Portland officials alarmed by traveling crude oil trains

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland officials are concerned about the dozens of rail cars filled with Canadian tar sands crude oil that travel through the city.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the trains travel from Canada through the Columbia River Gorge, then wind through Portland neighborhoods.

Their destination is a terminal owned by Zenith Energy, where the oil is unloaded into storage tanks and pumped onto seagoing vessels bound for refineries and factories.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and other city officials oppose Zenith’s activities. They say a train derailment could spill highly flammable oil onto private property or into a river, and the toxic vapors could harm human lungs and eyes.

But federal commerce protections and the state building code leave officials powerless to stop it.

Zenith says the company has a pristine safety record and takes health and environmental hazards seriously.