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Oil trains roll through downtown Spokane on elevated bridges, in close proximity to schools, hospitals, apartments and work places.

That approach is problematic, said Fred Millar, an expert in hazardous materials shipments.

Probability research is “a shaky science” to begin with, said Millar, who is a consultant for Earthjustice, an environmental law firm opposed to the terminal.

Krogh said he’s disappointed that former BNSF employees didn’t use their expertise to provide a more meaningful risk analysis.

Instead of looking at national data, they could have addressed specific risks in the Northwest, he said.

But critics say the risk assessment – which includes work by three Texas consultants who are former BNSF Railway employees and count the railroad as a client – is based on generic accident data, and likely lowballs the risk of a fiery derailment in Spokane and other communities on the trains’ route.

The consultants didn’t use accident data from oil train wrecks when they calculated the low probability of a derailment and spill.

Bakken Crude, Bridge safety, Broken rail, Crude By Rail, Derailment, Environmental review, Explosion, Fire, High Hazard Flammable Trains (HHFTs), Hospitals, Oil spill, Risk Assessment, Schools, Tar sands crude, Train length, Train weight The chance of an oil train derailing and dumping its cargo between Spokane and a new terminal proposed for Vancouver, Washington, is extremely low, according to a risk assessment prepared for state officials.

Such a derailment would probably occur only once every 12 years, and in the most likely scenario, only half a tank car of oil would be spilled, according to the report.

“The only way that you can get anything that’s even partly respectable in a quantitative risk assessment is if you have a full set of relevant data.” To look at accident rates for freight trains, and assume you can draw credible comparisons for oil trains, is “very chancy,” he said.

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