concerns. And railroads like BNSF are already investing millions – $375 million in Washington just in the last two years – in infrastructure, technology and equipment. Train speeds are strictly enforced through the city, and each week our railroads are inspected twice the amount required by federal law. In fact, one train takes the equivalent of 280 trucks off the highway, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent, saving four times the fuel and reducing emissions and highway traffic congestion.
To be clear, there are no safety provisions in Proposition 2. The measure offers no additional protections, no new guidelines or safety protocols and it doesn’t even target the most flammable or hazardous of materials. It is simply a political effort to target fossil fuels at the expense of the shippers, railroads and the greater Spokane community.
It’s time to focus on our community’s highest priorities: filling potholes and maintaining our roads, keeping our children and families safe by reducing crime and making Spokane an attractive place to create and grow new jobs.
Nothing in Proposition 2 does anything to increase public safety, improve transportation or create new jobs. Instead it does the opposite. It would cost us local jobs, set taxpayers up to fund expensive – and avoidable – lawsuits taking away from priority city services, and truly jeopardize our economy.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich is a member of the campaign committee opposing Proposition 2.
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