Op-ed in the Columbian: Inslee: Congress must act now on oil trains
The recent derailment of a crude oil train in Oregon along the scenic Columbia River Gorge brought the sobering reality of oil train threats to our shared waterfront. While this derailment was not the worst-case scenario for which we have been preparing, it was too close for comfort.
The increase in Canadian and domestic oil production has led to a dramatic, rapid increase in oil transport by rail through Washington state. In the past few years, we have seen oil train derailments in 10 states and three Canadian provinces. Some have resulted in explosions and fires, others in evacuations of entire communities.
Our state has been taking action on oil train safety since the 2013 explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people, destroyed the town’s center and spilled 1.6 million gallons of oil.
Last year, we passed legislation to increase track and hazardous-materials inspections, require oil spill-contingency plans, increase funding for prevention and cleanup of oil spills, require railroads to notify local officials when oil trains are moving through their areas, and improve safety at crossings along oil train routes.
But states are limited in what we can do. Railroads engage in interstate commerce, which means the buck stops with the federal government. While federal regulators acknowledge the risks of crude-by-rail, they have taken few steps toward increasing safety. The combination of federal pre-emption and federal inaction is unacceptable. It is time — once and for all — to address the risks posed by oil trains.
To protect the natural, cultural and recreational resources of the Columbia River Gorge, and all communities across Washington and our country, we must urge Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation to implement the strongest possible measures that will ensure the safe transportation of Bakken crude:
Read the full op-ed here.