Washington State Labor Council's 2016 Resolution for Solutionary Rail

At the 2016 Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) Convention, the membership unanimously approved a resolution supporting Solutionary Rail.  


Labor-InsideCab.JPGThe Transportation Division of SMART (Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, Transportation) United Transportation Union Local #1348 sponsored this resolution with the assistance of Mike Elliott of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.  We'd like to thank all their members and make a special note of appreciation to Herb Krohn their Washington State Legislative Director.  Herb wrote, sponsored & lobbied this resolution to in his words,"bridge the gap" between environmentalist and labor's diverse positions on fossil fuels, "in order to demonstrate we can & do work together on common issues."  Thank you again Herb and Local # 1348!

Solidarity Matters. The WSLC Resolution is below.

WHEREAS, the fiery crash of an oil train in Mosier, Oregon along the Columbia River on June 3 places a heightened focus on the safety challenges posed by Crude by Rail shipments.  The Mosier derailment resulted in forced evacuations, a regional first-responder alert, and shutdown of a wastewater treatment facility polluted by spilled oil.  Fate was on the side of Mosier as unusually calm winds aided in containing and controlling the oil fire.

WHEREAS, significant oil train derailments leading to spills, and some to fires, have totaled over twenty-five in North America over the past 10 years with the Lac Megantic’, Canada disaster of 2013 the most devastating: 47 people incinerated.

WHEREAS, in years past as crude by rail dominated capacity as the profit generators for the railroad, ports and agricultural producers faced increased delays in getting other food related commodities to market.  Additionally, knee jerk manpower reductions by efficiency fixated rail management resulted in crew shortages that further impacted rail capacity.  Now that energy prices are lower, many railroads have furloughed recently hired workers and mothballed locomotives waiting for the “next” commodity surge to fill capacity. 

WHEREAS, railroad labor whistleblowers have brought many railroad carrier operational and safety shortfalls into the public spotlight, there is a long way to go in improving rail worker safety.  Minimum, mandatory two-person train crews are essential, crew fatigue issues must be addressed, and adequate and available rail crews who are properly trained and maintained are essential.   

WHEREAS, by illuminating the pitfalls of dangerous commodity transportation, other opportunities can be progressed demonstrating the vital importance of modern infrastructure to improve upon the overall plight of all workers. 

WHEREAS, within organized labor, most support improvements and upgrades to infrastructure and recognize the importance trade has to the Washington State economy.  However, improved bulk commodity infrastructure has drawn the wrath of many because of the commodities that are shipped today.  We believe rail and trade modernization opportunities made today are essential in attracting the trade commodities of tomorrow.  

WHEREAS, a strategy for rail line electrification provides an opportunity to create an even more sustainable transportation mode and a pathway for providing economic options beyond diesel power.  The Solutionary Rail concept provides a transition strategy that leverages rail’s unique capacity among long-haul transportation modes to operate on electricity, unlike many other modalities.  Solutionary Rail centers on electrification of major rail lines using renewable energy.

WHEREAS, in conjunction with a program of track modernization, Solutionary Rail enables increased speeds, capacity and reliability. It is not a proposal for high-speed passenger rail that must run on its own line.  Rather, Solutionary Rail is for practical increases in speeds, attracting back freight cargo and passenger services previously lost, and would modernized existing rail line to carry both.

WHEREAS, by providing a low-carbon transportation option, Solutionary Rail provides significant climate benefits.  Rail electrification could also be leveraged to create transmission corridors for renewable resources now stranded by lack of capacity, providing even greater carbon reductions.

WHEREAS, the Solutionary Rail team developed a concept to overcome these hurdles, a Steel Interstate Development Authority (SIDA) created by an alliance of state governments.  The SIDA raises funds in public capital markets and joins in public-private partnerships with railroad companies to erect electrification infrastructure and potentially fund track upgrades.

WHEREAS, Solutionary Rail proposes a demonstration on one major line to jumpstart rail electrification in the U.S.  The team has identified the BNSF “Hi-Line” corridor for initial rollout of the concept.  It is the intermodal line from Seattle to Chicago on which higher speed is critical and it also runs through some of the most wind-rich regions in the world.   

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, to further the concept, the Washington State Labor Council calls on Governor Inslee to direct the Washington State Department of Transportation and other appropriate state agencies to evaluate Solutionary Rail feasibility and to bring the general concept of rail corridor electrification, powered by renewable energy, into the broader “green” industrial transportation system.

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