OLYMPIA – The state House of Representatives late yesterday passed Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal to improve the safety oversight of oil transported in Washington and to strengthen the state’s ability to prevent and respond to oil spills. The legislation addresses increased risk resulting from a rapid spike in oil train shipments and is based on the findings of the 2014 Marine and Rail Oil Transportation study conducted by the state Department of Ecology.
House Bill 1449, sponsored by Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle), requires rail operators to have a state-approved contingency plan for oil spills and expands protection requirements to all modes of oil transportation, not just commercial marine vessels. The bill also requires rail facilities to notify local responders and communities of pending oil train transfers. The legislation expands the barrel tax on crude oil and petroleum products to include rail and pipeline. Today, only oil imported by marine vessels is subject to the tax. Also, the legislation increases the tax amount to more adequately cover the costs of prevention, preparedness activities. Currently, a portion of funding for oil safety activities is diverted from Model Toxics Control Act funds which are traditionally used for toxics prevention and clean up.
“In the course of two years, oil train traffic in Washington has gone from shipping zero gallons of crude oil to well over 700 million gallons. And that number will just go up,” Inslee said. “We need the oil industry to step up with more robust safety and preparedness measures and make sure we have resources to respond in the event of an oil spill or explosion. The barrel tax is a modest increase – less than one-tenth of one percent of the current barrel prices – but ensures an exponentially larger degree of certainty that in the event of a spill or explosion we are ready to respond.”
“I applaud the governor for his leadership on the important and urgent issue of oil train safety,” said Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle), the bill’s prime sponsor. “To protect the health and well-being of the many Washingtonians living near oil train routes and preserve our natural spaces, it is crucial that we equip our emergency responders with the resources necessary to handle the ever-increasing amounts of oil being carried through our state by train.”
“It is time to stop the in-fighting and take action. It is the legislature's responsibility to do everything we can to protect our communities and our waters from catastrophic spills and explosions like we have seen occur with alarming frequency around the country,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), sponsor of the Senate companion bill. “These oil-laden trains run through the heart of many Washington towns and cities. We need to enable our first responders to do everything they can to protect their communities and themselves.”
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