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Published on Friday, May 1, 2015

Legislature passes bill regulating oil trains

The final bill that passed during the regular legislative session was ESHB 1449, establishing requirements for the transport of crude oil. The two chambers approached this issue differently, and while it was clear that both chambers wanted to pass legislation to improve safety, it was not clear that they would come to agreement on an approach. Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle), Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale), and the Governor’s office worked hard to find common ground, and all sides compromised. The bill ultimately passed the Senate unanimously and the House with only one nay vote.

The bill does a lot of good for cities and contains many of the priorities that AWC and individual cities have been testifying over the course of the session. It does not contain everything that all cities wanted, but as is normal with compromise, no stakeholder is completely satisfied with the final product.

The bill is long and complicated. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Requires railroads to do contingency planning for transporting crude oil and to submit information to the state about whether the railroad has the ability to pay for damages for an oil spill or accident.
  • Requires local planning organizations to submit hazardous materials plans and allows some funds to be available for local planning efforts.
  • Establishes grants (subject to legislative appropriation) for oil spill and hazardous materials response and equipment.
  • Increases regulatory fees paid by railroad companies to the Utilities & Transportation Commission (UTC) to allow for more inspectors and increases their authority to conduct hazardous materials inspections.
  • Allows first class cities to participate in the UTC’s crossing safety inspection program.
  • Requires advance notice to specified agencies of crude oil transported by rail.
  • Extends the tax applied to crude oil received at a terminal in the state to oil transported by rail.

Stay tuned as this state law and federal rules are implemented.

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