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Statement on today’s oil fires in Tacoma and North Dakota

Today’s oil train explosion in Heimdal, North Dakota and the fire raging at the oil refinery in Tacoma are stark visual evidence of the need to transition away from our dependence on fossil fuels. My thoughts go out to the first responders in both cities, and I hope they are able to safely combat those fires.

Oil trains are ticking time bombs, and each one passing through a small town in North Dakota or a large city like Seattle is a risk to the people, the property, and the environment of that community. There is no safe way to transport this oil, and local municipalities should not bear the risk while the railways and oil companies rake in all the profit. We urgently need stronger local, state, and federal protections against these dangerous oil trains rolling through our communities.

Beyond the immediate public safety impacts, we also have to consider the impact on our climate that burning all this oil poses to our planet and the future we are leaving for our children. This is why we are fighting Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling exploration here in Seattle. Contrary to the short-sighted editorial in today’s Seattle Times, which raises the tired old trope of jobs versus the environment, our future economy is tied to the future health of this planet. If we truly care about the long-term economic health of our Port, we cannot stand idly by and aide in the drilling and burning of fossil fuels that will leave Terminal 5 and most of our industrial lands in Seattle underwater. This is why the City Council is on the verge adopting a new resolution stating the City’s opposition to Arctic drilling and urging the Port of Seattle to reconsider its deal to host Shell Oil’s Arctic fleet.

There is no choice to be made when it comes to good jobs and the environment. We can and must choose both. The choice we actually face today is whether we embrace the dirty, fossil-fuel dependent economy of the past that is destroying our planet for generations to come, or do we embrace a sustainable economy of the future that provides good, family-wage jobs and ensures a healthy, inhabitable planet for our children. To me, the choice is clear. It is frankly shocking that the Editorial Board of the Seattle Times cannot see it, but perhaps their vision is clouded by the black plumes of smoke wafting up from Tacoma.

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