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Published on Friday, March 13, 2015

Senate and House oil train bills up for public hearing

Both of the oil train bills passed their chambers of origin and now move over to the opposite chamber where they are both scheduled for public hearings next week. E2SHB 5057 is being heard in the House Environment Committee on Monday, March 16 at 1:30 pm. This bill is sponsored by Sen. Ericksen (R-Ferndale). ESHB 1449 will be heard on Wednesday, March 18 at 1:30 pm in the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee. This bill is sponsored by Rep Farrell (D-Seattle) by request of Governor Inslee.

These bills are getting more similar as they move through the process so we are optimistic that the Legislature will pass a bill this session on this issue. However, there are still a few key differences. Some provisions are of specific interest to cities and we will be advocating that those be included in whatever final bill makes it out of the Legislature.

Any incident involving oil trains will begin with a local response – regardless of what assistance the state, the federal government, or the private sector would eventually give. Cities have been largely concerned with ensuring that first responders have the equipment, training, and information necessary to respond to one of these incidents. AWC has been supportive of making sure that there are funds available for emergency response equipment for local governments, that railroads provide proof of financial responsibility for these types of incidents, and that local, state, federal, tribal, and private emergency planning efforts are coordinated. Additionally, local emergency responders need important information about the shipment of oil by rail to effectively prepare to respond.

In order to prevent derailment of oil trains, cities have also raised issues regarding the condition of rail infrastructure and how hazardous substances are transported. AWC has supported the Utilities & Transportation Commission (UTC) getting increased funding and authority to increase the number of inspectors they have, to allow first-class cities to participate in their crossing inspection program, and to allow UTC inspectors to enter private property to conduct hazardous materials inspections.

Now is the time for you to communicate to your legislator what your community needs to effectively respond to one of these incidents. Here is some information that might be helpful to your legislator:

  • Are there specific conditions (whether natural or due to aging infrastructure) that would make your community particularly vulnerable if an oil train incident were to occur? For example, a bridge, tunnel, crossing, or geographic feature.
  • What planning efforts has your city already done? How have you coordinated with public, tribal, and private entities? What gaps have you found? Does your community have the resources to effectively respond to an incident involving oil trains?
  • What planning efforts regarding an oil train incident does your city need to undertake? Does your city have the resources and expertise to complete this?

Contact your legislator within the next couple of weeks and be specific about what your community needs. 

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