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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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GSI opposes ballot measure fining rail shipments of oil, coal through Spokane

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 22, 2017

From staff reports

Greater Spokane Incorporated has officially come out against Proposition 2, a ballot measure that would fine rail shipments of oil and coal through Spokane.

GSI’s board of directors recently voted to oppose the measure, which will be on city voters’ November ballots.

“As the Spokane region’s largest business development organization, GSI is focused on creating a thriving economy, protecting jobs and making our region competitive,” Todd Mielke, GSI’s chief executive, said in a news release. “Adding additional regulations and fees hurts our business community and our economy.”

The law would fine the owners of rail cars carrying uncovered coal and oil $261 per car, with an exception made for cargo that has been treated to reduce combustibility.

Mielke said the initiative could also create a costly legal challenge for Spokane, noting the city’s legal counsel was doubtful the fines could be enforced under federal law, which gives federal agencies regulatory authority over freight trains crossing state lines.

Proponents of the measure say it’s a public safety issues for Spokane, where oil and coal trains travel daily through the city. Spokane Councilman Breean Beggs, who provided much of the language for the petition, argues there is a legal window for local governments to regulate rail safety where there is a localized threat and federal agencies have been silent.

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