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Published on Monday, March 2, 2015

House oil train bill passes out of fiscal committee

SHB 1449 sponsored by Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle) passed out of the House Finance Committee before fiscal committee cut-off. This bill is based on the Governor’s Marine and Oil Transportation Study and makes several changes to the regulation of oil transport in Washington.

The bill broadens the definition of oil for purposes of oil spill prevention, cleanup, and financial responsibility laws. It also requires that railroads transporting crude give advance notice to the Department of Ecology (DOE) when transporting oil. They are also required to provide the same financial assurances to DOE as oil refineries and terminals.

Crude oil and petroleum that are transported by vessel on state waters are subject to a barrel tax. Under the bill, this tax is extended to oil shipments by rail and pipeline. These funds can be used for regulatory purposes at DOE as well as emergency preparedness activities by the Emergency Management Division at the state Military Department. Until June 30, 2019, the funds may also be used for oil and hazardous material response planning by local emergency response committees. These committees must annually review their plans and submit them to the state every five years. While not in the bill, the Governor’s budget also includes funds for local emergency response equipment.

Another bill on the same topic is making its way through the Senate. 2SSB 5057 sponsored by Senator Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) addresses some, but not all, of the issues in the House bill. The bill expands the definition of oil and extends the barrel tax to crude shipped by rail, but not pipeline. Grants are available for emergency response equipment for areas with the greatest need. It also requires DOE and the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to hold a symposium to discuss emergency spill prevention and response activities. It expands the UTC’s authority and allows first-class cities to opt-in to their regulatory program, but does not modify the UTC fee structure. Local emergency planning committees are required to update plans on a five year cycle.

We are encouraged by the efforts in both chambers and will remain engaged as differences are settled between the two bills.

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