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Saturday, March 2, 2024
March 2, 2024

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Herrera Beutler introduces bill to reinstate oil-train safety rules

By , Columbian politics reporter

Making good on an earlier pledge, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, introduced legislation to reinstate safety regulations for oil trains.

The Obama-era rules were rolled back by the Trump administration in September. The 2015 regulations require railroads to ensure trains with either crude oil or flammable liquids onboard to be outfitted with electronic braking systems. The updated systems are considered both more responsive and effective that traditional air-braking systems.

Herrera Beutler’s bill, the Oil and Flammable Material Rail Transportation Safety Act, would reinstate those rules. It was introduced in the House on Friday.

“For the sake of our Columbia River Gorge communities and our environment, we need stronger safety measures when it comes to transporting hazardous materials by rail,” Herrera Beutler said in a press release.

“The U.S. Department of Transportation made the wrong call to roll back a crucial braking-upgrade requirement for oil trains,” she said in the press release, “so I’m taking legislative action to correct this mistake and protect the best interests of Southwest Washington.”

The USDOT concluded the cost to upgrade trains with new electronic braking systems outweighed the benefit. The Federal Railroad Administration, however, determined that upgraded brakes could have reduced the $9 million in damage caused by an oil train derailment in Mosier, Ore., in 2016.

The state Department of Ecology also states that Southwest Washington is a major oil train corridor, with nearly 546 million gallons of crude oil traveling through the region in the second quarter this year.

Katy Sword: 360-735-4534; katy.sword@columbian.com. Twitter: twitter.com/katysword

Columbian politics reporter