In response to rapid changes in how crude oil is shipped through the Pacific Northwest, Gov. Jay Inslee today issued a directive to state agencies to increase the state’s oil spill prevention and response efforts.
Washington has made significant progress in preventing and responding to tanker oil spills on Washington’s waterways and is recognized for its rigorous standards and highly effective response program. But Inslee says much more work remains to address projected increases in vessel traffic as well as risks associated with increased rail traffic.
“In any discussion about increased movement of crude oil through Washington, the safety of Washingtonians is without question my top concern,” Inslee said. “I want to know how much oil will be shipped through my state and how we can be assured the kind of tragedy that happened in Quebec won’t devastate families in our communities. The federal government plays a significant role in regulating these trains, but we as a state can and will do more to make sure we’re protecting our cities and residents.”
Since 2008, rail shipments of crude oil have increased more than 40-fold nationwide, and major accidents have occurred over the past year in both the United States and Canada.
Inslee’s directive charges the state Department of Ecology, Department of Transportation, Utilities and Transportation Commission and Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division to conduct a thorough risk analysis along rail lines, assess the risk of crude from North Dakota’s Bakken shale region relative to other forms of crude, begin developing spill response plans for affected counties and identify potential ways to coordinate with neighboring states and British Columbia.
Ecology will submit its findings by October 1 along with budget recommendations for funding improved safety and spill response needs related to transport of oil by rail.
“The people of Washington are rightfully demanding answers about how their safety will be protected as more oil trains roll through their city or town,” Inslee said. “This directive is about gathering the information we need to effectively protect the health and safety of our people and our environment.”