Although the federal government often preempts states when it comes to regulating oil-by-rail transportation, Washington state is working to do what it can to prevent the catastrophic oil-train derailments seen elsewhere in North America.
In 2014, when the number of trains carrying volatile Bakken crude through the state skyrocketed, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a directive requiring agencies to prioritize actions to improve public safety and spill prevention associated with transporting oil by rail. He also called on the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission to review all rail crossings on oil train routes.
And in 2015, the Legislature passed Inslee’s legislation giving the UTC and the Department of Ecology greater authority to improve oil-by-rail safety.
On Tuesday, the governor visited an oil train crossing in Southwest Washington that had been identified as under-protected by UTC rail safety staff. The crossing, on Skamania Landing Road in Skamania County, intersects with a BNSF Railway track that transports oil through the scenic Columbia River Gorge.
In March, the UTC approved nearly $450,000 in grant funds to make safety upgrades at the crossing. The improvements will add gate arms and install a new signal system. A few interim upgrades have already been completed, including replacing old lights with more efficient LED lights, new signage, and painted stop bars on the pavement near the crossing.
Inslee also has called on the federal government to do more to regulate the safety of oil transported by rail.
Read the rest of the story on the governor’s Medium page.