Columbia Riverkeeper

For a long time now, activists who oppose oil trains that snake through Oregon have made a familiar argument.

As Michael Lang, conservation director at Friends of the Columbia Gorge, told the Mercury late last year: "These trains go through small towns along the gorge. They pass by schools, daycares, businesses, and bring no economic benefit to those communities at all while decreasing property values."

Now these opponents have a powerful new example. Shortly after noon today, a Union Pacific train hauling oil-filled tank cars derailed near the tiny town of Mosier, closing down I-84 east of Hood River, forcing the evacuation of schools, and sending a massive black plume into the sky.

The live feed from a KGW helicopter shows at least one car is still engulfed, while others are littered the track, their axles akimbo. A Department of Forestry spokesman has been quoted as saying the incident involves eight cars filled with oil. The train is clearly longer than eight cars.

Mosier: Oil train derailment and fire #katunewslive

A photo posted by Stuart Tomlinson (@stubobusa) on

According to all reports from the scene, there haven't been any injuries reported.

"I am grateful to local first responders, HazMat teams, and other state agencies for doing their best to keep the community of Mosier safe," Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement. "I am closely monitoring the situation and ready to make every state resource available as needed."

A statement from Columbia Riverkeeper this afternoon suggested that "fire fighting foam is available but an insufficient amount," and said emergency responders are "waiting for some of the fuel to boil off and after that they are hoping to disconnect the two damaged train cars and pull away the undamaged train cars."

Portland, like a growing list of cities around the country, has taken a stand against oil transport by rail—but found there's not actually much it can do to stop it. In November, Portland City Council passed a set of resolutions that symbolically opposing oil trains, and directed research into formal ways to make it harder to build fossil fuel infrastructure in the city. Interstate commerce laws don't allow city officials to ban oil transport outright.

Update, 5:03 pm: Footage of the still-burning oil train just showed a fresh explosion or series of explosions.

It's still not clear whether any oil has made it into the Columbia River or other bodies of water. There is some speculation it might have.