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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Guest Opinion: Pro: Proposition 2 empowers the people, not oil and coal corporations

By Jim Lee For The Spokesman-Review

Proposition 2 is about truth, justice and protecting our community. It’s about whether “We the People” control our own governance, or concede it to the money and power of the oil and coal corporations and their hired guns.

Truth: Bakken crude oil that ships through Spokane is extremely volatile, up to 75 percent more explosive than gasoline. (If in doubt, Google “Bakken oil train explosions.”)

The oil train explosions in Lac Megantic, Quebec, killed 47 people and destroyed a square mile of downtown. Lakeside homes burned from the inside out, as flaming oil flowed downhill through the sewer system, and spread flaming oil a half mile out into the lake. Their economic cost was $2.7 billion. In Spokane it could be two to three times that much, and kill many more people.

Truth: The Spokane firefighters union endorses Proposition 2. Firefighters best understand that an oil fire would be catastrophic. Such fires can’t be extinguished. All firefighters can do is try to contain it and watch it burn itself out over 12 to 24 hours. If it flows through downtown toward the river, all bets are off.

Truth: The oil can easily be stabilized (removing the explosive butane and propane). Similar oil from Texas’ Permian Basin is 100 percent stabilized. Pipeline companies won’t accept it otherwise. The stabilization cost of 1 cent to 4 cents per gallon is negligible.

Truth: Two to three oil trains per day pass through Spokane, each carrying about 3 million gallons. Train derailments happen all the time, averaging 8.9 per month in the Northwest region.

Truth: Proposition 2 is perfectly legal. Both the National Railway Safety Act and the U.S. Constitution reserve power to the states where no federal regulation exists. Currently there are no federal rules regarding oil vapor pressure or flash point, or the covering of coal, for rail shipments. Therefore, Spokane, as a branch of Washington state under our unitary government, is empowered to regulate. This is a clear and simple case that will cost the city very little to defend.

Truth: The oil and coal companies provide zero jobs in Spokane. Proposition 2 does not impact railroad operations. They can ship any cargo with impunity, so no railroad jobs should be lost.

Truth: The argument that the oil companies would switch to truck shipments is economic nonsense. Costs would increase tenfold minimum. Hundreds of times more than stabilization, or simply paying the fines.

Justice: People vs. profits. Spokanites are burdened with extreme risks to prevent the slightest loss of corporate profits. It’s deeply unjust. Outside money is pouring in to oppose Proposition 2 vs. our all-volunteer local effort. Spokane has a history of recognizing such lavish campaigns and voting against them.

Prepare to be inundated with false claims of lost jobs, expensive lawsuits and hundreds of oil trucks. Don’t risk your family’s safety for fossil fuel profits.

Pass Proposition 2, and Spokane can take great pride in being a national leader in protecting communities all up and down the line.

Jim Lee is the chairman of Safer Spokane, which assisted in writing this piece.

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