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News / Clark County News

Cantwell to push tougher oil train rules

U.S. senator seeks to phase out older tankers more swiftly

By Lauren Dake, Columbian Political Writer
Published: March 4, 2015, 12:00am

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell said Tuesday that she plans to introduce federal legislation calling for stricter regulations on oil-by-rail tankers and a swifter phase out of older tankers.

Cantwell, D-Washington, told U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx that the “enormous increases in volume of oil trains and what we’re doing on safety” are issues of “utmost importance to the people of the Northwest.”

Cantwell told Foxx she didn’t believe the transportation department’s proposed rule would go far enough.

“I want to be clear and on the record: I will be introducing legislation to support a thicker hull and quicker phase-out than what is currently proposed,” Cantwell said. “We are not moving fast enough. I look forward to seeing your rule, but we are going to come out with tougher standards.”

Cantwell’s legislation is expected to establish an “aggressive” timeline for the phase-out of older oil tankers, boost funding for first responders and require railroads to disclose when oil shipments are traveling through communities.

A recent report by the state’s Department of Ecology showed if proposed oil-by-rail facilities and refinery expansions in the state were built, it would be enough to bring about 20 oil trains rolling through the state every day by 2020.

The Ecology report also makes a handful of recommendations to the federal government, including establishing tank car standards with “the most stringent requirements” and phasing out within two years the use of older tank cars for transporting flammable liquids.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to adopt new oil tank car standards in May and phase out the use of older DOT-111 tanker cars currently used to ship volatile Bakken crude oil. The older tanker cars would be replaced by newer cars that would be more difficult to puncture. There are about 80,000 older DOT-111 currently being used to ship crude by rail, according to information from Cantwell’s office.

Nationwide, oil by rail has swiftly increased to about 464 million barrels in 2014, up from about 303 million in 2013, according to information from the state’s department of Ecology.

In Washington, about 17 million barrels moved through the state by rail in 2013. There was virtually no oil traveling by rail through the state in 2011.

Columbian Political Writer