Wash. Bill Would Address Oil Train Traffic

By Steve Jackson

Washington lawmakers are looking at a bill that seeks to better prepare the state for the possibility of oil spills, or other catastrophes involving oil transportation. With more oil than ever being transported through Washington state, there are concerns the state needs to be better prepared for any emergency, like an oil spill in Puget Sound, or a spill involving railroad traffic.

House Bill 2347 requires the Department of Ecology to compile quarterly oil transportation reports on information submitted by certain oil facilities, and directs the Office of Financial Management to conduct a study of the State's capacity to respond to oil train accidents.

Speaking at a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee this week, Clifford Traceman of the Washington Conservation voters said the bill is a response to more oil traffic driven by the expanding Bakken Oil fields of North Dakota, and the tar sands of Alberta.

Traceman: “Its been an evolving landscape in the transportation of oil in Washington state, we’ve had increasing oil derailments, and explosions. We have increasing transport by vessel. This bill looks at the health and safety of first responder needs, and looks at the community right to know who is in charge of this evolving landscape.”

But provisions in the bill that call for more information on when specific shipments of oil would be arriving at refineries or shipping terminals did not find favor with Greg Hanon, of the Western States Petroleum Association, who worried that could create problems with the industry, in terms of competition.

Hanon: “And so information gained through the public resources. If that information is them used by competitors in the market place, it may have an impact on the products and the marketplace as it relates to that gathering of that information, and how those companies do business.”

The bill would also provide money to Washington State University to conduct an oil train accident emergency preparation study.
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