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Science, Law & the Environment Emerging Topics in Environmental Law

Washington Legislature Wades Into Oil Transport Issues

Posted in Emerging Policy, Energy Policy

For those of you tracking developments in the crude oil transportation world, you may have seen an uptick in activity recently. At the beginning of the year — following the collision of two oil trains in North Dakota on December 30 — the federal government (the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) issued a rare safety alert about crude coming from the Bakken oil patch, which is believed to be more volatile than other crude times. That received follow up attention in Bellingham, among other places, wondering about the impact in Washington.

Last week, a bill was introduced in the Washington Legislature that proposes to assess this impact. HB 2347 would both amend existing laws (most notably, the Pilotage Act, by expanding the tug escort requirements for oil tankers and tripling natural resource damage assessments for oil spills in certain waters) and enact a new series of reporting obligations for transportation of oil by tank vessels and rail car. The information will be aggregated and posted on Ecology’s website. Under the HB 2347, the Office of Financial Management would also study the State’s capacity to respond to oil train accidents.

The House Committee on the Environment held its first public hearing on HB 2347 before a capacity crowd yesterday. After we sift through the nearly two hour hearing, we will report back on important developments.