Today the Washington Department of Ecology delivered the final oil transportation study to state legislators outlining key recommendations to improve public safety in response to the rapid increase of oil transportation through Washington.
The final Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study, requested by the 2014 Legislature, provides recommendations to improve the safety of oil transportation throughout the state.
Ecology coordinated with the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) and the Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division (EMD) to research and compile the report.
The recommendations include enhancing emergency response efforts with planning, training, equipment and resources; ensuring oil companies and transporters can pay for a spill; and giving more authority to the state to increase rail inspections.
Gov. Inslee’s 2015 proposed legislation would provide needed funding and authority for state to implement key recommendations of the report.
“When I’m talking to people around the state, one issue people always ask me about is what we’re going to do to protect our state from the dangers of transporting crude oil,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Increasing numbers of oil trains are coming through Washington and this is our opportunity to take reasonable and necessary steps to improve public safety. This is a high priority for Washingtonians, and for me.”
More than 1,000 public comments were collected in response to the draft recommendations. The study team also accepted comments at public meetings in Spokane and Olympia in October 2014. The most frequently heard comments accompany the final report along with the state’s response to common concerns. Top comments addressed:
- Oil trains in Washington. Commenters expressed concerns regarding oil trains moving through Washington state.
- Safe transport of Bakken crude. Concerns were voiced about the volatility and need for stabilization of Bakken crude prior to transport.
- Railroad crossing safety. Increased traffic at railroad crossings and associated delays were a concern for commenters.
Ecology Director Maia Bellon said the importance of addressing the issue was recently highlighted again the weekend of Feb. 14 when two separate oil train collisions occurred – one in West Virginia and another in Ontario, Canada.
“Given the recent collisions around the country and in Canada, we can’t afford to be complacent,” Bellon said. “We also know of four separate incidents since December where oil trains were leaking as they traveled through Washington.”
“This report offers sound proposals for improving public safety,” said UTC Chairman Dave Danner. “It’s time now to move forward and make our rail system the safest possible.”
Along with Ecology, UTC, and EMD, contributing agencies to the report include the Federal Railroad Administration and the Washington State Department of Transportation.