Houses Passes bill to bring transparency to oil transport in Washington

The Washington House of Representatives passed HB 2347 designed to enhance the safety of the transportation of oil over rail lines and through waterways.

Domestic oil production is surging and increasingly being transported by rail.  There has been a significant increase in rail accidents involving oil – Quebec, New BrunswickAlabama, and most recently in Pennsylvania. In fact, more oil spilled as a result of railroad accidents in 2013, than the past 40 years combined. Recently, as a result of all the train derailments and subsequent explosions, the National Transportation Safety Board urged that oil trains be routed away from population centers.

“Oil Transportation Safety Act is about safety, security and responsibility,” the bill’s prime sponsor Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle) said. “This bill going help insure our communities understand the amount of oil being transported, give first responders the tools they need to prepare for disasters, and help protect our waterways and natural landscapes for future generations.”

The bill, once enacted, would have facilities receiving oil shipments disclose basic information on oil transport to impacted communities, and it grants state decision makers new authority to establish or enhance requirement for tug escorts for oil tankers.

“Preparedness is the key,” Chair of the House Environment Committee Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Burien) said. “With the terrible train derailment disasters we’ve seen both in Canada and the United States over the last couple years, it’s only common sense that we give our communities the information they need to be as prepared as possible in the event something goes awry with these oil shipments.”

The measure would also increase penalties for reckless behavior by tug operators and create incentives for tugs that tow oil barges in the safest manner available.

“The oil industry fought against the safety and transparency provisions,” Rep. Farrell said. “But in the end the House passed a bill that takes a strong step in the direction of protecting all Washingtonians.”

The bill now moves to Senate for further consideration.