Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee Issues Directive On Oil Train Safety

Source: The Columbian

Gov. Jay Inslee directed the state Thursday to tackle mounting public safety concerns and develop a spill response plan as oil train traffic continues to increase, particularly in Southwest Washington.

He announced the directive at a meeting of The Columbian’s editorial board in Vancouver.

“The Pacific Northwest is experiencing rapid changes in how crude oil is moving through rail corridors and over Washington waters, creating new safety and environmental concerns,” the directive reads.

The governor asked the Department of Ecology to work with other state agencies, the Federal Railroad Administration and tribal governments to “identify data and information gaps that hinder improvements in public safety and spill prevention and response.”

Specifically, the governor’s directive asks agencies to: – Characterize risk of accidents along rail lines. – Review state and federal laws and rules with respect to rail safety and identify regulatory gaps. – Assess the relative risk of Bakken crude with respect to other forms of crude oil. – Identify data and information gaps that hinder improvements in public safety and spill prevention and response. – Begin development of spill response plans for impacted counties. – Identify potential actions that can be coordinated with neighboring states and British Columbia. – Identify, prioritize, and estimate costs for state actions that will improve public safety and spill prevention and response.

He set an Oct. 1 deadline for agencies to respond.

He also said he’ll reach out to other states to develop coordinated oil transportation safety and spill response plans, and pledged to ask the 2015-17 Legislature for money for oil train safety.

The directive comes as the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council is reviewing an application by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. to build an oil shipping terminal at the Port of Vancouver. Bakken crude would arrive at Vancouver by train and leave by ship or barge on the Columbia River.

As governor, Inslee will have the final say on the Tesoro-Savage permit. “We will make the right decision at the right time,” he said, without tipping his hand.

The first-term Democrat is in Vancouver all day today. He presented awards to Washington State Department of Transportation employees, and is scheduled to visit a local technology firm, Smith-Root, that is expanding. This evening he will give the commencement address at the Washington School for the Deaf’s graduation ceremony.