OLYMPIA –As early as next year, companies transporting oil into or through Washington could be required to improve planning for accidents under new regulations being developed by the Washington Department of Ecology.

The Washington State Department of Ecology is beginning a new rulemaking process to create “Chapter 173-185 WAC, Oil Movement by Rail and Pipeline Notification.”

This rulemaking will:

  • Specify the applicability of the rule.
  • Define terms used in the rule and ensure consistency with other Ecology regulations.
  • Establish advance notice requirements for facilities that receive crude oil by rail.
  • Establish biannual notice requirements for pipelines that transport crude oil through the state.
  • Identify the manner that information must be submitted to Ecology.
  • Identify the process for emergency responders, local governments, and tribes to request oil movement information, and the process that Ecology will use to provide non-aggregated information.
  • Identify the types of aggregated information that Ecology will disclose to the public.
  • Establish penalties for noncompliance with the rule.


In 2015, the Washington Legislature directed Ecology to develop rules on new reporting requirements for the movement of crude oil by rail and pipeline.


Significant changes in the modes of transportation and properties of crude oil are occurring in Washington State.  Washington State has experienced dramatic changes in the amount and types of oil transported by rail and pipeline.  There has been an increase in the amount of heavy crude oils, such as diluted bitumen from Canada and Bakken from North Dakota, being transported through the state.  Diluted bitumen is concerning because under some conditions it may become submerged below the water surface or sink to the bottom when spilled into water.  Bakken crude is more volatile and flammable, and likely to seep into the groundwater quicker than other types of crude oil.  Therefore, an accident involving these oil types may create greater environmental, safety, health, and economic impacts than other types of crude oil.  Additionally, multiple recent proposals for new oil facilities may impact how oil is transported throughout Washington State.


Timely notice of oil movement information is needed for emergency responders and planners to effectively prepare for and respond to oil spills and other accidents associated with the transport of crude oil by rail and pipeline.  Providing adequate information will help to protect the lives of people living and working near railroads and pipelines, the economy, and environmental resources of Washington.


The proposed rule will create reporting standards for facilities that receive crude oil by rail, and pipelines that transport crude oil through the state.  Additionally, the rule would identify reporting standards for Ecology to share information with emergency responders, local governments, tribes, and the public.


“These rules will help ensure public safety and environmental protection,” said Dale Jensen, Ecology’s Spills program manager. “Emergency responders will have more information, better resources, and training to respond to incidents in a rapid, aggressive, and well-coordinated manner.”


One rule would establish requirements for facilities receiving crude oil to provide weekly advance notice to Ecology on the movement of crude oil, and for pipelines to provide biannual notice to Ecology. The rule will also identify the manner and types of information Ecology will disclose to emergency responders, tribal and local governments, and the public.


The other rule lays out requirements for how railroads transporting oil in bulk position spill response equipment, sets standards for spill response staffing, training and operations, and establishes a spill response drill program with evaluation standards.  


Ecology will be working with the public, local governments, tribal governments and other stakeholders throughout the rulemaking process. Multiple workshops will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to submit written comments on any preliminary rule language before the formal rule is issued.


More information about how Ecology is implementing the 2015 Oil Transportation Safety Act is available on its oil movement webpages, including frequently asked questions and anticipated timelines. To stay informed about the rulemaking process and opportunities for public input, please sign up for email updates.


More information is available on their rulemaking website at: