'Raging Grannies' take on oil trains in protest

LACEY, Wash. -- A feisty group of grannies blocked traffic Thursday in the hopes of derailing the surge in the number of oil trains traveling across our state. The concern is that an oil train could crash and explode.

Washington has 93 cities and towns close enough to the tracks to put millions of people at risk. A group known as the Seattle Raging Grannies decided to make a point by blocking traffic headed to the Department of Ecology, the organization that's drafting safety recommendations for moving oil by rail and ship.

"They blocked the entrance to the ecology building here," said Lisa Copeland a spokesperson for the state Ecology Department. "We have 900 employees here. Anybody who showed up after 7 o'clock couldn't actually get back to the building."

The Raging Grannies said the safety recommendations fall short of what's needed to protect lives and the environment.

"Here an accident, there an accident, little or big it doesn't matter," said Carol McRoberts, one of the Raging Grannies. "It will go on and on and on, and we'll have a disaster."

The deadly oil train explosion in Quebec that killed 47 people could happen here, activists contend, now that nearly 20 oil trains pass through Washington each week.

Recommendations being considered include better funding for spill responses, hiring of more track inspectors and the use of reinforced transport cars.

"This study looks at protecting public health and safety, as well as the environment," Copeland said.

Activists concerned about this study said no mitigations measures currently proposed will make oil transports safe enough, and they won't stop fighting to change this.

"It's all wrong, and it's ruining our environment. It's ruining our country," said Raging Grannie Cynthia Linet.

A BNSF spokesperson points out the company has invested $500 million in track improvements statewide in just the past three years. BNSF has also implemented speed restrictions and other measures.

Once all the public feedback has been considered, and final set of recommendations will be presented to the governor on March 1, 2015.