Washington Legislature passes, sends governor oil train safety bill

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington Legislature on Friday passed a measure to improve the safety of oil transportation due to a sharp increase in the number of oil-carrying freight trains in the state.

Lawmakers reached a compromise in the afternoon to resolve differences between competing versions that earlier cleared the Senate and House.

The Senate voted 46-0 and the House 95-1 on House bill 1449, which now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee for consideration.

The compromise includes some provisions that Inslee and Democrats had pushed for, including requiring railroads to show they can pay to clean up oil spills.

It extends a barrel tax on boat-transported oil to railroads to help pay for oil spill response, but doesn't cover pipelines. It also does not include marine protections that environmental groups had sought for oil shipments via the Puget Sound.

The bill also requires railroads to provide weekly notice to first responders of the type and volume of oil shipped. That information will be made public on a quarterly basis.

Inslee issued a statement later Friday night in which he indicated he would sign the bill into law:

“Today, legislators did the right thing and approved a much-needed bill to improve the oversight of crude oil being transported through Washington and our ability to prevent and respond to oil spills. This was one of my top priorities for this session and I particularly want to thank Rep. Jessyn Farrell for all her work over the past months to shepherd this bill through with bipartisan support.

“This bill means our first responders will get advanced notification when oil trains are coming through, and it also expands the barrel tax on crude oil and petroleum products to include both rail and marine. This means that at a time when the number of oil trains running through Washington is skyrocketing, oil companies will be held accountable for playing a part in preventing and responding to spills.

“There are things this bill does not do, however. It does not increase the barrel tax rate which means we will have to continue relying on other sources of funding that are already stretched thin. In addition, the final bill does not include provisions that would allow us to continue strengthening our marine response capabilities in Puget Sound.

“This is a solid first step, but clearly we have more work to do. And while our state does its part to bolster safe transport of crude oil by rail and boat, I urge Congress and the federal government to push for quick action on reduced speed limits and prohibition of outdated oil train cars.”