Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, pledged Thursday to take action toward reinstating an Obama-era regulation that worked to prevent oil train explosions.
On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced a rollback of rail safety rules adopted in 2015. The rules require railroads carrying either crude oil or flammable liquids to outfit those trains with electronic braking systems, which are considered more responsive and effective than current air-braking systems.
According to the state Department of Ecology, Southwest Washington is a major corridor for oil trains. In the second quarter of the year, an estimated 18,7000 cars carried nearly 546 million gallons of crude oil through this region.
“(The U.S. Department of Transportation’s) rollback of safety regulations for oil trains is the wrong decision,” Herrera Beutler said in a press release. “With trains already carrying oil through the Columbia River Gorge, we should be working to reduce the chance of an incident — but this action goes in the opposite direction.”
The USDOT concluded the cost of equipping trains with the braking system outweighed the benefit.
Herrera Beutler said she understands the cost associated with the requirement, but added safety must “remain paramount when it comes to transporting hazardous materials through our communities.”
The Federal Railroad Administration found in 2016 that upgraded electronic brakes could have reduced the damage caused in Mosier, Ore., when a Union Pacific oil train derailed and caught fire, causing nearly $9 million in damage.
Herrera Beutler said she is currently developing legislation to reinstate the safety requirement.