Friday, August 12, 2022
Aug. 12, 2022

Linkedin Pinterest

Oil safety bill gets hearing in state House

Longshoreman at Vancouver port among speakers

By , Columbian Political Writer
Published:

Chief sponsor: Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle.

Summary: Increases regulations on oil transportation by rail and waterways; requires railroads to develop and disclose spill response plans and detailed information about routes and loads to the state’s Department of Ecology; increases the tax on oil received by vessels, rail and pipeline.

On the Web: http://1.usa.gov/1zGwh29

A Port of Vancouver longshoreman urged lawmakers on Tuesday to strengthen oil transport safety requirements and pleaded with them to pass legislation that would keep him and his colleagues safe.

“What I’ve seen, working on the waterfront for the last 20 years, is safety takes a backseat to production, always,” Cager Clabaugh, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 4, testified Tuesday to members of the House Environment Committee in Olympia.

Clabaugh told lawmakers he supported House Bill 1449, which would increase transparency and safety requirements when it comes to transporting oil by rail and waterways.

The longshoreman voiced concerns about Tesoro-Savage’s proposal to build the nation’s largest oil-by-rail transport terminal in Vancouver.

Chief sponsor: Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle.

Summary: Increases regulations on oil transportation by rail and waterways; requires railroads to develop and disclose spill response plans and detailed information about routes and loads to the state's Department of Ecology; increases the tax on oil received by vessels, rail and pipeline.

On the Web: http://1.usa.gov/1zGwh29

Later, he urged lawmakers to “keep an eye on (those transporting oil) and don’t let them cut corners.”

The House bill would require railroads to create an oil-spill response plan and provide advance notice to the Department of Ecology about transportation routes and the type of oil being hauled. The information would also eventually be available to the public on a periodic basis. If passed, railroad companies would be on the hook to develop contingency plans outlining how they would mobilize resources and personnel if a spill were to occur. In addition, the bill would increase a tax on oil received by vessels, rail and pipeline.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, is the result of a Department of Ecology report and work done in the previous session. Similar legislation last session failed.

A nearly identical bill, Senate Bill 5087, was introduced in the Senate. Both measures have been requested by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.

State officials testified on Tuesday that the risk being posed by the transportation of crude oil is not theoretical. But those tied to the railroad and oil industries pushed back.

Johan Hellman, with BNSF Railway, said “fairly significant” information is already being provided to first responders concerning oil routes. Additional information could threaten the nation’s security, he said, as well as force railroads to release proprietary information. Hellman said it’s important to emphasize safety and ensure emergency responders are prepared, but they don’t need to know specifics, such as that an oil train is arriving at a certain time and place on a specific day, he said.

Farrell, the chief sponsor of the measure, said although similar legislation failed to pass last session, there is an urgency that didn’t exist before.

“We know this oil is coming across our state,” she said.

Inslee said he’s committed to taking “major steps” toward both increased transparency and spill response plans this session.

“I hope and I think legislators have heard from the public about how high the public’s concern is about this and they should, if they are listening, understand we need action this year,” Inslee told The Columbian last week. “I’m reasonably optimistic we’ll get a bill through, but it does need to be a strong bill. It can’t just be a paper statement of intent.”

Columbian Political Writer

Support local journalism

Your tax-deductible donation to The Columbian’s Community Funded Journalism program will contribute to better local reporting on key issues, including homelessness, housing, transportation and the environment. Reporters will focus on narrative, investigative and data-driven storytelling.

Local journalism needs your help. It’s an essential part of a healthy community and a healthy democracy.

Community Funded Journalism logo
Loading...